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View Tom Kmiec Profile
View Tom Kmiec Profile
2020-02-05 16:04 [p.965]
Madam Speaker, I thank my constituents again for sending me here for a second term to represent their interests and passions as well. I really believe that political parties are a way for people to organize their passions. Whatever side of the House we are on, we are motivated to do the best for our communities.
What I thought I would do, in the time that I am afforded to speak on behalf of my constituents on CUSMA, is outline some of what I think is lacking in the agreement and what it took to get to this point where we actually have a deal in front of the House of Commons that we can actually debate.
As I go through the deal, as I listen to the debate in the House, and as I have heard different members from different parts of the country explain what their concerns are and what they have heard, I have seen in this agreement some lacking elements: things that should have been there that were not successfully negotiated with the American and Mexican governments.
I really thought that we could have gotten a much better deal than the one placed before us. This is Mexico's deal. We are accepting what Mexico negotiated with the United States government and we have found ourselves in a situation where we are accepting what they have given to us. It is a “take it or leave it” deal.
There are some elements that I like in the deal, obviously. Some members have called it a modernization. I do not call it that. I call it what has given us certainty over the next six years at least, as opposed to what we had before.
It lacks a buy American provision. My father, for the longest time, was a defence contractor here in Canada. He worked at the Sorel shipyards, which used to be just outside of Montreal. I lived in Sorel for a long time when I first came to Canada.
My dad's livelihood in communist Poland was at a shipyard there. He built 70 ships a year. He came here and was building only a few a year. He thought it was a drastic change of workload, but buy America provisions were often used in his sector to block Canadian companies from applying for very lucrative American navy contracts. On top of the Canadian navy contracts and cruise ships that they were working on, my dad would say that these buy American provisions make it very difficult for Canadian companies to bid.
I do not see anything in this deal that is going to stop the American government from continuing to do that, and I accept it has national security reasons for doing that. However, we still should have been able to negotiate on it because these large shipbuilding contracts, as we have seen in Canada, are much larger in the American context, when we are talking about building dozens upon dozens of vessels over just a few years' time.
The next provision that I think would have been really important to have in here is something on forestry for softwood lumber. Again, we have a forestry industry. I worked for Alberta forestry for a while. I worked for the minister of sustainable resource development there, and we were responsible for the forestry sector. We would track the price of an OSB piece of wood and construction in America, because it was so important to be able to export to the American market. Again, I do not see that here in this deal.
Third, as I mentioned, are the chapter 16 provisions to include new jobs and professions in the 21st-century economy. If we are calling this a modernization of NAFTA, new NAFTA, new CUSMA, whatever one wants to call it, temporary entry for business people is really important. This is an economy we are further integrating with the Americans', and with the Mexicans' as well. This is an immense opportunity.
Many of my constituents were affected by the drastic downturn and actions by the Liberal government and the previous provincial NDP government in Alberta. These cost hundreds of thousands of jobs in Alberta. Jobs that existed do not exist anymore, and jobs would have been created if the regulatory system had been kept at the point that it was at before.
I have many friends who have gone down to Houston, Denver, San Jose and Dallas. Canadians are working down there. I also have friends who are not allowed to work in America because their job titles and job positions make them ineligible for business entry into America so that they can work. They have had to retrain themselves while their spouses work, and it is difficult on them. I would much rather see them, of course, living back in my riding and being able to travel there.
This is, I think, one of the large drawbacks in how this deal came to be in the House. I know members enjoyed this in the last Parliament. I always used Yiddish proverbs, so I am going to use one again: “The heart of a man may be compared to a sausage: No one can tell exactly what's inside.”
Up until this deal reached the House of Commons, we had no idea what was inside the actual deal. I was finding out things on behalf of my constituents just by reading the news. It would change from week to week, from time to time. There would be new provisions or new discussions, things that we would find out through the U.S. Congress or Mexican politicians giving interviews. That is when we would find out what was going on.
I have often heard it said on the government benches that we were consulted and we were kept informed. However, from my discussions with my colleagues on this side of the House who specialize in the USMCA and free trade deals, it was nothing like in the previous Conservative government. Getting a phone call or text message does not count as consultation. It does not count as a briefing, either.
This is the biggest deal of which Canada is part. Our three economies together are $21.1 trillion in GDP. This is an immense deal. This will have an impact on my constituents, their kids and their kids' children well into the future. For us to call it modernization and not have chapter 16 updated is a farce.
I worked in human resources before as a registrar for the human resources profession. I know the member for Edmonton West will highly enjoy me mentioning that, as I did it at committee. The professions of the future over the next 10 to 30 years will drastically change. How could we not update an agreement that was signed back when the Internet was barely an idea, back when social media designers and infographic designers were not a thing? Database analysts were not a thing. How can we not update this to ensure that Canadians can work both in America, Mexico and here at home, so they can travel overseas or overland to another country to continue their important work, earning a living for their families on behalf of the companies they sometimes own or work for? It is such a lost opportunity.
I am looking forward to seeing this deal get to committee so we can hear from more specialists and witnesses who can also dive into the details of this deal. Like I mentioned, one of the big problems was that we did not know what was in the deal until it reached the House and then we were told, almost in the same sentence, that we must pass this as quickly as possible. Parliament is not a rubber stamp. Parliament is not about that. Every piece of legislation should be treated as important. Every one that comes before the House is worthy of time. Every member who stands in the House to speak on behalf of their constituents should be afforded that time.
Why should we rush through the most important agreement, likely in the lifetime of many parliamentarians here? We should give it a fulsome debate, to bring the views of our constituents to the House, take it to committee so we can hear from both stakeholders and large associations and individual companies and people who will be affected by it. They may have a different viewpoint from their trade association, the trade bodies and professional associations by which they may be represented. That is really important and it takes time to find these individuals. They do not exactly raise their hands immediately to say they will challenge what their professional or trade association has to say. After all, they pay dues to these bodies, so they want to be judicious, they want to know what the contents of the agreement actually are, and this is their opportunity. Once it is before the House, that is when we can give it a fulsome consideration. Then we should hear from officials at committee.
I know a great amount of work happens in the standing committees of the House. In the previous Parliament, I was on the Standing Committee on Finance. Often when officials presented the actual details of legislation, that was when we really came to understand the impact certain provisions would have. It was easy for members to say on the floor of the House of Commons that they liked certain provisions and disliked others, but it was only when we heard from officials what the nitty-gritty details were, the sausage making, what is in a man's heart, to go back to that Yiddish proverb, was when we knew what was in the legislation and what was being done.
It is important that we take the time to give this bill its full consideration. This deal is important. In it, $21.2 trillion of GDP is being considered by the House of Commons and then by the Senate. I do not want to rush through this work and give the Senate a bill that we have not fulsomely considered. Every member who wishes to speak should be afforded time, because they represent their constituencies.
The people who sent us here do not expect us to rubber stamp. We are not slot machines. I used to say that quite often in the previous Parliament when time allocation was moved. That is not the role of parliamentarians. We are here to debate. That is the very meaning of the word “Parliament”. This is supposed to be about that. I get to hear viewpoints from other members and I learn something from other members, too. I did not know that the member for Kingston and the Islands had aluminum producers in his riding. I do not have them in mine.
I have a foundry in my riding, one of the very last foundries in Alberta.
As my time has expired, I look forward to the questions and comments.
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