Interventions in the House of Commons
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View Dan Albas Profile
Madam Speaker, let me say, as I probably rise for the last time in this Parliament, how honoured I am to represent the good people of Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, how much I have learned from my colleagues here, but also how invigorated I am by the greatness of this country and my commitment to work hard for the people I represent.
As I join this debate today, I feel compelled to make a few observations. To be clear, Canada did not ask to be put in this position. However, as we know, the U.S. election resulted in a new administration, with a mandate, among other things, to renegotiate NAFTA. That is where all of this started.
I think we can all agree that this particular renegotiated agreement resulted in an outcome that is less than ideal, but of course, it could have been much worse. Many concessions were made, and we still have unresolved issues, such as the lack of a deal for Canadian softwood lumber, something that is critically important to my riding.
Ultimately, it is not a secret that the official opposition will be supporting this deal. Unlike the third party, we do believe it is better than no deal. However, that does not mean that there are not some lessons to be learned here.
To me, it is deeply troubling that the Prime Minister went into these negotiations with his usual theme of demanding things that are all about building his brand and appealing to his base of supporters. In other words, the Prime Minister thought he saw an opportunity to score some political points and feed the brand. This is not unlike what he tried to do when he approached China.
In both cases, he failed miserably. Why would he not fail miserably? Would we as Canadians accept another leader trying to push his or her own values onto us? We simply would not accept that. What nation would? However, that is precisely what the Prime Minister attempted to to. Some may call this arrogance. Whatever we call it, it was easily foreseeable that it was a path to failure.
However, the Prime Minister did not care and went about his virtue-signalling anyway, so we ended up on the sidelines: Canada, a world leader, on the sidelines. There we were, on the sidelines with our biggest trading partner, while Mexico was in the driver's seat, getting the deal done.
Here is the thing. Mexico did get it done. Let us look at its approach. Mexico did not use the trade negotiations as some sort of domestic political opportunity to score points. Mexico did not use this as an opportunity for virtue-signalling. Mexico did not have a lead minister giving a speech within the United States of America that took veiled potshots at the U.S. administration. Mexico discussed issues related to trade and did so professionally. It is easy to see why that approach worked so well for it.
Our approach, led by the Prime Minister, was a complete failure. It did not have to be that way. I can tell colleagues that, on this side of the House, we would have taken a much different approach. I am actually quite confident that there are members on the government side of the House, whom I have worked with at various committees, who I suspect would have also taken a much different approach. I believe it is important to reflect on these things so that we can learn from them.
Canada should never again be in a situation where we are sitting on the sidelines with our greatest trading partner, while Mexico is driving the bus. I hope that is one thing we can all agree on. Perhaps that is why we are now hearing the name of Mark Carney, because there are other Liberals who feel the same way.
Now we have a new deal. Whether it is called the new NAFTA, NAFTA 0.5, USMCA, CUSMA, or whatever, there is something we should all think about. Recently, Jack Mintz wrote a very good piece on investment fleeing Canada. Members who have read the article would know that it debunks some Liberal talking points that had been carefully cherry-picked.
As an example, yes, investment in Canada was up in 2018. However, that sounds good until we consider that it was up from 2017, and 2017 was an absolute disaster of a year. Even in 2018, it was still below where things were in 2015. Yes, I mean that 2015.
Yes, investment in the U.S.A. is down, but that is outside investment. There is a large increase in U.S. domestic capital now staying in the United States. This means it is not coming to Canada.
Why should we care about that? Let us look at our automotive sector. Yes, there is still some investment in Canada, but there is considerably more occurring in the United States and Mexico. Mexico, in particular, has been a hot spot for automotive investment. Let us think about that. Mexico has no carbon tax. It has no new and enhanced CPP causing premiums and payroll taxes to increase every month. Much of its industrial power is cheap, and I would even say it is dirty.
CUSMA does more to address some of those issues than the NAFTA deal it replaces, but we also have to recognize that foreign investment in Canada is not the rose garden the Liberals are trying to suggest it is. This is a deal among three countries. If we become the most expensive, most regulated and most inefficient country to do business in, we lose collectively as a country.
The Prime Minister can continue to be virtuous. He can continue to ask people to pay just a little bit more. He can continue to lecture others for not sharing his values. However, at the end of the day, none of those things are going to attract the investment we need to make the most of this deal.
While we are on the subject of trade, I note that last week, during question period in this place, the Prime Minister vilified former prime minister Harper close to a dozen times. As the Liberals' good friend Warren Kinsella recently pointed out, the Prime Minister is looking “for an enemy to demonize”.
I mention that because the former Conservative government of Mr. Harper concluded more free trade agreements than any prime minister in the modern era. It is not as if the Liberals, or the Prime Minister, would be unaware of this, because they sat in this place during the last Parliament and voted in support of all those new trade agreements, yet the Prime Minister turns around and vilifies the former prime minister, who has a demonstrably more successful record on trade agreements.
However, perhaps that is preferable to talking about the lack of progress on Canadian softwood. I looked up on the Open Parliament website how many times the Prime Minister has even mentioned the word “softwood”. The answer is 18 times since 2016. The vast majority of those times were only because he was answering questions on softwood lumber asked by the opposition.
How many times has he referenced Stephen Harper? It is 190 times, and it will probably be more than 200 after today's question period. With the Prime Minister's priorities so focused on vilifying Mr. Harper instead of focusing on softwood lumber, is it any wonder he has made zero progress on this file?
Why do I point this out? I point this out because lumber mills are closing all across British Columbia at an alarming rate. My riding has lost lumber mills. I know first-hand what that does to a small rural community. It is devastating. However, there is complete silence from the Prime Minister regarding softwood lumber unless he is asked about it by the opposition in this place. Why? Maybe it is because he is too busy vilifying Mr. Harper.
In my view, that is not acceptable. B.C. forest workers deserve better. They deserve to know that they have a prime minister in Ottawa working to reach a softwood lumber deal.
I sometimes wonder whether, if Mexico had a vibrant softwood lumber sector, we would now have a deal done by extension as well. It is clear that Mexico has a more effective track record in these negotiations than the brand-first approach of the Prime Minister.
To summarize, we did not ask to be in this situation, clearly. However, I believe the approach taken by the Prime Minister to try to use this as a political opportunity was deeply flawed and made a bad situation worse.
Again, as evidence of that, I say to look no further than the approach taken by Mexico and the success that it had while we sat on the sidelines.
I have raised this point with ministers of the Crown. They told us that the meetings between the United States and Mexico were simply on bilateral issues that had nothing to do with Canada. However, they came out with a trilateral agreement, and Canada had a take-it-or-leave-it moment.
Despite the many concessions that the Prime Minister has made on this file, we can still make the most of it, but only if we recognize that we need to be more competitive. We have a regulatory environment in which things can get done in Canada. Many people have raised alarm bells, particularly the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, and not just about the lack of investment but also the ability to get things done.
The Leader of the Opposition today clearly asked the Prime Minister several times for the date for the Trans Mountain pipeline. The Prime Minister promised the Trans Mountain pipeline, one of the most important projects on the deck and one of the only ones on the deck, would go forward to help build the national interest, but the Prime Minister cannot give a date.
Originally, the Liberals said that it would be operating this calendar year. Again, I would submit that one need to look no further than the Trans Mountain pipeline as evidence as to where the challenges are. It has been four years, and still there is not a shovel in the ground. The fact that the Liberal government had to buy the project to save Kinder Morgan from the embarrassment of not being able to build it in a timely manner is all part of the problem. The fact that today even the government has serious challenges in trying to navigate the process to get it done is telling. Does anyone seriously believe that Bill C-69 and Bill C-48 will make it easier to invest in Canada?
