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View Catherine McKenna Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Catherine McKenna Profile
2019-06-12 16:19 [p.29007]
Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I wish to acknowledge that we are on the traditional territory of the Algonquin and Anishinabe peoples.
Today, I am pleased to address the chamber in support of our government's bill for better rules for the review of major projects, Bill C-69. The act would put in place better rules that would restore trust, protect the environment, advance reconciliation and would ensure that good projects could go ahead in a timely way.
I want to thank senators and members of Parliament for their careful consideration of this bill, in particular those senators who have worked productively to strengthen and improve the bill.
I would reserve special thanks for Senator Grant Mitchell, who has worked tirelessly as a sponsor of the bill throughout the Senate process.
Thousands of people across Canada have come forward to share their perspectives since January 2016. This is extremely important legislation, and I appreciate how engaged everyone has been.
Hundreds of major resource projects, worth an estimated $500 billion over the next decade, are possible across Canada, creating jobs from coast to coast to coast. It is imperative that we get this right.
These better rules are designed to protect our environment while restoring public trust in the process and improving investor confidence. These rules will also make the Canadian energy and resource sectors more competitive. They will build on Canada's strong economic growth and historic job numbers.
We are keeping our promise to Canadians, a promise we made in 2015 to fix our broken environmental impact assessment system.
In 2012, Stephen Harper's Conservative government gutted the rules for major projects, ignored science, trampled on indigenous rights and removed environmental protection. Those changes eroded public trust in how decisions were made and ultimately led to the polarization and paralysis we see today. It also ended up with us in court.
When good projects cannot get built because the process is in court, we have to admit the system is broken.
Our bill for better rules for the review of major projects, along with the amendments that we are proposing to accept, will change that. We will put in place better rules for major projects, like mines, pipelines and hydro projects, to protect our environment, improve investor confidence, strengthen our economy and create good, middle-class jobs.
Since we have formed government, we have worked very hard to restore public trust while providing certainty to business. Better rules are the key to rebuilding trust and confidence in how decisions about major projects are made. The amendments we are proposing to accept will enhance that effort.
Our bill for better rules reflect public input, respect indigenous rights, increase transparency and ensure that decisions are made by robust science, evidence and indigenous traditional knowledge.
The new impact assessment process will look at a project's potential impacts not just on our environment, but also its health, social and economic impacts over the long term, and the potential impacts to indigenous peoples.
We will also consider how projects are consistent with our environmental obligations and national climate plan. We will do proactive regional assessments to evaluate big picture issues and the cumulative effects of development. When making decisions, we will consider whether companies are using the best available technologies and practices to reduce impacts on the environment.
Project reviews will be completed through a more efficient and predictable process, with shorter legislated timelines that will lead to more timely decisions.
By increasing coordination with other jurisdictions, we will cut red tape and avoid duplication and delays.
Our goal is one project, one review.
We first introduced the bill after 14 months of consultations with provinces and territories, indigenous peoples, companies, environmental groups and Canadians across the country. We heard loud and clear that Canadians wanted a modern environmental and regulatory system that protected the environment, supported reconciliation with indigenous peoples, attracted investment and ensured that good projects go ahead in a timely way to create new jobs and economic opportunities for the middle class. We heard from investors and companies that they wanted a clear, predictable and timely process.
That is what our bill for better rules and the proposed amendments provide.
In January 2016, we introduced interim principles to guide how our government would review major projects until we could put better rules in place. We knew we could not keep approving projects under the Harper government's flawed rules, but we also knew that we could not put our economic development on hold for two years while we worked on new rules.
Our interim principles were the first step toward delivering on one of our high-priority platform commitments, which was to review and fix Canada's broken environmental assessment process and to restore confidence in how decisions about major resource projects were made.
Those interim principles made it clear that decisions would be based on robust science, evidence and indigenous traditional knowledge, that we would listen to the views of Canadians and communities that could be affected by proposed projects, that indigenous peoples would be consulted in a meaningful and respectful manner, that decisions would take into account the climate impacts of proposed projects and that no project already under review would be set back to the starting line.
Since we have formed government, we have worked very hard to restore public trust while providing certainty to business.
Today, we are putting before the House a bill that expands those interim principles into better rules.
This bill has gone through months of consultation and expert review. People across the country have provided input, including industry, academia, environmentalists and our indigenous, provincial and territorial partners. We held hundreds of meetings, received hundreds of written submissions and considered thousands of comments from individual Canadians.
Expert panels and parliamentary committees have conducted studies, heard witnesses and reviewed comments from the public. Senators themselves took the rare step of criss-crossing the country to hear a diversity of views on how to improve the broken system we inherited.
This bill has attracted attention across the country. Last September, someone hired a plane to fly over my office with a flag that read “Kill Bill C-69”. Then, in April, students in Quebec City gathered with signs that read “Go C-69”, decorated with hearts.
There are those who say this bill goes too far, and then there are those who say this bill does not go far enough. Our task as a government is to listen carefully to all voices and find a reasonable middle ground, moving us all forward together.
While we have been working hard to develop better rules, there has been a concerted misinformation campaign from the opposition. Members of the Conservative opposition have used this bill to stoke conflict, pitting one region against another, as if we are not one country, Canada, trying to build the best possible future for our kids and grandkids.
Conservatives in the House and the Senate want to replace environmental reviews with pipeline approvals. They want to replace legitimate public discussion with unilateral decisions. They do not want a better review process; they want to hand decisions over to oil lobbyists, ignore climate change and make the consideration of indigenous peoples' constitutional rights optional. Their goal has been to weaken the rules, and we all know where that road leads.
The opposition would pursue economic development at all costs and put the interests of oil lobbyists ahead of the interests of Canadians. That is exactly why we need better rules, ones designed to measure the impacts of major projects on all Canadians: environmental impacts, climate impacts, community impacts, economic impacts, impacts on indigenous peoples' rights, and impacts on Canada's reputation as a country where good projects can move ahead in a timely and transparent way that protects the environment and helps to build a better future for all Canadians.
The Senate has proposed 229 amendments to this bill. Of these, we are accepting 62 and amending 37, for a total of 99 amendments.
That leaves 130 amendments that we cannot accept, ones that would, for instance, make public consultation optional, remove consideration of a project's impacts on climate change, undermine the rule of law and make it more difficult for Canada to attract investment.
Here is a little parliamentary history for my colleagues. Going back to 1940, when the Library of Parliament began consistently indexing information, the highest number of Senate amendments ever concurred in by the House was 67, in 1946, to Bill No. 195, An Act respecting the Control of the Acquisition and Disposition of Foreign Currency and the Control of Transactions involving Foreign Currency or Non-Residents. In other words, this bill will be one for the history books.
I think it is fair to say that this has been a long and careful process and that we have worked diligently to create better rules. We thank the Senate for providing a variety of thoughtful improvements to the bill. We are accepting amendments that maintain the integrity of the bill and make it stronger.
For example, we are accepting amendments that increase the independence of the agency and minimize the potential for political interference. Instead of ministerial discretion on timelines, or who would be on a review panel, this power will be transferred to the agency.
We also support an amendment to make it clear that the minister cannot direct the head of the agency. We also support additional clarity on how the impact assessment agency will look at the environmental, health, economic and social factors to ensure that the focus is on the most significant issues.
