Mr. Speaker, it is my honour and privilege to stand up today in the House of Commons and talk about the new NAFTA or the “halfta“, as we like to call it on this side of the House.
Before I get into that, I would like to take the opportunity to thank my friends, relatives and volunteers who helped me get elected. As with all members who come to this place, we do not get here without a vast network of people back home. I want to thank all of those people. It would take too long to name all of them here. I had over 250 volunteers from across northern Alberta. Northern Alberta is a beautiful place. I like to call it the promised land. I had people in every community ready to carry the Conservative banner, help put up lawn signs, knock on doors and all those things.
I want to reference a couple of people who really went above and beyond. Bethany VanderDeen knocked on several thousand doors for me in the election. I want to thank her for all her hard work. My sister is my financial agent, which causes her a lot of stress. I want to thank her as well. My campaign manager, Josh, went above and beyond whenever he was called upon to work. I want to thank him for that.
The new NAFTA, CUSMA, or “halfta“, as we like to call it, is an agreement we called on the government to do. We have been advocating for a free trade deal with the United States. In fact, it was the Conservatives in previous parliaments that brought NAFTA to the world, and we are proud of that record.
We asked for a good deal again when Donald Trump said he was going to renegotiate NAFTA. I do not think he considered Canada was the problem with NAFTA, so it was not necessarily wise for our Prime Minister to volunteer to renegotiate our portion of it. When the Liberals jumped into that, we asked them to come up with a better deal than the current NAFTA and one we would be happy with, but we wanted them to bring some stability to the business markets and a deal we could all be proud of. However, by every measure in the new NAFTA, the “halfta”, we have either stayed the same or gone backward. We have lost some sovereignty in a number of areas. We have lost our ability to produce or export in other areas, so we are not enthusiastic about this current free trade deal, but we will be supporting it.
It is very interesting how things sometimes get taken out of context. There is context to a lot of these things, such as when we talk about supply management, for example. There has been a lot of discussion around supply management when it comes to this trade deal. There has been a reduction in our ability to export. There has been a threat to some of the productivity that can happen here in Canada. I believe the Liberal government has paid out our dairy farmers across Canada recently for losses that have been incurred because of this trade deal.
When we talk about that, often the Liberals say they support supply management, yet a free trade deal is just one aspect of supporting supply management. The other aspects would be through some of the other things they have done. They have changed the Canada food guide, which has not helped supply management at all in Canada. They have changed the front-of-package labelling laws in this country, which is very detrimental to our supply management. It is very interesting that in the trade deal they say they are supportive of supply management and then in other parts they do not seem to understand what the impacts are.
Also, in many cases in this trade deal we would be competing with our major competitors, whether it is with respect to agricultural, forestry or energy products. We have watched the government put in place a free trade deal that would have us compete in the same marketplace as the rest of the North American market. At the same time, it put in big impediments and essentially shackled us here in Canada when trying to compete with our competitor to the south.
One of the things I want to talk about as well is the carbon tax. We see a lot of defence around aluminum right now in the House of Commons. I want to reference western aluminum in Kitimat, northern B.C. I have been there before, it is a beautiful place. One of the things that comes along with defending aluminum is considering the impacts of the carbon tax. No jurisdiction in the rest of North America has the same carbon tax on aluminum production, so that puts us back as well. It is very interesting how we will say one thing in the context of defending a free trade deal, and yet in other areas we do not necessarily see the government having the same defence.
We see the same thing happen in Alberta with the oil patch investment. We hear that the Liberals are going to expand markets for Canadian products, and then they are going to just kneecap one particular industry in Canada and not allow it to get any access to other markets around the world. What I am trying to point out here is that the logic is used in one direction on a certain bill and then in another direction on another issue. On CUSMA or NAFTA or “halfta”, they are saying we need to gain market access and we need to improve our trading relationship and all these things, and we need to do this so we can get Canadian industries competitive around the world. The next time they are saying that we have to keep the oil in the ground, we have to phase out the oil patch. The logic of that does not jive.
The other thing that is concerning to me are the caps on automotive production. I have made no secret of the fact that I have been an automotive mechanic for most of my life. I worked at a Chrysler dealer. I am very passionate about automobiles, and my family heritage has been with Chrysler, so I follow the sales trends and that kind of stuff on a regular basis. I am proud of the Canadian heritage that we have of building some of the most amazing automobiles on the planet. It is frustrating to me to see that Canada might be taken out of the cutting edge of building automobiles in Canada because of the caps that have been imposed. Everyone tells me not to worry about it because the caps are very high compared to where we are right now, so it will not be a big problem. We are currently talking about the caps being high, but 16 years from now we could be dealing with a clause that says we have to renegotiate this. At that point, we might be very close to that cap, and at that time we might already have seen significant investment that could have been made in Canadian auto manufacturing being made south of the border because the industry there is not limited by a cap.
I am concerned about that cap because of patriotic Canadian pride. I would like to see us building the best automobiles in the world, and we have in the past. One of the great ones that I am very proud of right now is the Chrysler Pacifica, which is built here in Canada and is a beautiful vehicle. I am not sure if it is the only vehicle in the world that has this, but it comes with a built-in vacuum cleaner. As a guy with little kids, that is the most amazing idea ever in a minivan. The Cheerios and the little Goldfish can get everywhere, and a built-in vacuum cleaner is what everyone needs in a minivan, I will say that for sure, especially with four kids. That cap is one of the major concerns.
There is also the national sovereignty piece. If we are going to enter into a trade deal with particular countries around the world, we would have to get the Americans to sign off on that trade deal before we enter it. We are a sovereign nation. The Bloc Québécois members always stand up and say that as well about Quebec and I share that sentiment. We are a sovereign nation and we ought to be able to pursue trade deals with anyone in the world, and not to hive that off as well.
With that, we will be supporting bringing this bill to committee. We look forward to hearing what stakeholders around the country have to say on this bill, and we will move forward from there.