The Prime Minister says that tankers can operate totally safely in one part of British Columbia and in other parts of Canada, but are so dangerous in another part of British Columbia that they must be banned. Does anyone seriously think that makes sense? In fact, a number of the senators in the other place have commented on the lack of scientific evidence on Bill C-48. The committee that studied it in depth recommended that the bill not proceed.
The approaches of the current government do not reconcile. These are the types of mixed messages that are just not helpful. However, I remain hopeful that we can become more competitive and that as we move forward, we can ultimately try to fully capitalize on this agreement despite the many concessions.
I would like to close on a more positive note, and I will add a few positive observations.
As we have established many times and in many areas, Canada and Canadians can compete and succeed against the very best in the world. As legislators, it is our job to ensure that they have a level playing field and unrestricted market access to do so. Therefore, I will vote in favour of this agreement as, ultimately, it will provide these opportunities.
However, I must say one more time that until we have full, unfettered free trade within Canada's borders, we are, as a country, not owning up to the promise of Confederation, and that falls on us. It falls upon the provinces that have not allowed Canada to become not just a political union but an economic one.
This will be my last speech in the 42nd Parliament, and I would like to share a few words on a personal note.
We all share the collective honour of being elected members of this place, and our families all share the sacrifice for the many times that we cannot be there for them. It is my hope that our families, particularly our young ones, understand that in this place our collective desire to build a better country starts and ends with them. I would like thank all families of parliamentarians for their understanding and support.
I would also like to share a word with other members of this place. It is so unfortunate that much of the work we do here is often summarized by many Canadians as what transpires in question period. Much of the most important work that we do collectively happens at committee.
On that note, I would like to sincerely thank the many members I have worked with on various committees. Everyone I have worked with shares the same commitment to help ensure that the federal government provides the best level of governance possible. We may disagree on programs, projects and approaches, but I have found that we share a commitment to making these programs work best for Canadians.
A final point I would like to make should not be lost by any of us. The former Conservative government introduced a program to provide supports for kids directly to their parents. At the time, the Liberal opposition mocked it, ridiculed it, and suggested that parents would simply blow the money they received on beer and popcorn, but when the Liberals formed their majority government in 2015, they did not kill that program. Liberals saw the merits of it and saw that it was working so they made improvements to it, and now it is working even more effectively. I wish to commend them yet again for that.
That is an example of two very different governments coming up with a program and finding ways to improve it to ensure that it helps support Canadian families.
Trade is similar. After all, we are a nation of traders. We need to have these things that make us collectively prosper, that allow us to build stronger ties and relationships and provide the security and the sense of certainty that it takes for someone to start a business or for a country to get behind a new program. These are great examples of the work that we do when we are here on behalf of Canadians.
Thank you, Madam Speaker, for the time you spend in the chair. I am sure there are many different ways you would rather spend your time than listening to me, but I do appreciate the work you do and I am sure my constituents do as well. I look forward to the challenges in the upcoming months and in the questions and comments I will hear from my fellow colleagues.
View Lloyd Longfield Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Lloyd Longfield Profile
2019-06-19 16:59 [p.29414]
Madam Speaker, the member across the way is a fellow member on the INDU committee. We have had a lot of great discussions there, and a lot of them came as a result of our connections with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.
I was the president of the Guelph Chamber of Commerce. I was on the board of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and worked very closely with Perrin Beatty and his group at the Canadian chamber, who were supportive all the way through our negotiations on the new NAFTA, in particular saying we had to hold our ground when it came to the section 232 provisions on steel and aluminum. When we were successful, the Canadian chamber put out a press release saying that it supported the federal government's efforts to have the unjustified U.S. tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum products lifted. It took all of Canada standing together.
It sounds like the member was suggesting that we should be more like Mexico. Does he mean we should be reflective of the labour practices of Mexico, or the safety practices? How should we be more like Mexico?
View Dan Albas Profile
Madam Speaker, in my speech I pointed out that this is obviously a three-way agreement and that trade is influenced by many different things: the ease of transport, the tax regime, and tariffs, obviously, because that is what a free trade deal is supposed to deal with.
As I mentioned in my speech, Mexico has seen a rise in the development of its automotive sector because Mexico is not subject to many of the costs that are associated with doing business in Canada, such as the enhanced CPP, for which employers have to pay higher premiums, and the carbon tax, which increases the price of everything, particularly for processes that require a tremendous amount of energy, such as those in the automotive sector.
We must remain competitive if Canada, a nation of traders, is to compete in trade. We cannot take our products and services to other countries if we are priced out of the market because of our input costs. That is an area where we cannot allow Canada to fall back. I hope that when the time comes, the member will advocate for a new government to deal with the red tape and excessive taxation that the government has put on this country.
View Ali Ehsassi Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Ali Ehsassi Profile
2019-06-19 21:15 [p.29439]
Mr. Speaker, I apologize for that oversight.
Of course, what I meant to highlight and emphasize was that numerous people were highly engaged in this process. As I mentioned earlier, there were many members of this House who took their responsibilities very seriously. Of course, we also reached out to business leaders, labour leaders and everyone who could assist along the way.
I think it would be fair to say that, in all these interactions, we have been unwavering in sharing our message in the U.S., and our message was very simple. We were informing Americans that it was in their self-interest to keep strong relations with Canada. Good, middle-class jobs in every U.S. state depend directly on trade with and investment in Canada. Apart from being a friend and a neighbour, Canada is also the most like-minded ally the United States can find in the world.
Similarly, Canada and Mexico continue to weave ties for the future through our shared values and commitment to a secure, prosperous, inclusive and democratic world. I should highlight that this year marks the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Canada and Mexico, and we very much look forward to building on this milestone to create an even stronger partnership.
In negotiating the modernized agreement, we underscored that a good deal is one that reflects the Canadian national interests and in which Canadian values are defended. That was at the core of our negotiating priorities and approach, and we were consistent throughout.
The new NAFTA is a win-win-win agreement for Canada, the United States and Mexico.
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
2019-06-19 21:23 [p.29440]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak tonight. In the final days of Parliament, I would be remiss if I did not thank my colleagues in the NDP for our tireless fight for fair trade for Canadians, who represent farmers and workers, to keep the cost of pharmaceuticals low and to address the issues Canadians care about and matter to them in terms of trade.
I would like to thank my family for the time that I have been able to devote here, my husband Germaine, my sons Maxwell and Maliq. I thank them for their support and love and for the wild ride we have been on this last four years and I look forward to going further. I would like to say a quick thanks to my team. They are just so incredible. I thank Nadine, Lindsay, Katrina, Joseline and Megan and the many volunteers throughout the years.
We are back on Bill C-100 and I am pleased to rise to speak on this stage of the bill. I thank my colleague, the member for Windsor—Tecumseh, who brought forward a reasoned amendment, something the government should consider, which is to decline to give second reading to Bill C-100. Before I get into the reasons, which my colleague laid out quite well in her reasoned amendment last night, there has been a lot of discussion about what is happening in the U.S., the moves the Democrats are making. We know they have written four letters from the subcommittee on trade to Ambassador Lighthizer.
They are in the middle of negotiations right now and it is quite shocking to know that the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs will be going to Washington, for Donald Trump, to pressure the Democrats to drop these progressive elements that they are trying to achieve. I do not think that is something that Canadians widely support. It is certainly not something that Speaker Pelosi has said she is willing to do. She said that the Democrat-controlled House will not take up legislation to ratify the deal until it is tweaked to address her concerns, which include issues with enforcement tools, labour reforms in Mexico, environmental protections and provisions on pharmaceuticals.
Are these not things that we in Canada should all be pursuing? Is this not something that the Liberal government should be getting behind and supporting instead of ramming this through, closing down debate in the dying days of Parliament with an uncertain future throughout the summer on Bill C-100? I understand that we are heading into an election and that it is in the best interests of Liberals to try to get this done, to put something on the shelf to show Canadians that they have achieved something on the trade file. I just say “something”. I reserve my comment as to the value of it or how this deal is being viewed.