We will make sure that the biggest projects with the biggest potential impacts are the ones requiring a federal impact assessment. We are supporting improvements to regional assessments and how we work with provinces to get to one project, one assessment.
These amendments would protect our environment and put sustainability at the heart of how we approach growing our economy and creating good, middle-class jobs. They would reduce the potential for political interference introduced by the Harper government's changes, and they would give companies and investors the certainty they need with a more timely process, clear timelines and transparent decisions. Together, these amendments would help to rebuild public trust, respect indigenous people's rights and protect our environment, while strengthening our economy and attracting investment to Canada.
We will be rejecting changes that weaken the act, including those that limit Canadians' access to the courts, increase political interference in decision-making, limit Canadians' input into the process, make it optional to consider how a project would affect Canada's ability to meet its environmental commitments, such as fighting climate change, and make it easy for future governments to ignore our constitutional duty to consult indigenous peoples, an approach that would land us exactly where we are today: in court.
The changes we are not accepting would take us backward, increase polarization and make it harder to get good projects built.
Conservatives want to keep the same system, the one that led to so many challenges, including with the Trans Mountain expansion, as an example. It is a system that weakened environmental protections, failed to properly consult indigenous peoples and limited public discussion. Canadians know that the environment and the economy go together, but these amendments would mean pursuing economic development at all costs. We cannot accept them, because they are, quite frankly, unacceptable to us and to Canadians.
Stephen Harper's approach put both the environment and the economy at risk. It failed to protect the environment. It destroyed the public trust. It paralyzed major projects. It is the system that created all the problems and polarization we see today.
Meanwhile, the current Leader of the Opposition has told oil lobbyists that he would kill this bill for better rules if he is elected. That is a recipe for economic risk, increased conflict and environmental damage. It is the same recipe that Stephen Harper tried. It did not work then and it will not work now.
As leading resource companies know, in the 21st century, we have to protect the environment and grow the economy at the same time. Canadians expect no less. It is not just the sustainable way forward; it is the smart way.
As I mentioned before, hundreds of major resource projects, worth an estimated $500 billion, are being planned across Canada. We want to see good projects get built. These are projects that grow our economy and represent tens of thousands of good, middle-class jobs.
Our government is committed to building a strong economy. One million jobs have been created since we took office, and unemployment is at historic lows. Last year, Canada's foreign direct investment grew by 60%.
The official opposition has been talking down Canada's economic success, stoking fear and uncertainty, an act that I remind members has real consequences for investment in Canadian companies. Meanwhile, our government has been working to attract and promote investment in Canada. We know that these better rules will provide investors with the certainty they need and will lead to more good jobs for Canadians.
In 2019, we cannot have a plan for the economy without having a plan for the environment. It is essential to be competitive and attract investment in today's world.
Investment in Canada is rising, and jobs are being created in Canada, in part because businesses want to invest in countries that see the future, countries that take sustainability seriously. Customers expect it. Our trading partners expect it. Canadians expect it.
Combined, the amendments we are accepting will produce better rules for major projects in Canada, rules that are clear, fair and predictable, with shorter legislated timelines and sustainability at their core. These rules will make sure that Canada remains a great place to live, to work and to invest.
To vote for the bill for better rules is to vote for strong environmental protection, transparent science- and evidence-based decision-making, predictable and timely reviews that create certainty for companies and for investors, recognition and respect for indigenous peoples' rights and knowledge and advancing reconciliation, less red tape and better coordination with provinces, a single agency that will provide consistent and efficient assessments, and a full package of measures that will protect our environment, support good, middle-class jobs and attract new investment to Canada.
With better rules, we will restore Canadians' trust in how decisions about major projects are made. We will restore investors' confidence in Canada as a great place to do business. We will restore our reputation as a country that knows we can fight climate change, protect the environment and respect indigenous rights, while growing the economy and creating good jobs.
We are so lucky to live in Canada. There is so much opportunity before us. Now is the time for all of us to reach out to investors around the world and say, “Canada is the place to invest. We have fair, predictable rules with legislated timelines.”
These better rules will make that possible. Any politician or company saying otherwise is, quite frankly, undermining the opportunity we have to attract investment. That is not in the interest of Canada and that is not in the interests of Canadians.
We are extremely lucky to live in Canada. Now is the time for all of us to reach out to investors around the world and tell them that Canada is the place to invest. In the 21st century, as leading resource companies know, we can protect the environment and grow the economy at the same time if we work together to make that happen.
Please join me in voting to pass the bill. We owe it to Canadians. We owe it to our economy. We owe it to our environment and we owe it to our kids and grandkids.
View Gérard Deltell Profile
View Gérard Deltell Profile
2018-11-06 13:34 [p.23323]
Mr. Speaker, we have come together this afternoon to discuss Bill C-86, budget implementation act, 2018, no. 2. Simply put, for anyone listening, this debate is about the bill that implements the principal measures of the budget.
This debate is vital to Canadian democracy and crucial to ensuring that Canadian taxpayers know how their money is being spent. Unfortunately, closure has been invoked on this debate. Three years ago, the government told Canadians that it was committed to doing things differently, that it would never use closure, and that it would not introduce huge bills like this one. It is doing the exact opposite. Closure has been imposed over 50 times. This bill is not just 10 paragraphs long; it has 858 pages. It is what is known as an omnibus bill. Bill C-86 contains provisions dealing with labour code standards, for instance, and other things that have nothing to do with the budget. The Liberal way is to say one thing during the election campaign and do the opposite once they are in power.
Furthermore, when you look at Canada's budgetary situation, you see that it is exactly the opposite of what the Liberal Party had promised, with hand over heart, to win Canadians' trust. The Liberals did have their trust, but unfortunately they have squandered it.
Keep in mind that the Liberal Party promised to run small deficits for three years before returning to a balanced budget in 2019, which miraculously happens to be an election year. The Prime Minister came up with an interesting economic theory. During an interview with CBC, he said that budgets balance themselves, implying that deficits do not exist. I checked with every economic school of thought in the world and aside from the current Prime Minister of Canada, there is not a single serious economist who thinks that budgets balance themselves. The Prime Minister may see rainbows and unicorns when he looks at the budget, but people who know how to count certainly do not.
If budgets balanced themselves then we could expect the budget to be balanced in 2019, but the opposite is true. For three years the Liberals have been running deficits that are two to three times higher than expected. Today, 2019 is just around the corner and the government has absolutely no idea when it plans to return to balanced budgets.
It is certainly not for lack of trying on our part. Just today the official opposition finance critic, the hon. member for Carleton, questioned the Minister of Finance five times. He was in the House, where he could have clearly stated when the government plans to return to a balanced budget.
Our question was crystal clear: When will Canada get back to a zero deficit? We asked him that, not once, not twice, not three times, but five times in a row and, unfortunately, the Minister of Finance dodged the issue. Maybe the Minister of Finance will dodge the issue, but he cannot dodge reality, and certainly not his responsibility to Canadian taxpayers.
Why are deficits bad? They are bad because, ultimately, our children and grandchildren will have to pick up the tab. Running deficits is irresponsible because that is not our money.