I want to go back to the member for Windsor—Tecumseh and the reasoned amendment she put forward. The first reason she states is that this new deal, the NAFTA, the CUSMA, the USMCA, whichever one chooses to call it, fails to improve labour provisions necessary to protect jobs. This is entirely true. Yesterday, there were 12 witnesses at the trade committee. There was a witness from Unifor who expressed concerns about the labour provisions. Unfortunately, what was initially attempted was not fully achieved. We know the Democrats are working hard to improve it.
I want to talk about more specifics and the uncertainty that still exists. The first thing I want to talk about is working women. In the agreement that was signed last fall, there was a negotiation that included provisions for improving the conditions of working women, including workplace harassment, pay equity and equality issues, but in the scrub phase of this new deal, those things disappeared. They are completely gone from the agreement now. The Liberals have yet to answer why. They have yet to acknowledge that these important gender gains have completely disappeared and they have yet to ask what happened to them and say they need to be put back in Bill C-100. I would be curious to hear why the Liberals are not pushing for these gender changes that have now somehow disappeared.
There is a lot of discussion about the $16 U.S. per hour wage that has been talked about. The unfortunate part of this provision, and I hope that Canadians understand this, is that it is not a minimum $16 per hour; it is an average $16 per hour, and the determination of that has yet to be defined. If we use the example of an auto assembly plant or a manufacturing plant, we would have to include everyone, the CEO, all of the shareholders, all of the stakeholders, all the way down.
If we take the average wage of everyone working there, $16 an hour is not going to be what people are being paid in right-to-work states in the U.S. or in Mexico. It is simply what the average wage has to be among workers in that whole company. Again, while this appears to be something progressive on the surface, I want Canadians to understand there is no guarantee here that people will actually be paid that amount of money. That is definitely a concern to us.
We know that in the Mexican government, the people have moved toward some labour reforms. The problem is that we are taking a gamble on the backs of working people in hoping that this thing will correct the imbalance and have the jobs continue to drain down to Mexico. There are many Canadian companies that have footprints in Mexico that are not paying a fair wage to people in plants. These are North American multinational companies. Of course, when executives are looking where to put a new manufacturing facility, they know that in Mexico people are being paid a very low wage, there are no labour standards, no legitimate unions and no environmental provisions, and then they look at the Canadian standard.
This is the reason we have not had a new greenfield site in Canada over the life of NAFTA. We will continue to have this problem. It is a great gamble that is being taken, once again, on the backs of working people. We have lost 400,000 manufacturing jobs over the life of NAFTA. We lost our entire textile industry. We lost 50% of our vintners, our wineries that are in a lot of our ridings here in the House. There are a great many questions, to find out whether the provisions in this deal would actually work and would actually help the Mexican working people, the U.S. working people and the Canadians. It is a great gamble and risk that we are taking here. I do not believe that I have heard a strong argument from the other side, other than to say that this is the best that we could do. Canadian workers deserve better than that.
Most people, when they think of the U.S. and Canada and labour standards, certainly do not think of the U.S. as being more progressive than we are, but that is exactly what is happening there now. The Americans are actually trying to stand up for working people in the U.S. It is a shame that we do not see the same thing happening here in Canada.
The other thing I want to talk about, which my colleagues have touched upon and I have in my previous speech, is that this deal allows for the extension of drug patents, which would significantly increase the cost of medication for Canadians. We know that Dr. Hoskins came out with his report saying that we should move toward a single-payer universal pharmacare plan in Canada, something New Democrats have been saying and putting forward as a plan to Canadians for quite some time. It is disappointing to see the Liberals dangle that carrot once again in front of voters, saying, “Do not worry, we are going to do it”. We have been hearing that for 20 years.
Here is a deal that would make drugs like insulin, drugs that are used for Crohn's disease and drugs that are used for rheumatoid arthritis more expensive. That is so counterintuitive to where we need to be going because we know that Canadians already cannot afford the medication that they are taking. The fact is that Big Pharma is getting its way once again in a trade agreement. This is a complete TPP hangover. This was part of the original TPP that, thankfully, disappeared when the U.S. left, but it is right back on the table again.
My colleagues have rightly pointed out the impact on supply management. We heard from the egg farmers at committee yesterday. I just have to pause to point out that it is shameful that we had only 12 witnesses before the committee on a study on the new NAFTA, or the CUSMA, when we had over 400 on the TPP. We did a whole cross-country tour on the TPP, where we not only included everyone in the local communities but we also had open-mike periods. Now we have the complete opposite. While the Liberals keep saying this is our most important relationship and this is why we have to do this, I believe that is the reason it deserves proper attention and proper oversight. Certainly that is not what is happening here.
I am very pleased to rise to say that New Democrats will always fight for fair trade that is in the best interest of people, communities and workers, and we will put the poorest and most marginalized Canadians in the best position when we do so. When we continue to sign trade agreements that will have negative impacts and violate people's human rights, do not address gender inequality and do not work to make the wealth inequality in our country shrink, we are doing a disservice. We need to do better. New Democrats are committed to fair trade at every turn.
View Erin O'Toole Profile
View Erin O'Toole Profile
2019-06-18 23:07 [p.29372]
Mr. Speaker, I am not quite sure how to follow my friend from Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook. I will try to do so with facts, as opposed to volume. He knows that my family, who live in Fall River in his riding, have a great deal of respect for him, as I do. Unfortunately, the speech he was given tonight with respect to NAFTA does not reflect what really happened in the negotiations and the deal.
As a Nova Scotia MP, the member would know that the future of economic development in Nova Scotia, the success being had right now, is attributable to two things. First is the amazing potential of institutions and entrepreneurs in Atlantic Canada, and Nova Scotia in particular. Second was the strategic focus on trade and infrastructure that took place during the Harper government. Specifically, Atlantic Canada has never seen a larger investment than the awarding of the shipbuilding contract to the Halifax shipyard. The largest investment in the history of Atlantic Canada is attributable to the Conservatives.
I am very proud of that, having served on board one of the frigates bought previously by the last majority Conservative governments of Mulroney. When Conservative governments are in, they have to modernize and update the Canadian Armed Forces every generation. We see the current government buying 40-year-old used aircraft from Australia and being parodied on the world stage, but the investment at the Halifax shipyard is impressive. In fact, I will be going to see it again this summer.
What is interesting as well for the Halifax Regional Municipality, an area that the member for Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook should know well, as his riding abuts the Halifax airport, is that Peter MacKay made it a priority for the runways at the Robert Stanfield airport to be extended. Longer runways allowed for more cargo flights to take Atlantic Canadian exports around the world, exports like lobster to South Korea. As parliamentary secretary in the Harper government, I was proud to visit the cargo terminal at Stanfield International in Halifax to see one of the first few months' worth of flights taking Nova Scotia lobster, fished from Cape Breton right down through to the south shore and to Yarmouth, to new markets in Asia, to secure a better price for the products.
In fact, the CETA trade deal was particularly beneficial to a number of key industries in Atlantic Canada, particularly on the seafood side, as was the bilateral trade deal with South Korea, which I was involved in.
If we do the rundown, at Cape Breton, the tar ponds that were talked about for generations, when I was in law school at Dalhousie or serving at Shearwater, were finally cleaned up under the Conservatives. The trouble is that by the time we get these projects done, we have done the heavy lifting and we do not get to cut some of the ribbons that the new people do. However, I would like the member to spend a few moments researching that.
At the moment, I cannot point to one major investment by the current government. In fact, when the minister in charge of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency is based out of Mississauga, and when the Liberals tried to break with 80-year tradition to block an Atlantic Canadian jurist from the Supreme Court of Canada, defying constitutional precedent, I would suggest Atlantic Canadians have seen that there is zero priority for their needs with the government. There are lots of photo ops and selfies, but that is wearing thin on them.