I know that the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development is a credible person. He is an honourable man whom I respect and hold in high esteem. The problem is the government saying that it is thinking of children in this budget. Sure it is thinking of children—it is forcing them to foot the bill once they hit the job market. That is the Liberal Party way, but that is not how a responsible government that got itself elected by promising small deficits should behave.
We all remember how the Liberals went on and on about making the rich pay more taxes.
The famous 1% of Canadian taxpayers will get hurt by the Liberal government. Oh yes, looking at the results and the figures, since those guys were elected three years ago, the famous 1% have not paid more taxes, but more than $4 billion less. That is the Liberals' economy. That is the Prime Minister's economy. That is the way those guys were elected, by saying, “No deficit in 2019 and the 1% will pay more”. They said that, but that is not the reality today.
Members will also recall that the Liberals promised to run very small deficits to stimulate the economy while investing billions of dollars in infrastructure. Once again, the results are not there. In one of his most recent reports a few months ago, the Parliamentary Budget Officer indicated that there was no infrastructure plan. It is not the official opposition, members of the NDP or the Conservative Party of Canada who said that. Everything that has been done has boosted the economy by only 0.1%, so that is just one more promise this government has broken.
The Liberal government has completely lost control of the public purse. People need to understand something. It is only natural that government spending will go up every year for two reasons: population growth and inflation. If the population increases, the government has to provide more services, which costs more money. If inflation rises, the government has to spend more to prevent a freeze down the road. That is fine. However, the government did not take into account the combination of these two basic factors in its calculations. It has spent three times more than it should have based on the combination of inflation and population growth. Simply put, the Liberals do not know how to count and they are spending recklessly.
That brings us to the troubling signs we are seeing today. First of all, investments in Canada are in free fall, dropping by 5%. If we break down this sad and alarming reality further, we discover that unfortunately, thanks to the current government's ineptitude, combined with the new U.S. administration's solicitous approach to managing and stimulating investment, Canadian investment in the United States is up 65% and U.S. investment in Canada is down 52%.
The two indices that we use to determine whether the Canadian economy is getting sufficient stimulation from an investment standpoint suggest that Americans are investing less in Canada and Canadians are investing more in the United States. That is bad news on two counts.
Another concern is related to the announcement made by the Governor of the Bank of Canada. I am not referring to the Governor General, although former governors general have been in the news lately, some for debatable reasons and others for very bad reasons. The current Governor of the Bank of Canada, Stephen Poloz, made it clear that playtime was over last week when he announced that after modest interest rate hikes, we should get used to the idea of a minimum interest rate of 3%, or potentially higher.
This warning sign should to be taken into account when major budget checks or manoeuvres are being done, but unfortunately, this government is not doing anything about it. It does not care. Given that we will be paying $24 billion in interest on our debt this year alone, and that figure could soon rise to $35 billion and beyond, it seems obvious that we need to curb our spending. We need to stop spending three times more money than the inflation rate combined with population growth allows. We need to ensure sound management of public funds.
Canadians will have to contend with the Liberal carbon tax next year. The Liberals boast about their lofty principles. They are always ready to work with the provinces as long as the provinces work with them and say exactly what they are saying. When the provinces want nothing to do with the Liberal carbon tax, it is imposed on them by the government.
That is not how federal-provincial relations should be conducted. We must work together. If by chance the provincial governments want to have a carbon tax or participate in the carbon exchange, it would be their choice. However, if they are not interested and decide to opt out, the federal government will twist their arm. That is not the right approach.
The government is obviously talking out of both sides of its mouth. It says that there must be a price on pollution, which is their new slogan, but it is not for everyone. Under the Liberals, the big emitters will get a discount, not of 5%, or 10% or even 50%, but of 90%.
These are the same people who said that the rich would pay more, when in fact they are paying less. These are the same people who said that they want to tax carbon and polluters, except for the biggest polluters.
In light of this, we will be voting against the bill and exposing the Liberal government's contradictions.
View Dean Allison Profile
View Dean Allison Profile
2018-09-17 12:31 [p.21373]
Mr. Speaker, I am glad that we are finally here for this debate to, hopefully, get this important trade agreement ratified quickly. CPTPP is a trade agreement that will greatly benefit Canadians and Canadian businesses. It will help diversify and grow our economy, and most importantly, it will help create needed Canadian jobs.
I have to say that it has taken longer than we thought for the current government to be able to get this implementation process in place. Having said that, now that we have NAFTA in jeopardy and a series of other issues on other major trade files, we need Canada to successfully continue to diversify its export markets now. There is no time to wait. We could have easily done this earlier in the summer when the opposition leader asked the Prime Minister to immediately convene an emergency session of the House to approve this agreement. It was disappointing to see that the Liberals rejected that offer. However, we are here now and we are ready to get it done.
For Canadians watching at home, it is important to explain what the CPTPP is. It is important because one out of every five Canadian jobs depends on international trade, and these are essential trading relationships that help generate 60% of our GDP.
CPTPP stands for the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership. It is the successor to the TPP agreement signed by our previous Conservative government. It includes 11 countries: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. It was signed in March of this year and is still waiting to be ratified. Hopefully the government will finally get this job done.
CPTPP reduces tariffs in countries representing 13% of the global economy, or a total of $10 trillion. The Peterson Institute for International Economics estimated that the TPP, in the version signed by the previous Conservative government, would boost Canadian income by over $20 billion over the next decade. The agreement comes into force 60 days after at least six signatory countries ratify it, and the deadline to ratify it is in February 2019. After that, we lose our first-mover advantage, and Canada will have to play catch-up with the other signatory countries.
The Prime Minister replaced his international trade minister earlier this summer and told Canadians that the government would renew its efforts to diversify our exports. This opportunity is now. In fact, the opportunity was there even in June when, on this side of the House, we stood ready to get this deal ratified when the House was still sitting. It is not just Conservative MPs but Canadians throughout the country who have been waiting for the Liberal government to wake up to the many threats that loom large over our national economy.
The Liberals are doing poorly on many fronts: market access for our natural resources, tax and regulatory competitiveness, and international trade diversification. They are also pursuing failed policies to increase taxes and drive down growth. They are trying to ram through a carbon tax and are going overboard with over-regulation.
Imposing the carbon tax on provinces, businesses and families has been a complete disaster for the Liberals. Now the environment minister says that any province that does not get on board with the Liberals' climate plan will not get its share of the government's $2 billion low-carbon economy fund. We ask, “Why are they blackmailing the provinces?”
Despite this, many provinces refuse to sign on to the Liberals' carbon tax. Even Alberta's NDP premier withdrew her support for Ottawa's national climate change strategy. Seeing this, the Prime Minister tried quietly to walk-back how much some large companies will have to pay under this new carbon tax, yet he still plans to impose the carbon tax on smaller businesses and families to make up for the taxes the big guys are not paying. This makes no sense and is fundamentally unfair. The carbon tax is bad for everyone, not just the companies that can afford it most. The fact of the matter is that the Liberal carbon tax has increased the cost of living for every Canadian, including driving already skyrocketing gas prices even higher.