I would like the member to do some research on the items I have just spoken about. I would like anyone to bring it to the floor of the House of Commons if I am wrong about the shipbuilding investment in the Halifax shipyard being the largest single public procurement infrastructure project ever in Atlantic Canadian history. As someone who lived, served and studied in Atlantic Canada, I am very proud of that track record.
I am now speaking on a continued debate on Bill C-100 and the amendment offered by the NDP. I might as well get to the crunch of the challenge we face here.
As Conservatives, we negotiated 98% of Canada's export access; 98% were deals negotiated by the Conservatives. That included the U.S. free trade agreement, NAFTA, CETA and the trans-Pacific partnership, which basically was agreed upon in the middle of the 2015 election, but then the U.S. pulled out and there were some changes made. There was the agreement with South Korea and a tonne of bilateral agreements. There are really only two or three free trade agreements that were not negotiated by Conservative governments: the Israel free trade agreement, which we modernized, and I think maybe the Chile agreement. However, by and large, 98% of our export access was negotiated by Conservatives. Therefore, we have been frustrated in this process, seeing a lack of attention on trade, exports and key market sectors to be put forward in the renegotiation of NAFTA. This amendment raises a range of issues.
Core to the problems with the NAFTA negotiation were not the outcomes on labour, because the U.S. was concerned basically about labour rates in Mexico. In fact, Canada is a signatory to more ILO treaties than the U.S. is. What is interesting is that, just today, in front of Congress, the USTR, Ambassador Lighthizer, viewed it as a success that Mexico is going to have a secret ballot in the union elections, something the Liberals oppose as a democratic approach to elections for union representation. They likely oppose it because Jerry Dias appears to be a senior advisor to the Prime Minister, advising now on how to spend the $600 million media fund. That should trouble Canadians.
However, the problem was the focus in the NAFTA negotiations, which was softwood lumber, our eternal irritant with the U.S. relationship. In fact, Canadian softwood allows home ownership in the United States to be available to more people. The only reason the tariffs on our softwood lumber, which were agreed upon by the current government, are not having as big an impact as they could is the voracious appetite in the United States right now for construction and softwood in general. Therefore, the price and demand are strong enough that they are living with the tariff that has been imposed.
Members may recall that when the Harper government came in, it made the unusual decision of asking David Emerson to switch parties to help drive toward a deal on softwood. That was the last agreement we were able to lock down with the United States. Therefore, it has been a perpetual irritant in the trade relationship with Canada, which is largely due to a few stakeholders in the U.S. who have a lot of influence in Washington holding back affordability for millions of Americans. The Liberals should have used this opportunity of opening up NAFTA to get resolution on a core irritant of trade. If we are going to modernize, let us fix something that we are always fighting with the Americans on. It was not even mentioned in the priorities of the Liberals, nor was auto.
As I said earlier, the Auto Pact of 1965 was the first free trade agreement between Canada and the U.S. We would not have NAFTA, nor the USFTA, were it not for the Auto Pact. That was not mentioned as a priority.
Most of the agriculture sector is not mentioned. In fairness, the minister did mention supply management but did not push back at any of President Trump's inflated rhetoric on 200% tariff quotas. The U.S. spends more on agricultural subsidies than we spend on our military. When were we pushing back on that? There is no level playing field in agriculture if the U.S. is spending billions in direct subsidies.
We ignored agriculture, auto and softwood. We literally left out most of the areas that we should have been focused on right from the start. That is what the Conservatives said. That is what our leader said. That is what I said. That is what many of our members said.
We also urged them to look at ballistic missile defence, modernizing NORAD as a way to remind Americans that if they are going to impose section 232 tariffs because of security grounds, they do not do that with their one partner on homeland defence and security, Canada. They did not do that. In fact they took positions antithetical to the U.S.
Canada pulled out our jets in the fight against ISIS. When France and the U.S. were asking us to do more in security, the Prime Minister in a second vote in this Parliament, whipped by the former head of our army, I would note he is retiring. He was the whip. I know how difficult that must have been to withdraw from a battle when our allies are trying to step up.
The Obama presidency, the bromance the Prime Minister brags about all the time, wanted us to stay in. We were not seen as a trusted, reliable security partner under the Prime Minister. When section 232 tariffs were being talked about on security grounds, we were not making our case.
Here is something else I recommended and I would recommend the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, who informed us how they try and fool Canadians by being persistent, yelling, being loud and then Canadians will totally believe them. The big myth we have in modernizing NAFTA was modernizing trucking and transportation in North America. We knew that President Trump had issues with Mexican trucking and some of the border rules in terms of states on the border and trucking regulations.
When the Mulroney government negotiated the U.S. Free Trade Agreement, concluded in the 1988 election, Canada still owned Air Canada. We had not liberalized passenger airline travel. It was still a Crown corporation. Fast-forward to today in 2017, 2018, 2019, we see efficiencies for more open skies. I would like to see even more. We see efficiencies in the North American railroads where Canadian companies like CP and CN have done very well with liberalized transportation rules.
We urged the government, if it wants a game-changer, to truly modernize NAFTA, modernize trucking because in many cases because of state or provincial rules, if we send goods from Quebec to California, or from Ontario to Massachusetts, those trucking resources often have to come back empty or do not have the ability to transport interstate.
What is interesting about that, and I know my friend, the leader of the Green Party is listening intently, is that, had we brought cabotage and trucking into it, it would have been the single largest reduction in greenhouse gases in the history of North America, by modernizing trucking.
I recommended that and when David Emerson, a former transportation minister, someone very well regarded in the industry as well, appeared at transport committee, I asked him would that not have been a win on both the trade front and the environment front. He agreed it would have been the single largest way to reduce greenhouse gases.
Despite the rhetoric, the government's greenhouse gas emission reduction plan is a tax. We could have worked this into NAFTA. The timing was there. As I said, liberalizing trucking regulations was not even forecast in the eighties because there was still state ownership of airlines and so on. Today with air liberalized to a large degree to rail, to short sea shipping in many cases, we could have added trucking. Not only would it reduce greenhouse gases, it would have made businesses more efficient, would have potentially reduced costs and maximized the utility of our trucking infrastructure.
That is something we recommended for the agreement, particularly with a president who likes to tell everyone that he is a business leader. That would have been a way to say we can have a win for the customer, a win for competitiveness, fewer trucks on the road and fewer emissions. Let us modernize that in NAFTA.
No, we did not mention that either. We did not mention our core industries, like auto, softwood or key agriculture sectors. We did not even get modernized professional work abilities in the United States. We did not get digital modernization. We did not get security and certainty with respect to where data and data storage would be for privacy reasons. We really did not get anything in this agreement, because we did not go into the negotiations in a strategic fashion.
The Liberal government underestimated what the negotiations would amount to, and they went in with the sort of posturing image of the Prime Minister, his much vaunted progressive agenda. Liberals kind of said that they would work with Mexico, too. The Prime Minister went down to Mexico to say that we would work together. Then, what did Mexico do? It had 85 direct meetings with White House administration officials.
By the end, the last two months, we had negotiated ourselves away from the table, and the member for Fredericton should know, because the exporters in New Brunswick have been let down by him, remarkably, on this file, that when Canada is not present at the negotiation of a trilateral agreement, when there are only two parties present, it is a failure of the third party.
I understand why the member for Fredericton is frustrated. He might be the next first-term Liberal to announce his retirement. I am losing track of how many. Today it was the member for Pierrefonds—Dollard. We had a few others, I think. I would love to have the Library of Parliament research this fact because I am not 100% sure, but maybe the member for Fredericton could research it too. I think that a majority government has never seen more first-time MPs leave than the current government.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
View Erin O'Toole Profile
View Erin O'Toole Profile
2019-06-06 12:30 [p.28681]
Mr. Speaker, there is a transcript from a year ago, when I questioned the minister on Liberal delays on safeguards. I will send this package to the member from Toronto and to the rest of the Liberal caucus, because they have been asleep. How do I know that? None of them showed up to their own government's briefing on this bill last night. In fact, I found out about it when the Minister of Finance asked me and said there was a briefing. The Liberals did not invite the opposition to the briefing. That is how they have played this from day one.