On top of everything, the Liberals are refusing to come clean on the true cost of the carbon tax for the average family. What we know so far is that gas prices will go up by at least 11¢ a litre and the cost of living to heat one's home will increase by over $200. However, again, the Liberals will not tell us the overall cost to an average Canadian family, because they do not want people to know what this scheme will actually cost. The Parliamentary Budget Officer released a report recently that found that the carbon tax will take over $10 billion out of the Canadian economy by 2022, while other estimates argue that this cost could be as much as $35 billion a year. This will, without a doubt, hurt jobs, workers and their families.
The good news is that common sense is winning the debate on this issue. More and more Canadians realize that the carbon tax is unfair and will leave them with less and less of their hard-earned tax dollars. Foreign investors are concerned, because the Liberals are simply making Canada a less attractive place to invest. Investment from abroad went down by 42% in 2016 and a further 27% in 2017.
Even the CEO of CIBC, Victor Dodig, is sounding the alarm over falling levels of foreign investment in Canada, warning that the country needs clearer rules to shore up investor confidence. Last week, The Globe and Mail reported that during a lunchtime speech in Toronto Mr. Dodig said he is increasingly hearing from the bank's clients that opportunities for investment returns are better south of the border. He cited several reasons, from the U.S. tax cuts and regulatory changes to trade uncertainty. He also went on to say that Ottawa's criteria for approving large deals involving foreign firms are not always clear, creating uncertainty for potential investors. He pointed to the debate over the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project as a prime example of Canada sending the wrong signals:
“That, to me, should be a siren call that that money is here. It will leave”, he said, “and I can't see any upside to it leaving....” Foreign investors “need confidence”, Mr. Dodig said. “They need an element of certainty. They need to know the rules. They need a clear understanding of how things get approved [here in Canada].”
The Globe and Mail article goes on to say that these comments are in addition to Suncor CEO Steve Williams, who told investors in New York, “There is clearly a question of confidence in Canada”, echoing Imperial Oil Limited CEO Rich Kruger, who said this summer that regulatory uncertainty and concerns about competitiveness are causing investment decisions to be delayed.
This is very worrisome. We can just look at what the Liberals have done with Canadian pipelines. It is absolutely stunning. When the Prime Minister was elected, three major energy companies had pipeline projects: northern gateway, energy east and Trans Mountain. They were prepared to build in Canada. Now, thanks to Liberal policies and decisions, we have none of these.
The Liberals piled on new regulations and red tape, and introduced an oil tanker ban and a bill that would effectively ban the future construction of pipelines, and that is on top of their carbon tax. These policies need to be repealed to restore investor confidence in the Canadian energy sector.
However, nowhere has the Liberal mismanagement been more evident than in their handling of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. It would be difficult for them to top this one.
When the Liberals announced that they were nationalizing the existing Trans Mountain pipeline, Canadians were told that it was going to cost 4.5 billion of their tax dollars to allow construction to begin immediately. The reality is that taxpayers are now the shareholders of this monstrous Liberal boondoggle, and not one centimetre of pipeline has been built. It is absolutely unacceptable that Canadian taxpayers are on the hook for $4.5 billion of pipeline that may never be built, and that is in addition to the estimated cost of somewhere around $9.3 billion to actually twin the pipeline. Also, recently, the Federal Court of Appeal found that the government had failed to consult indigenous people on the Trans Mountain expansion and overturned approval of the project.
Thousands of Canadians have lost their jobs because of Liberal failures. We gave the Prime Minister another opportunity to outline his plan on how he will get the Trans Mountain expansion built and Canadians back to work. We tried to do this through an emergency meeting of the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs, and, yet again, the Prime Minister forced the Liberal MPs to shut down a study of the government's handling of the Trans Mountain expansion. His government has been given multiple chances to reassure Canadians, but instead he has chosen to rely on empty rhetoric.
Our hard-working men and women in the resource sector, whose jobs and livelihoods depend on these projects, deserve to have a competent government that does not get in the way of resource sector jobs at every opportunity it gets. These workers deserve a concrete plan to ensure that the Trans Mountain expansion is actually going to be completed. The failure to get the Trans Mountain expansion built is now threatening other expansions in the oil and gas sector, adding to the total number of jobs at risk. The Trans Mountain pipeline is crucial to oil and gas workers across Canada and to the regional economies that stand to benefit from its expansion, including 43 first nation communities that have benefit agreements worth over $400 million, which now hang in the balance. I also mentioned that right here in Ontario, there are all kinds of businesses close to my riding and in southwestern Ontario that would also benefit from building pipelines.
How do we persuade potential trading partners that our country is open for business, when Liberal policies prove the opposite? The Liberals have not been able to address Canada's faltering position on the global economy. It is a position they put us in with their policies. It is one thing after another with the government. In fact, it is difficult to think of an example of a foreign policy win for the government since it took office in 2015.
That is why I hope that ratification of the CPTPP goes through smoothly. We cannot afford any more issues and delays.
Time and again the Liberals have demonstrated their lack of seriousness to our potential international trading partners. Last year, the Prime Minister touted a free trade agreement with China. What happened there? The Prime Minister's visit to Beijing actually set back our trading relationship. It also failed to address any of the concerns Canadians have about trade with China. The Prime Minister then skipped a critical meeting at the CPTPP, angering our Asia-Pacific partners like Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. There was also his embarrassing trip to India that still haunts us to this day. It is time for the government and the Prime Minister to take trade and our relationships around the world seriously.
I want to dedicate some time to speaking about our trade relationship with the United States, who at one point was a signatory to the original TPP agreement. It is important to note that the United States is Canada's most important trading partner. Twenty per cent of Canada's GDP is tied to our commercial relationship with the United States, and over 74% of Canadian exports go to the United States.
It is no secret that the government is in the midst of very difficult NAFTA negotiations. At this stage, the Americans seem to have already struck an agreement with Mexico and are using that as leverage. This could potentially impact millions of Canadian jobs. Canadians are concerned that our government was not at the table while these decisions were being made. It seems like we were on the outside looking in while major sectors of our economy and millions of Canadian jobs have hung in the balance.
We are heavily dependent on our American neighbours. This makes any tariff action against us very painful for our economy. American tariffs imposed on Canadian steel and aluminum are just another example of why we need to expand foreign markets for Canadian manufacturers. The CPTPP is one effective avenue for this expansion. It has the potential to boost Canadian income by billions over the next decade. That is why we cannot risk looking our first mover advantage. We do not want to jeopardize jobs and supply lines by not being part of the first six ratifying signatories.
We all know that this agreement has broad support. Several industry groups representing agriculture, agri-food, and forestry have all come forward in support of the CPTPP. That said, we would work with all sectors to minimize the risk under the agreement. However, we maintain that on balance this agreement is good for the broadest range of Canadian manufacturers.
Economic modelling by both the Canada West Foundation and the federal government confirm that there would be hundreds of billions of dollars in immediate benefits for Canadian firms if we are among the first wave of signatories to ratify the agreement.
I want to go back to American tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum for a second, because they tie in with the urgency of diversifying our trade.
American tariffs have caused great concern among our workers in the Canadian steel and aluminum industries. Thousands of jobs and the livelihood of Canadian workers and businesses are all being threatened. This is even more worrisome considering the U.S. government's repeated threats to impose a 25% tariff on the auto sector. The longer we go without a deal on NAFTA and the closer we get to auto tariffs being imposed, the more anxious Canadians will get and the less certain they will be when it comes to making business decisions. The most pressing priority, and I believe we are all united on this, is to protect Canadian jobs and industry by having tariffs removed from Canadian steel and aluminum, and by stopping new tariffs from being imposed.
That is why we made it clear to the government that we would continue to work with it to bring forward concrete ideas to defend local jobs. Defending local jobs is exactly what my colleagues and I on this side of the House did during the summertime. We travelled across Canada to meet with workers, businesses, and labour groups to determine how best to respond to threats posed by U.S. tariffs and the continued trade uncertainty around NAFTA. We met with over 200 stakeholders from the steel, aluminum, automotive, and manufacturing sectors across four provinces.
We heard from stakeholders that they want the government to do three things: first, conclude negotiations and sign a NAFTA deal as soon as possible; second, provide immediate support to companies struggling to stay afloat; and third, take steps to improve Canada's competitiveness by reducing red tape.
Businesses need certainty. That is why the first recommendation to sign a NAFTA deal was by far the most repeated one by stakeholders this summer. We also heard that businesses have already cut orders, that shifts are being reduced, workers are being laid off, and that others will lose their jobs in the next couple of months.
I also want to mention that despite the government's promise of $2 billion in aid, we found that no one has been able to access any of this money. The $2 billion was earmarked for additional debt offered by EDC and BDC, as well as employment insurance programs like work sharing and retraining.
The challenge I have with the $2 billion is that $1.7 of that was to go to EDC or BDC in the form of additional loans, not tariff relief. We had $250 million to run the strategic innovation fund, and when we dug into that, we found it was for companies doing over $10 million in sales and employing over 200 people. Let us think about that.
No SMEs could get any access to the $2 billion fund. Then we see monies committed for work sharing. Work sharing, to me, sounds a lot like a postmortem of what is going on. It sounds like the horse has left the barn and we are just trying to save the furniture now. Work sharing is a good program, but we need to make sure that people can expand their businesses, not find ways for them not to be able do it. That is the challenge I have with the $2 billion.
We read a great Global News article last week. It said that only $11,000 has gone out, and yet there has been almost $300 million collected in tariffs.
The other thing we found out from talking to businesses is that the tariffs are not actually tariffs, but a surtax. They are actually not eligible for any kind of duty deferral or duty remittances, or any of these kinds of things. It is actually an additional tax.
We have over $16 billion's worth of items being tariffed, anywhere from 25% to 10%, depending on what the products are, which would, if we calculate that out, be somewhere in the neighbourhood of $2 billion in additional tax revenue, and yet we have not seen one nickel of that going back to SMEs. There is $2 billion of tax revenue coming in, in the form of surtaxes, and right now we have no plan, other than what was a perceived announcement, on how our small- and medium-sized enterprises are actually going to access any of that kind of tariff relief.
Some of the SMEs are going to have the conversation, asking how they are going to get the money back. They are being informed that they will be told in 60 or 90 days, whatever the case may be. I heard one company say that it may be up to 200 days. Let us think about that. Some of these companies will not be around if that is allowed to continue.
We talked to companies. I was with one of our members in Concord. We asked an aerospace company about what would happen if we did not resolve the issue around tariffs, and they said that it represented an existential threat to their company. They have parts whose prices have now gone up almost 100%.
We see what has happened because of tariffs. We see steel and aluminum prices, steel in particular, going up anywhere from 25% to 50% across the country. That presents a real problem.
I just do not think that piling on more debt, as I mentioned before, or easing workers' transitions into unemployment are adequate solutions. Companies affected by steel and aluminum tariffs are struggling to stay afloat, and need immediate support. This tit-for-tat with the United States makes it even more urgent that we seize every opportunity to expand and diversify our trading relationships.
On this side of the House, we have always supported this. The previous Conservative government had the foresight to conclude free trade negotiations and investment agreements with 53 other countries, including the countries of the original trans-Pacific partnership and the other 28 countries of CETA, which concluded in 2014. Speaking about CETA, another Conservative trade accomplishment, last week the Financial Post reported that CETA has boosted container shipping and promoted a hiring spree at the docks in Montreal.
Once again, the minister mentioned that there had been some increased activity at the docks in Montreal, and it is certainly great to see in Canada that the European free trade agreement is doing exactly what it was designed to do. I would caution, though, that as we have seen imports expand by 12%, our exports have only gone up by 1%. That means there is more work for government to do to get our companies prepared to be able to sell into these markets.
The Financial Post went on to say that the employers association that handles training for the port workforce, as well as the Montreal Port Authority, attributes much of the container flow to the CETA agreement. That is a good new story, but there is still more work that we need to do to expand our exports.
It is also said that the extra dock traffic spurred the association to start hiring 50 more longshoremen and 15 more auditors, resulting in several key terminals nearly doubling their operating time to 17 hours each work day. This is an incredible accomplishment and evidence that benefits come from diversifying Canada's trade.
Canada's Conservative Party is the party of free trade, and we understand the importance of reliable access to markets for Canadian business and workers. In conclusion, I would like to say that given the importance of the bill to Canadian livelihoods, it is crucial to the public interest that Canada ratify the CPTPP agreement as soon as possible.
View Rosemarie Falk Profile
View Rosemarie Falk Profile
2018-05-31 12:08 [p.19964]
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to Bill C-74, the Liberal government's budget implementation bill. When we consider the contents of the bill and the Liberal government's track record, it reveals a troubling path ahead for Canadians.
We have before us a budget bill that spends borrowed money recklessly. The result of that is a growing debt and higher taxes. Borrowed money always has to be paid back and it is paid back at a premium.
The Liberal government came into power touting modest deficits. The Prime Minister repeatedly promised Canadians that his government would borrow a modest $10 billion a year to grow the economy. He also promised Canadians that the budget would return to balance in 2019. That promise went out the window very quickly.
The Prime Minister has added $60 billion to the national debt in just three short years. Canada's net debt has reached an all-time high of $670 billion. To put that into context, that breaks down to a debt of over $47,000 per Canadian family. What about the plan to return to balance? The budget is not predicted to return to balance until 2045, a far cry from 2019.
The Liberals will wrongly try to take credit for the economic growth that Canada experienced in 2017. A growth rate of 3% in 2017 was largely a result of the oil and gas sector recovering and an unusually strong housing market. The responsible response to that growth should have been for the government to pay down the debt that it borrowed, so in the case of a fiscal downturn, we would be better positioned. However, now, despite all the Liberal spending, private sector forecasts show that Canada is heading for a slow down.
We have legislation before us to help us spend more money and add more debt. Ultimately, it is legislation that would make life more unaffordable for Canadians.
Canadians are already paying higher taxes under the Liberals. It seems that the Liberal government is always finding new ways to dip into the pockets of Canadians. For one, this budget bill would create a costly new carbon tax, which the Liberals are forcing on all provinces that do not have their own. Despite promises of a new era of co-operative federalism, the Liberal government is ramming ahead with its massive carbon tax grab.