The minister avoided all my questions on why Canada waited over a year to take U.S. concerns over transshipments seriously. We could have avoided section 232 tariffs. We could have been having this debate on safeguards a year and a half ago, when the Conservatives asked for it, at a time when we could have mitigated some of the impacts of safeguards.
I am going to go through those impacts now, because they are real. They affect jobs in Winnipeg, Sault Ste. Marie, Hamilton, Toronto, Prince Edward Island and wherever that guy is from. They are real because there are fabricators in all communities.
I toured a great fabrication plant, one of the largest employers on Prince Edward Island. It works with Quebec steel companies to bid on and build stairways and parts of construction in Manhattan high-rises. I know the member for Malpeque is proud of those jobs, as am I. These are all affected by poor Liberal decisions on trade policy and will be impacted by Bill C-101.
What the Conservatives want to see is mitigating the impact. We want to see western Canadian fabricators and critical public infrastructure projects like Muskrat Falls, Site C, LNG Canada and the Champlain Bridge protected by regional allocation of quota. We want to make sure that the Champlain Bridge does not cost $1 billion or $2 billion more as a result of this bill. That can be done, and it can be WTO-compliant through TRQs, regional allocation of quota for critical industry, because western Canada cannot get steel from Hamilton to Sault Ste-Marie. It is uneconomical to ship it there. We do not make enough rebar and other critical elements of plate that we need. They need to import, so let us give tariff allocation where it is needed, for example in Newfoundland and Quebec. We are going to recommend that.
We also have recommendations about the $2 billion the Liberals have collected through tariff-like taxes, through retaliatory tariffs. They said it would go as relief to small and medium-sized businesses impacted by trade disruptions, by section 232. They have not given the money. They have given some loan guarantees to the large steel players. We want to see a commitment to allocate some of those funds to the small and medium players and to address geographic concerns. If so, they will see the Conservatives work with them on Bill C-101, work with them on NAFTA, even though we are not happy with the fact that we are seeing these in the final weeks of Parliament, when the Conservatives have been asking for this for over a year.
Let us review. President Trump was not even inaugurated when the Prime Minister volunteered to renegotiate NAFTA. That was a risk we did not need to take, but when it was taken, the Conservatives put forward suggestions to the government. Let us remember that 98% of Canada's trade access was negotiated by Conservative governments, including NAFTA, including U.S. free trade. We said, let us put auto forward. Let us put softwood and key agricultural sectors forward as our priorities, because the U.S. trade representative Ambassador Lighthizer and his team had already prepared a list of priorities where the U.S. wanted to go.
The minister's speech at the University of Ottawa addressed none of the issues the U.S. wanted to talk about. The Liberals launched their much-vaunted progressive agenda and they talked about issues related to the Prime Minister's brand, but that had no relation to trade whatsoever. In fact, they did not mention auto and auto part calculation for six months. When they did, we praised them for that and there was progress finally made in the NAFTA discussions.
Mexico took the talks seriously and had 80-plus meetings with White House officials. It had a deal done before Canada did. That should trouble Canadians. The government virtue-signalled, as I call it, and put its own electoral ambitions ahead of the national interest. That should trouble Canadians.
That is why, in the final days of Parliament, we have the two most substantive economic pieces of this Parliament being rushed through in ways and means motions. It is because of incompetence. The section 232 tariffs were completely avoidable if, going back to President Obama, we had taken concerns about Chinese transshipments seriously. They were avoidable if we had taken NAFTA seriously and had put forward the auto sector, which was always going to be critical, and if we had put in softwood lumber and tried to deal with that constant generational issue that is now hurting our western producers, and if we had put in agriculture and started punching back at the administration's claims about subsidies through our supply management system. The U.S. spends more on agricultural subsidies than we do on our military. I did not hear the government pushing back on that.
The Liberals were talking about the progressive agenda with a president who they know was not quite progressive. They totally misaligned our interests. That is why Mexico, which had a weaker position going in, got a deal before Canada did. We had to scramble to try to be an add-on to that deal.
The same thing happened with tariffs. Mexico was ahead. That is why I am happy that the Conservatives collaborated. We told the ambassador that we were going down. The member for Prince Albert and I, in one day, were invited to a caucus meeting and met more members of Congress than the government did in the previous year to talk about section 232 relief.
I have talked about some of the ways we can work with the government on Bill C-101. To fix the issues that are missed, to mitigate, we are proposing an amendment to make this bill better.
I move, seconded by the member for Oshawa:
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following:
the House decline to give second reading to Bill C-101, An Act to amend the Customs Tariff and the Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act, because it fails to:
a. take into consideration regional disparities in industry needs, specifically, that domestic producers only minimally supply certain steel products to British Columbia, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador;
b. add a geographic exclusion, either exempting British Columbia, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador from the proposed safeguards or allocating a dedicated share of the regional quota to British Columbia, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador;
c. stipulate specific tariff and trade disruption relief to steel fabricators;
d. mandate that the funds collected through retaliatory tariffs on the United States go to support small and medium-sized Canadian steel and aluminum fabricators and retailers impacted by the application of the retaliatory tariffs; and
e. grant specific product exclusions for certain steel products that are not produced in commercial quantities in Canada to avoid the negative economic impact of safeguards on critical public infrastructure projects like the Champlain Bridge, the Muskrat Falls Hydroelectric Dam, the Site C Dam, and projects of national economic importance like LNG Canada.
View Ed Fast Profile
View Ed Fast Profile
2017-11-28 12:24 [p.15668]
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to again engage in debate on the budget implementation act. As we know, the budget implementation act comes out of the budget process. Every year, the government tables a budget, and that budget tells Canadians where the government wants to go, where it wants to land; the taxpayers' money it is going to spend; where it will be spent; and how it will be spent. The budget implementation act, of course, is effectively the master plan going forward. It is the government's plan to implement the budget.
I would like to focus my remarks on one of the most important drivers of economic prosperity in the country, which is trade. Members will have noticed that in the budget implementation act, the government proposes to spend $10.1 billion in trade and transportation projects. The Liberal government believes there is $10 billion worth of taxpayers' money that should be spent on promoting Canada's trade and transportation interests at home and around the world.
I believe Canadians have the right to ask whether the Liberal government can be trusted to actually negotiate trade agreements in Canada's best interests, and whether the government has the competence to get these agreements right. I am going to digress and talk about three different trade negotiations that are presently ongoing that should give Canadians great concern in terms of the ability of the Prime Minister to negotiate agreements that serve Canada's interests.
First is the softwood lumber agreement. As we know, back in 2006 the softwood lumber dispute had escalated to a point where there was tremendous fear within our softwood lumber industry that we were going to lose companies, opportunities to drive economic growth, and hundreds and hundreds of jobs across Canada because the government of the day, the Chrétien government, just could not resolve that dispute with the United States.
It was at that time that our Conservative government, under Stephen Harper, appointed David Emerson to be the trade minister. His number one responsibility was to negotiate an end to the softwood lumber dispute. Guess what? Mr. Emerson got the job done. He negotiated an agreement that served Canadian interests well, and returned to Canada billions and billions of dollars that the Americans had levied against our softwood lumber exports.
The agreement that we entered into with the United States, under the leadership of David Emerson and Stephen Harper, was a seven-year agreement. Seven years of peace in our woods. Again, it served Canadians well. When that seven-year period expired, there was a provision in the agreement for another two-year renewal. That required the consent of both the United States and Canada, and guess what, we had a great relationship with the American government and were able to persuade it that a two-year extension was in its interest and our interest, and so the agreement was renewed. Now we had a total of nine years of peace in the woods.