My province of Saskatchewan has rejected the Liberal government's carbon tax, and rightly so. The carbon tax will come at a significant cost to the people of Saskatchewan, and the Liberal government is ignoring the basic economic reality that its carbon tax unfairly punishes farmers and rural communities.
My province of Saskatchewan has developed its own climate change strategy, a made-in-Saskatchewan plan that tackles climate change without imposing the unfair carbon tax on Saskatchewan families. However, the Liberal government refused to accept it. The Liberals are forcing it on Saskatchewan against its will.
Well then, what does this carbon tax achieve? We cannot tax our way to a cleaner environment and the carbon tax will not lead to a major emission reduction in Canada.
We can look to British Columbia as an example. British Columbia was the first province to implement a carbon tax. It also has the highest carbon tax in the country. Despite this, carbon emissions have continued to rise there. The real impact of its carbon tax is that British Columbians are now paying more for gas than anyone else in the North American continent.
I will reiterate that point, because it is an important point that needs to sink in. The carbon tax in British Columbia is not reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but it is making life less affordable for British Columbians, yet the Liberals continue to strong-arm the province of Saskatchewan.
One would think that given their passion for a carbon tax, the Liberals would be forthcoming with information about its impact. It is fair for Canadians to want to know just how much the federal price on carbon will cost them, but again and again the Liberal government refuses to release those details.
Finance officials have said that the Liberal carbon tax will cost an extra 11¢ per litre of gas and $264 in extra costs for natural gas home heating annually. That alone is already a significant cost. However, there are additional costs and impacts of a $50 per tonne carbon tax.
Repeated requests for information have been issued from this side of the House. We have asked the government over and over again to provide details on the cost of its carbon tax and the results it expects to achieve. However, any response received has been blacked out. What does the Liberal government have to hide? What is it covering up? If the government cannot answer a basic question on what its carbon tax will cost and achieve, it is absurd for it to force it on the province of Saskatchewan.
The Liberals are not only raising taxes on individual Canadians, they are making it more expensive to do business in Canada. Businesses are also being hit with increased costs due to the carbon tax. This is in addition to the increased CPP and EI premiums, higher income taxes for entrepreneurs, and punitive changes to the small business tax rate. While we consider these higher costs, we cannot forget that the United States is lowering its corporate tax rate. Business investment in Canada has dropped since 2015. Meanwhile, business investment in the United States has increased.
The natural resource sector has been particularly hit hard. The energy sector and the jobs it creates are very important to my riding of Battlefords—Lloydminster. The fact that over $80 billion of investment in the energy sector has been lost in the last two years is very troubling for my constituents. They certainly are not comforted by the Prime Minister's repeated confession that he wants to phase out the oil sands.
The loss of business investment in Canada is a troubling trend, and the Liberals have offered nothing to Canadian businesses in this budget implementation act. The higher cost of doing business will hurt the bottom line for businesses. When it drives away business, results in job loss, and injects less money into our economy, everyone pays, and we all lose.
Bill C-74 offers Canadians a plan we cannot afford and does not move us ahead. Spending money we do not have on things we do not need is reckless and irresponsible. I would not run my personal household in that manner, and I would not teach my children to manage their finances in that way. Most of all, I cannot imagine that the members opposite would manage their personal finances that way and teach their children that as well. It begs the question: why is it that when the stakes are even higher, when the fiscal security of the country hangs in the balance, the Liberals would choose this route?
View Matthew Dubé Profile
View Matthew Dubé Profile
2017-12-01 12:15 [p.15874]
Mr. Speaker, here we are once again with a budget implementation bill that fails to honour the Liberals' commitment to refrain from using omnibus bills inappropriately. In fact, the Chair decided to allow separate votes on some aspects of the bill.
Furthermore, there is the matter of time allocation. Once again, here we are at third reading of the bill, and we will only have two and a half hours to debate it. This is completely unacceptable, since the budget is one of the most important duties of government and parliamentarians. The government's frequent, or even constant, use of time-allocation and closure motions is completely unacceptable, in light of the promises it made during the election campaign. It is disappointing to see that the government is yet again proceeding in this fashion.
Let us come back to the substance of the bill. Often, when it comes to a budget and the budget implementation bill, you could say the devil is in the details. It is important to take a good look at what is in the budget and what is not in the budget, or what the government did not do. On that point, I will focus on something extremely important. I already raised it in a question that I asked the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Finance, and that is the issue of tax credits that keeps coming up.
Hon. members will recall one of the first promises the NDP made before the election campaign even began. It was when we quietly started talking about the measures that we were going to propose during the campaign. We mentioned this infamous loophole that allows CEOs to benefit from a tax credit on the purchase of shares in their own company. That is an extremely problematic loophole. Obviously those who benefit from it are very well off. This situation is all the more infuriating when we consider that the government eliminated other tax credits.
I realize that some of the previous government's tax credits fall under what is called boutique tax credits. Those are tax credits that truly target very specific areas or specific people and are not always very effective.
However, gone is the public transit tax credit, which benefited families, students, and those middle-class Canadians that the government says it wants to stand up for and design its policies around. The fact that the CEO loophole stays intact while the public transit tax credit gets axed shows that there is a gap between what the government says it wants to do and what actually happens in real life.
One of the most problematic aspects of this bill is the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. This is related to another major file we looked at with the first budget implementation bill, namely the Canada infrastructure bank. We have heard very little about it since then.
There have been many debates on this subject in the House of Commons. Our biggest concern is that it is really a bank designed to privatize public infrastructure. It invests public money and then asks the private sector to invest. However, these investments come with conditions, and those conditions are extremely dangerous.
The public will be paying for infrastructure that the private sector will be asked to invest in. The public will then have to pay again, through tolls, for example, and will have to bear the entire financial burden of maintaining this infrastructure.
This is very worrisome. The Liberals support this approach. We know that these contracts will not benefit small or even medium-sized communities, which need infrastructure badly, as do municipalities. Instead, they will of course benefit the Liberals' Bay Street friends and representatives of investment companies like BlackRock, who attend closed-door meetings with the government about the development of this infrastructure bank.
We now see that approach continuing with this bill, which allows the Minister of Finance to invest $480 million of Canadian taxpayers' money in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
This is very troubling because there are risks to the sovereignty of our infrastructure. It also lets them claim that the more than $200 million allocated by the government has doubled. That amount will now be $480 million. This is a very troubling situation.
We can also see what is missing from all of this. I would like to take this opportunity to talk about local issues, issues back home, issues that affect the riding of Beloeil—Chambly.
In the last election campaign, one of the most important issues was whether we were going to get a commitment from the government. In fact, I made a commitment that if the NDP were to form government, we would change the law to resolve disputes between the federal government and many municipalities. Let me explain. This has to do with certain sites that are federal government property, such as Fort Chambly and the Chambly Canal in my riding.
The Supreme Court ruled on this a few years ago in Halifax (Regional Municipality) v. Canada (Public Works and Government Services). In that case, the City of Halifax and other municipalities involved in the matter argued that the federal government was not paying its fair share in lieu of taxes. Indeed, the federal government does not pay municipal taxes on land that it owns.
In its ruling, the Supreme Court agreed that the government was not paying its fair share. At the time, the federal government offered to create an advisory panel to help the decision-making process, in order to obtain an accurate assessment of the value of the sites and to ensure that the payments meet the municipalities' expectations.