It just so happens that on the approximate date the new Liberal government was elected back in 2015, the standstill agreement, the softwood lumber agreement, expired. Canadian forestry companies were left faced impending duties, which have indeed now been imposed by the Americans.
We have had a new trade minister and new foreign affairs minister as of 2015, and they set to work to get this agreement resolved and put to bed. In fact, there was a meeting in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, D.C., where our Prime Minister and President Obama got together and said they had established a framework for resolving the softwood lumber dispute and that within 90 days they wanted get the framework in place and resolve it. Here we are two years later and there is no resolution to the softwood lumber dispute in sight. Whether it is incompetence or a failure to understand the softwood lumber agreement, we know that the Liberal government has failed on that front.
The second is the North American Free Trade Agreement. I know the media has been paying a lot of attention to the renegotiation of that agreement. That agreement is now subject to renegotiation because our Prime Minister, when asked by the Americans to renegotiate it, simply said he would gladly renegotiate it, and yet the issues that Donald Trump, the president of the United States, had were with Mexico, not Canada. The Prime Minister has made the fateful decision of aligning Canada's interests with Mexico's, when in fact those interests are not aligned at all.
Members may recall that the first comprehensive trade agreement in the world was actually between Canada and the United States, and Mexico was added in years later. Today, the United States and Canada have a perfectly balanced trade relationship. Canada exports as much to the United States as they do to Canada. Therefore, the president of the United States, if truth be known, does not have a big beef with Canada on trade. He certainly does with Mexico. To entwine our interests with those of Mexico, I believe, is a strategic mistake.
NAFTA negotiations are going nowhere. In fact, most pundits are looking at what has happened in the last few rounds, where the Americans have put demands on the table that are completely unacceptable to us as Canadians, somehow expecting us to surrender or cave in on these negotiations and give the United States everything it wants. Why do they get away with that? It is because we have a government in place that does not have the spine to say absolutely not. We have a government that embarks upon trade negotiations in a manner that does not serve Canada's interests.
The last trade negotiation I want to deal with is the trans-Pacific partnership. That negotiation commenced under the Conservative government. It was completed in Atlanta in November of 2015. Then the United States left the TPP, and now the remaining 11 partners are trying to negotiate a deal among themselves. One of those partners happens to be Japan, one of the largest economies in the world, which we would have a trade agreement with if the TPP actually comes into force.
What happened in Vietnam when the Prime Minister was at the APEC summit? All of the 11 parties to the TPP agreed that the basic essentials of that agreement were now in place and had gathered in a room, where they were going to make the announcement. Where was Canada? It was missing in action. The Prime Minister was nowhere to be seen, a national embarrassment on the international stage. This is what we get from the Liberal government. There is no understanding of what it means to build trusted relationships with some of our most trusted trade allies, like Australia, New Zealand, or Japan. Not to show up at a meeting when it was agreed ahead of time that there was a consensus on the basic elements of a trade agreement is unconscionable. That is not good trade negotiation.
Canadians have a right to ask whether the Liberal government can be trusted to negotiate trade agreements in Canada's best interests as an economic driver for prosperity in Canada? The resounding answer has to be no.
There are many Canadians across Canada who have heard that the Prime Minister now wants to run pell-mell to China to negotiate a trade agreement with that country. They are thinking that he is not getting any of the other deals done. He is juggling them and he cannot put them to bed. How will he ever negotiate an agreement with what he called the “basic dictatorship” that is China?
In summary, when it comes to promoting our economic prosperity, economic growth in Canada through trade, the government so far has been an absolute disaster.
View Irene Mathyssen Profile
View Irene Mathyssen Profile
2017-09-20 16:09 [p.13287]
Madam Speaker, I would like to take a few moments and begin today by welcoming all the members of the House back to the Commons after the summer recess. I trust that we, on both sides of the House, have all had a good summer and are returning refreshed and invigorated, ready to continue the work bestowed upon us by our constituents.
There is much work to do toward creating a Canada where no one is left behind; where full access to universal and affordable housing, medicare, pharmacare, child care, and education are a reality; where communities are able to reconcile with our indigenous people, and that reconciliation amounts to more than just empty promises; and where assurance that promises for the issues that matter to Canadians, such as true electoral reform and environmental justice, are not forgotten.
The summer has been very productive for me in visiting with the people of London—Fanshawe. I had a chance to hear their concerns, communicate my renewed commitment to them, and celebrate our achievements as a community and as a country, while we were able to recognize that we still have much more to accomplish. I look forward to the session with renewed hope that we are able to work together to achieve progressive solutions for all. I am most eager to continue the work of New Democrats in the House for our goals of social justice, social democracy, fairness, and equity in all areas of life, which, quite logically, brings me to today's debate on Bill S-2. It is a bill that deals with motor vehicle safety.
Bill S-2 touches on issues that, while seemingly complex in the legislative language we use on the Hill, affect the lives of my constituents in real and substantive ways. In southwestern Ontario, London in particular, because of the lack of adequate federal investment in public transit infrastructure, notably rail, we are dependent on motor vehicles whether we like it or not. The Highway 401 corridor can be a death trap, especially in the winter. Without alternative means of travel, Canadians are forced to take the road in order to conduct the business of living from day-to-day.
It is distressing to me to note that motor vehicle safety is not mentioned in the mandate letter of the Minister of Transport. New Democrats see this as a real matter of concern, given that road accidents are responsible for the deaths of thousands of Canadians each year. The very least we can do at the federal level is enact binding legislation that protects the safety of our constituents as we transport ourselves and our loved ones to work, school, and play. This can be accomplished by reducing the risk of harm arising from motor vehicle manufacturing defects.
In 2017, motor vehicles have become moving computerized islands with Wi-Fi access, Bluetooth connection for communication while driving, enhanced voice recognition, and options for entertainment and even shopping while on the road. They offer safety modifications and driver assistance options programmed into the vehicle to make our drives easier, safer, and more pleasant. These are all good things, but as the member for Trois-Rivières pointed out yesterday, this advanced technology leaves the individual car owner unable to diagnose problems that are bound to occur or make repairs on her or his own. As motor vehicle owners, we are reliant on the systems and experts who understand these systems to ensure that everything is in working order when we hit the road. Our lives are quite literally in their hands.
While much of the automobile industry in Canada has been gutted by globalization and the absence of protection for the industry from this and preceding federal governments, southwestern Ontario remains the centre of automobile production in Canada. However, we do worry, because workers at CAMI local 88 in Ingersoll, Ontario are facing and fighting that precise situation. More than 400 jobs were lost this past spring, because GM moved a product line, the Terrain, to Mexico, and not a word from the government. Now, 2,800 CAMI workers and their families are striking to keep the plant open with the production of the Equinox, and still nothing from the government.
It is my sincere hope that we can enact federal incentives and protections to prevent more automobile manufacturing jobs from moving offshore, and even to restore the industry to the powerhouse it was and can be again.
While the industry remains active in my region, I believe it is vital to enact legislation that protects consumers, retailers, and manufacturers from the financial, emotional, legal, and personal life costs we all pay for when safety regulations are inadequate.
Among others, the legislation before us today grants ministerial power to order a recall and to require more information from automakers. The minister may order a vehicle manufacturer to carry out tests, analyses, or studies on materials in order to obtain information on the defects of a part or of a particular vehicle model. This provision could have avoided the situation with General Motors Corporation, where there was a time lag between the corporation's awareness of an ignition system defect in 2004 and the company's recall notice 10 years later in 2014. That was 10 deadly years. That kind of delay is completely unacceptable.
General Motors has admitted responsibility for 29 deaths linked to these defects, and claims are still outstanding for 150 others. General Motors started its initial investigation of the problem in 2004 and conducted several tests, analyses, and investigations, but Transport Canada was only informed of this problem on February 10, 2014, a full 10 years and far too many lives later. One life lost as a result of manufacturing defects is too many, particularly when the company knows about the defect.
Despite the efforts of Bill S-2 to enhance motor vehicle safety for Canadians, the Auditor General of Canada's most recent report drew attention to several cases of dysfunction in the division of Transport Canada responsible for motor vehicle safety oversight. The Auditor General concluded that the funding cutbacks to the department were harmful and degraded the quality of the information that informs the directorate's planning and regulatory decisions.
He also indicated that the department had ignored essential partners like consumers' associations, motor vehicle safety advocates, and police forces in the process to review motor vehicle safety regulations. Consequently, it is possible that motor vehicle manufacturers exercised a disproportionate influence on Transport Canada decisions.
The Auditor General also pointed out that the department had not used its own research on rear seat occupants to develop a standard to increase safety. Rear seat passengers have a greater probability of sustaining injuries in an accident. Many of them are children. Despite 15 years of investment in research, Transport Canada has still not identified new safety measures for rear seat occupants.
New Democrats are of course in favour of granting ministerial powers that serve to avoid the kind of tragedy we saw in the case of the GM ignition system recall, and we will be supporting the bill at second reading. We do, however, have concerns about the ability of the ministry to enforce such powers when the fact of the matter is the department's operating budget for crashworthiness testing has been slashed by 59% for 2016-17, dropping from $1.2 million to $492,000. It makes it difficult for me to applaud the Liberals, who have allowed a budget that should have been enhanced to be so drastically diminished. This leaves a deficit of over $700,000 in a budget that should be enhanced to ensure public safety.
New Democrats call upon the minister to cancel the budget cuts to his department in order to make sure that these new powers granted in the legislation will be backed up by adequate resources. In addition, we are calling for a limit on the minister's discretionary power to enter into agreements with companies in violation of the act. We want to see the minister properly consult all partners when proceeding with a regulatory amendment that affects the safety of Canadians, and we want the minister to effectively use the data produced by his own department in order to adopt standards that will protect the safety of Canadians.
I hope that when the bill goes to committee it will be improved so that our constituents are safe.
View Erin Weir Profile
View Erin Weir Profile
2017-02-13 16:24 [p.8861]
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Drummond.
My ears were burning during the speech of my colleague from Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, because he spoke about members of the House objecting to CETA based on the investor-state provisions. Having given several speeches to that effect, I thought it was a good opportunity to engage with the arguments that he brought forward.
The member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan essentially made two arguments as to why investor-state provisions are okay. He said that we need to have some sort of adjudication of the provisions of trade agreements. He also said that we live in a society with rule of law, where individuals and businesses can sue the government, can take the government to court. At some level I actually agree with both of those statements, but I do not think either one of them supports the kind of investor-state provisions that we see in CETA and a number of other trade deals.
If we talk about the need to have some sort of adjudication process to enforce the provisions in trade agreements, that is very true. Almost all provisions of CETA are subject to a government-to-government dispute resolution system, and it would be entirely reasonable to have the investment provisions subject to that same type of dispute resolution where, if investors felt that their rights had been breached, they would convince the government they had a legitimate case, and the government would bring that case forward. That is how every other aspect of the deal works.
What is objectionable about the investor-state provisions is they set up an entirely separate process of dispute resolution just for investors. They set up an entirely separate tribunal process that is available only to financiers and property owners, not other parties that might have concerns or complaints or issues under the agreement. What this leads to is a lot of frivolous cases being brought forward under investor-state provisions, because there is no need for investors to even convince their own government that they have a reasonable case that is worth bringing forward. They can bring forward a case to kind of try their luck before the tribunal. They can bring forward a case just to harass a foreign government and try to push back on its democratic laws, regulations, and policies. The problem is not with having some sort of enforcement process; the problem is with setting up this entirely separate and much more powerful enforcement process that is available only to investors.
The next argument we heard from the member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan was about the rule of law and how, in our current society, individuals and businesses can already take the government to court. Exactly, so why is it that we need to set up this entirely separate process for investment disputes under this agreement? There are functioning court systems in both Canada and the European Union. I think members would agree that both jurisdictions have legitimate judiciaries. Therefore, how does the existence of rule of law justify creating some sort of entirely separate process?
The original justification for investor-state provisions in NAFTA was that American and Canadian investors were suspicious of the Mexican judicial system and did not have confidence in the Mexican courts. Perhaps that was fair enough, but I really do not see how we would have the same sort of doubts or lack of confidence in the European judicial system. We really have not heard an answer as to why we need this special set of investor-state provisions in CETA.
To illustrate what I am saying about frivolous cases coming forward when we empower investors to directly bring these complaints without even having to clear them through their own governments, it is worth reviewing some of the obnoxious chapter 11 cases that have come forward under NAFTA.
We have the Ethyl Corporation case, where an American company was selling a gasoline additive that had actually already been banned in the United States. The Canadian government tried to ban it as well and Ethyl successfully challenged the Canadian government under NAFTA for lost profits, got $13 million U.S., and had the Canadian government repeal that ban.
There was the AbitibiBowater case where that company shut down its last pulp and paper mill in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The provincial government reclaimed water rights that it had given to AbitibiBowater to operate the mills, but then the company challenged Canada under NAFTA for the loss of its water rights, which it was no longer even using for the purpose they were intended. Well, the previous Conservative government paid AbitibiBowater $130 million to withdraw that NAFTA chapter 11 claim.
We have the current case of Lone Pine Resources. Like AbitibiBowater, it is basically a Canadian company that has registered itself in the United States. It has launched a challenge under NAFTA over a ban on fracking in the province of Quebec depriving it of potential business opportunities. It is claiming some $250 million from our country.
Members can see that these investor-state provisions make it very easy for investors to come forward with almost frivolous cases just to see if they can get a favourable decision, just to sort of intimidate governments into paying them off. We do not want to replicate and amplify this under CETA.
Finally, I would point out that these investor-state provisions are actually having a pernicious effect on domestic politics in our own country. We are starting to see this in the Conservative leadership race where two of the contenders, the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle and the member for Beauce, are proposing to entrench private property rights in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Let us consider the arguments that the member for Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston made in endorsing this radical libertarian idea. He said:
The lack of constitutional protection for the private property rights of Canadians means that the rights of Canadians can be treated as second-class under NAFTA. Canadians deserve the same property rights that foreign companies enjoy in Canada....
We see that the presence of these investor-state provisions in free trade agreements is causing this proposal to entrench property rights in the Constitution. Let us consider some of the consequences of that. We have heard from the Conservatives a lot of rhetoric in favour of pipelines, but the reality is that the construction of pipelines, railroads, or highways depends almost all the time on the government expropriating some of the land along the route. If every single landowner along the route had a constitutionally enshrined veto, no pipelines, railroads, or highways would ever get built. Therefore, I would encourage the Conservatives to think through the implications of enshrining property rights in the Constitution before they get too excited about the idea, and before their leadership candidates trip over each other too much in trying to be the most libertarian.
We have seen that the investor-state provisions of free trade agreements, including CETA, are not necessary, given that the agreements have a much more sensible government-to-government dispute resolution process already, and given that Canada and Europe already have functioning court systems. There have been many cautionary examples under NAFTA of frivolous cases coming forward with the Canadian government having to pay outrageous amounts of money based on very strange claims. Finally, we see that these investor-state provisions are having a corrupting influence on the political philosophy of our official opposition and are leading the Conservatives down this path of extreme libertarian ideas.
For all of those reasons, I am pleased to speak and vote against this bill.