The problem is that the advisory panel was made up of bureaucrats, and what it said was basically that if a municipality like Chambly did not agree with the federal government's decision with respect to the assessment of a site it owns, such as the fort and the canal, the government would just lob the ball to other bureaucrats, who would essentially make the same decision.
The bill I introduced in the last Parliament, which I reintroduced at the beginning of this one, would set up an independent assessment process to get it out of the hands of the governments involved in these disputes. We need independent assessment. As we saw in Chambly, the city commissioned an independent assessment to determine the fair value of the property.
This is something that really worries me. Why? During the last election campaign and during the debate that took place in Chambly, we got all of the other candidates to sign on to that commitment. That was at my insistence. If any other candidate, including the Liberal candidate, had won, he or she would have done the same thing.
Right now, we have a Liberal government that has not taken any action on this despite our repeated requests or the bill I introduced. We are talking about $500,000 a year for Chambly. For a city with a population of about 30,000, $500,000 is a big deal.
Not only is this a way for the federal government to pay its fair share, but it is also a way to make more resources available for cities so that they can offer services for residents, such as public transit, which is a free service in Chambly.
I am raising this issue because I think that introducing a budget implementation bill like this one that changes all sorts of provisions constitutes an opportunity to change the law so that Public Works and Government Services Canada is required to conduct an independent assessment when there is a conflict between a municipality and a city like Chambly.
Speaking of Chambly, there is another aspect of this bill that I find very worrisome and it has to do with infrastructure. The government and the minister responsible made announcements in Montreal and the greater Montreal area about the REM light rail project, which is extremely important for the city's suburbs, particularly the second tier of suburbs, which includes my riding.
However, there is a caveat. We realize that certain aspects of the file need to be discussed in order to ensure that the project is completed while fully respecting the people and the municipalities. A very important request was made by the mayors of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Chambly, and here I appeal to my colleague, the Liberal member for Saint-Jean. They would like the rail network to be extended so it can properly serve the residents of the Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu region and the Chambly basin.
In its current form, the project will create horrific traffic jams on highways 30 and 10. It is also important to consider urban spread and population growth in areas like mine. Naturally, we are happy that people want to move to our area and start a family. That is important, because the trend is towards population aging, and we are seeing more and more young families in our neighbourhoods.
In 2011, Marieville, one of the municipalities in my riding, was one of the top three municipalities in Quebec for population growth. In 2012, two municipalities in my riding, one of which is no longer part of my riding, ranked among the five Quebec municipalities with the highest birth rates. Furthermore, in the last Parliament, my riding was the third most populous federal riding in Quebec, thanks to its relatively young population, which ran counter to the trend.
At a meeting with members of the Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec, or FECQ, I learned that the only CEGEPs in Quebec that will not see a drop in student numbers are those that serve the greater Montérégie area and Montreal, particularly the Saint-Hyacinthe and Édouard-Montpetit CEGEPs.
Given that more and more people are living and working in my riding, but sometimes also work in Montreal, it is extremely important to have a good public transit system. When it comes to the REM, one of the biggest projects ever proposed, the government must show some respect for communities and municipalities like Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Chambly. These municipalities are making a very specific request. Not only do they want their residents to be well served, but they also want to ensure that traffic will not increase on the roads used by the people I represent. That is extremely important.
I can say today in the House that we are going to continue to call upon the ministers responsible to ensure that they are listening. I am talking about this during the debate on the budget implementation bill because, although the government says that it is providing funding, funding is not enough. Respect and project implementation are also important. Of course, that will require full and effective co-operation with the Government of Quebec and municipalities like Chambly and Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu.
There is good news, too, but not thanks to the government. I am very pleased to say that the good news stems from the hard work of our team, my counterparts in the National Assembly, and municipal elected officials. I am talking about the Beloeil pool. Enough people signed the registry to hold a referendum about building a pool, and the outcome was positive.
The subject also came up during two election campaigns in Beloeil, including the one that just ended. It even came up during the federal and Quebec elections in 2015, because people wanted to be sure the money would be available for this infrastructure project, which is very important to the community and to the young families I mentioned earlier.
I sat down with the mayor of Beloeil, Diane Lavoie, and my National Assembly counterpart, Simon Jolin-Barrette, and we came up with a joint game plan to make sure we got the money. We got the Government of Quebec and the federal government to commit to paying equal shares amounting to $9 million to build the new aquatics centre.
Given the parliamentary budget officer's findings and other things we have heard, and given that the government has had difficulty allocating money and spending it on infrastructure, it should not be congratulating itself for this type of bill. The local stakeholders are the ones who should be congratulated. It takes a tremendous amount of work jumping through endless bureaucratic hoops to get the money we are owed. A city such as Beloeil has a robust public sector. However, we can only imagine what it must be like for smaller municipalities, which have part-time staff, for example, and even part-time elected officials. This is not a criticism; their reality is a function of their population, demographics, and resources.
In this context, we can imagine the challenges they face when it is so difficult for the federal government to negotiate bilateral agreements and, on top of that, to spend the money. That is why I give credit to local stakeholders. I am proud to have worked with them to make this project a reality, because it will be a great asset to our community.
As I only have a few minutes left, I would like to conclude with the following remarks.
The government is patting itself on the back and saying that its plan is working, highlighting the numbers that came out on employment. However, the fact remains that social and economic inequalities are as present as ever in our society. We must address them. Simply sitting back and saying that the unemployment rate is at such and such a level is not enough, because that rate does not accurately reflect the government's record. The government's record is better reflected in the quality of jobs, as well as the level of inequality in our society. In that regard, the government still has a lot of work to do.
I talked about some extremely important local files, not to mention all the other files that need to be addressed, including tax evasion. The government merely identified billions of dollars that is missing from its coffers, rather than actually going after and recuperating it. It refuses to change the tax laws and treaties that mean that taxpayers who pay their fair share are essentially being cheated by the wealthy and by large corporations that are guilty of tax evasion and tax avoidance.
Despite what the minister says, this is not a priority. When it is time to table a budget, these are the types of priorities a government must have if it truly wants to address inequality and have the necessary resources to tackle the big projects that I mentioned in my speech. The government has a lot of work to do.
Speaking of inequalities, I want to use my last remaining minute to mention another group that I have had the pleasure of working with in my capacity as public safety critic. They are known as the no-fly list kids. They did not get any money in the spring budget and were hoping to get money this time around.
All the legislative measures in the world will not get us a proper redress system without the necessary money. When we see the problems with Shared Services Canada and the Phoenix pay system, we are not very confident that a computer system can be implemented without adequate funding. However, I am an eternal optimist, and I hope to see something different this spring.
As hon. members can see, there is a lot to say. I look forward to hearing my colleagues' questions, but also to seeing the next budget. I hope that the government will do the right thing and actually have something tangible to boast about, instead of just half measures.
View Peter Van Loan Profile
View Peter Van Loan Profile
2016-11-22 15:16 [p.7083]
Mr. Speaker, it is indeed about time we were debating this agreement in the House of Commons. It has been a long time coming. In fact, when I became minister of international trade, way back in 2010, negotiations on this agreement had already begun, thanks to the leadership of prime minister Harper and my predecessor in that role as trade minister, Stockwell Day.
It has been a long time coming, but it should be acknowledged that at that time, when I became minister, China was kind of all the rage. We hear that it might be all the rage nowadays. However, one of the things that struck me at the time was it seemed to me there were a fair number of inequalities in the trading relationship with China. We were running a severe trade deficit. Our investors in China were having a great deal of difficulty having their legal rights respected. I thought perhaps we should make our number one trading priority the negotiation of the Canada-Europe free trade agreement, as I chose to call it.
It did become the focus of our department's work, and certainly my work as minister. I felt it was an opportunity where we would be bringing together communities with similar values and similar economic approaches. In many cases, there were similar languages and similar legal systems. The opportunities were tremendous, and as we saw, the negotiations proceeded with tremendous success.
Why was it so important? We had a study undertaken to determine whether or not it was worthwhile embarking on negotiations. That study found that there would be a $12-billion annual boost to the Canadian economy from such an agreement, and that was way before 2010. When we hear that number, and I have seen it bandied about in this debate, it is reasonable to assess that the number that is now almost a decade old would be much higher today as the economies and opportunities have advanced. Therefore, I think we are looking at far more than a $12-billion boost to the Canadian economy. We will certainly need that. That will be a boost that will be coming as a result of a trade agreement like this.
There were some very special things about how this was negotiated that were different than any negotiation before. One of them was the inclusion of the provinces. Canada is a challenging jurisdiction for the negotiation of trade agreements because much of what is on the table, much of what we will have to implement by way of legislation or regulatory changes, is in provincial jurisdiction, thanks to our Constitution. As a result, we structured a negotiating process that had the provinces at the table for the very first time. I know the narrative, the history, that mainstream academics like to talk about in the media was that we did not have great co-operation. We had better co-operation on trade with the provinces than any other government ever in history. It was groundbreaking, and very important. It was one of the reasons we were able to succeed in this complex negotiation, never mind the complexities of the many jurisdictions on the other side of the equation in the European Union.
We also had unprecedented consultations with the various stakeholders. Some of it was structural. Some of it was regular briefings. For example, I remember meeting with the municipalities across Canada, and so on, so that they were apprised, because there were issues that were going to affect them. All of these played into it.
One of the things I saw as a tremendous opportunity for Canada was the fact that if we look at all the countries of the European Union, we have here in Canada significant populations from each and every one of those jurisdictions. I thought about the tremendous potential for us to harness the fact that we have people with ties of language, culture, ethnicity, family, and previous business. We have many recent immigrants with those ties back home, and given the opportunity to expand that trade, think of the potential that could be undertaken there.
Canada has had a unique challenge in our trade that is also our greatest strength. We have beside us the United States of America, a country with similar values, similar languages, and similar legal system, and great roots that we have in common. Therefore, for Canadians and Canadian businesses, that has given us a huge potential to trade. We have such a strong trading relationship. As a relatively small country, we depend on the ability to export elsewhere, especially to that huge market in the United States.
However, the problem for Canada became, and I believe still is, that it is almost too easy. It is so much easier to go and form trading relationships with people where we do not have to learn a new language, or a new legal system or jurisdictions. We can talk about the football game we watched on TV, or the sitcom that was on the networks last week, and still have all those ties together.
To make the decision to go somewhere else in the world for our exports, to learn those new markets, to learn the news systems and the local rules, is much more challenging. However, we have this ace in the hole of those populations here.
As trade minister, one of the things I worked very hard to do was work through those various communities in Canada. Almost every single one of them had a Canadian and whatever the country, members can take their pick, German, Belgian, whatever, chamber of commerce that brought together people of those backgrounds and those interests in Canada who were ready and willing to pursue those opportunities. I can say without exception that every single one of them was excited, engaged, and looking forward to the opportunities that would be presented by this remarkable trade agreement, such as the opportunities to prosper, export, create jobs, and the like.
When we think about it, there were other opportunities on the other side. I remember entertaining many potential foreign investors looking at Canada at the time. What they told me again and again was that there were so many things that were attractive about Canada. Under our Conservative government, we had delivered the lowest level of taxation on new job creators of any comparable jurisdictions. We had the most skilled workforce, the highest proportion of people with post-secondary education, and I could go on. They looked at our debt-to-GDP ratio, and the fact that we were focused on balanced budgets, and said, “As long as there is a Conservative government in place and we see these levels of low debt and deficit, we can have confidence that the numbers we put in our pro forma for taxation will remain for the foreseeable future, and that creates certainty for our investment.” They looked at all of those things and then said, “If you get that free trade agreement with Europe, picture it, you will be the only country in the world, the only major developed economy, with trade agreements with the two biggest economies in the world, the United States through NAFTA, and the European Union. If you're looking for a place to invest a platform, a place to create jobs and produce the products that you're going to export into those marketplaces, nowhere would be better than Canada.”
We will see if that will remain the case. Hopefully, the government will be able to do a reasonable job, although it has already started unilateral disarmament with the Americans vis-à-vis NAFTA. However, if it can hold its own in those negotiations we will continue to hold that position and this agreement will hold that promise for Canada, and that will continue to be the case. It now looks unlikely that the United States, with its current political direction, will proceed very far with its efforts to negotiate a free trade agreement with Europe. That is a huge potential opportunity for us as a destination for investment in that regard. That is something that, when we look at this agreement, when we look at the potential that Canada has, is one of the things that to me was very promising from a job creation and investment perspective.
However, there are worrying signs. I talked about that unilateral disarmament approach of the Liberal government, where it has already volunteered to look at renegotiating NAFTA. The problem is this. Notwithstanding the perceptions that people have, the Americans are not ideological trade negotiators. They are very much self-interested negotiators and they look to maximize their self-interests. If it were not for the charm of one Brian Mulroney and his ability to connect a relationship with Ronald Reagan, we would never have had a NAFTA that was as fair and beneficial for both countries as it is. Therefore, I am very concerned about the potential to do that.
The Liberals are not natural trade negotiators. In all of their 13 years in power in the previous Liberal government, they only negotiated three trade agreements. Some people said two earlier. It was three. They were with economic behemoth powerhouses: Costa Rica, Chile, and Israel. Those agreements were so unambitious that when I was trade minister we reopened all three so that we could make them into stronger agreements that delivered more benefits to Canada. I am pleased to say that we delivered on those. Therefore, are they natural negotiators? I do not know. Fortunately, they inherited this Canada-Europe trade agreement, and although they did find a way to delay it for a year and put a lot of stuff at risk, I hope that 90% of it is intact when compared to what we had arrived at in terms of agreements with the Europeans when we left government and that there will be potential there.
I am excited that this agreement is finally here in the House of Commons and that some of that potential can be harnessed. These things take much longer than they should because of the complexity of so many jurisdictions not only here in Canada but, more importantly, in the European Union.
At the end of the day, free trade means less government; free trade means lower taxes; and free trade means more opportunity, more jobs, more economic growth, and more economic development. That is why this Conservative Party has been so associated with all the great advances of free trade throughout the history of the past century or so in Canada. I am very proud to have played a very small role in that, together with my colleagues.
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