View Luc Berthold Profile
View Luc Berthold Profile
2016-10-31 17:01 [p.6359]
Thank you, Madam Speaker. I did use the Prime Minister's name, and I apologize. I got a little carried away in my fervour, but I will not let that happen again.
Still, I can talk about former prime ministers, including former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin. Internationally, he was seen as indecisive, but he found ways to pass more legislation as he tried to keep his struggling minority government afloat. During his first nine months in government, 36 bills became law.
How about another one? During Liberal prime minister Jean Chrétien's first nine months in office, 34 bills received royal assent in 1994, and 38 more were passed after the 1997 election. The current Prime Minister has managed to pass a mere 10 bills.
It is with that in mind that we begin our study of Bill C-29. This being a budget implementation bill, one would expect to find the government's promises in it. It should include massive infrastructure investments, a modest deficit, tax cuts for small businesses, home mail delivery, an agreement on diafiltered milk, a softwood lumber agreement, and plenty more. Unfortunately, none of those things are in Bill C-29.
No one could tell me where those promises came from. From the beginning, the opposition has been reminding everyone and repeating the same thing. I took the time to confirm everything and went back a year in time to see exactly what these infamous Liberal promises were. I found a lot. I do not understand why they have not introduced more legislation, considering all the promises the Liberal Party made during the last election campaign.
First of all, let us talk about modest deficits. On page 11 of the Liberal plan, or what I call the Liberal void, it states:
We will invest now in the projects our country needs and the people who can build them.
They do say “now”, and not in 10 years or five years. Page 12 continues:
We will run modest short-term deficits of less than $10 billion in each of the next two fiscal years to fund historic investments in infrastructure and our middle class.
After the next two fiscal years, the deficit will decline and our investment plan will return Canada to a balanced budget in 2019.
That is one promise the Liberal government has broken. There was another promise about modest deficits. It is worth reading. Page 73 states:
We will be honest about the government of Canada’s fiscal position, and base our projections on the recent report by the Parliamentary Budget Officer, instead of April’s outdated budget figures.
If the parliamentary budget officer is so important to the Liberals, why did they refuse, about 50 times, to allow the parliamentary budget officer's reports to be tabled right here, before parliamentarians?
Once again, they say one thing, but then do the exact opposite once they are in power. There is another interesting promise on the same page:
We will run modest deficits for three years so that we can invest in growth for the middle class and credibly offer a plan to balance the budget in 2019.
That is just one more promise the Liberals have broken.
To sum up deficits, I will quote someone who is not an opposition member. A TD Bank representative said:
The federal government’s deficit this fiscal year will be about $5 billion higher than Ottawa predicted in its March budget...
That is what the TD Bank is predicting. It blames the sluggish economy. According to TD Bank:
Over a five-year span, the cumulative deficit is likely to be $16.5 billion higher than forecasted in the last budget.
The forecast in the last budget was not $10 billion. It was not a modest deficit of $10 billion annually, but $30 billion annually. TD Bank tells us it will be even higher:
The higher-than-expected deficit will soak up the $6-billion annual cushion and then some that the government built in to its finances to protect against unforeseen events.
This could go beyond that even. The Liberals promised modest deficits, but I have to say that they did not keep their word.
As such, when it comes to budget implementation, the opposition parties feel quite reticent about trusting the other measures contained in Bill C-29.
Nonetheless, let us move on because there were other promises in the Liberal plan, or the “Liberal void” I should say. The plan says, “As we reduce the small business tax rate to 9 percent from 11 percent”. Not only did the government not reduce the small business tax rate to 9%, but it imposed a tax on carbon, which will greatly hinder small and medium-sized businesses in Canada. That is another broken promise.
With regard to agricultural producers, we find this little sentence on page 16: “We will help Canada’s agriculture sector be more innovative, safer, and stronger.” How will they help the agricultural sector be stronger? They will “defend Canadian interests during trade negotiations, including supply management.”
The diafiltered milk problem was an urgent issue and a solution had to be found. The solution was simple, but it lay in the hands of ministers. Unfortunately, despite the numerous promises of the Liberal government and the fact that producers from all over Quebec and Canada came right here, to Ottawa, to practically beg for action on diafiltered milk, there is not even a single measure in the budget on this subject. There we have another broken promise of the Liberal government.
In the softwood lumber file, a file that directly impacts every region of Canada that has trees, those magnificent works of nature that grow and enable us to develop our economy, we were supposed to conclude an agreement. We had one year to try to reach an agreement with the Americans. Unfortunately, Bill C-29 contains absolutely nothing on the possible implementation of a new softwood lumber agreement.
However, the Liberal platform says, “Canada’s economic success relies on strong trade relationships with our closest neighbours: the United States and Mexico.”
Furthermore, the next sentence is really worth quoting: “Unlike the Conservatives’ short-sighted approach, our focus on rebuilding relationships will build a solid foundation for greater trade, stronger growth, and more job creation.”
Here is one last little sentence: “To underscore the importance of the United States to Canada, we will also create a Cabinet committee to oversee and manage our relationship.”
We have no results on the two issues that concern the Americans, softwood lumber and diafiltered milk. Where is this committee? What is it doing? Does it exist? Unfortunately, I must once again say that this is another unkept promise by the Liberals.
I still have many pages of broken promises to mention. Let’s talk a bit about Canada Post. On page 34 of the “Liberal void”, we read: “By ending door-to-door mail delivery, Stephen Harper is asking Canadians to pay more for less service. That is unacceptable.”
One year later, absolutely nothing has changed on mail delivery. The decisions that were made by the Canada Post Corporation, an independent organization, are still the same, and home mail delivery has nowhere been restored. Once again, these are false pretexts and another promise not kept.
This is what they had to say about Iraq: “We will end Canada's combat mission in Iraq.” They withdrew our CF-18s and sent our soldiers to the front, where they are in even greater danger. We had decided to send our jets to protect Canadian soldiers. However, they decided to withdraw our planes, for strictly ideological reasons, and to send our soldiers to the front lines instead, to help the fighters there do their part. Yes, Canada must be involved, but could we have the facts? Could we be told exactly what we are doing in Iraq? This is another promise that was broken by the Liberal government.
Last week, here, in the House, I witnessed some things that impressed me. Some Liberal members introduced very interesting bills that were given the nod by cabinet.
The bill to provide a tax credit for first aid courses was of interest to me. Cabinet members voted against the bill introduced by one of their own members even though we find the following on page 30 of the Liberal platform:
We will make free votes in the House of Commons standard practice.
We will give Canadians a stronger voice in the House of Commons by limiting the circumstances in which Liberal Members of Parliament will be required to vote with Cabinet.
I am convinced that cabinet members did not read these lines because they voted against the bill of one of their own colleagues. It did not happen once or twice, but three times. It is important to mention that the promise to have free votes is, once again, a broken promise.
The Canada child benefit will not give rise to any new administrative costs. It replaces and is based on the structure and success of the Canada child tax benefit.
In Bill C-29, the Liberals confirmed that they are going to index the Canada child benefit to inflation as of January 2020. The parliamentary budget officer estimates that indexing the Canada child benefit will cost $42.5 billion over the next five years. The parliamentary secretary said that they are going to move forward with the measure despite the financial pressure it puts on the public purse. The government did not provide for this indexing in the budget. The parliamentary budget officer showed that it will cost billions of dollars more than predicted per year. Where will the Liberals find that money? The Liberals have shown us where they will get it from the outset. They will find it in Canadians' pockets.
When the Minister of Finance introduced Bill C-29, he spoke about the future. He said that the purpose of the bill was to help Canadians. He spoke about a long-term plan and how things will be tough in the short term. In fact, this is going to cost Canadians a lot of money in the short term.
Let us talk a little bit about the vision of the Minister of Finance. I was shocked to read his comments in the Edmonton Sun this weekend. The article spoke about the Minister of Finance and talked about what young people and not-so-young people would do with all the time they will save as a result of technology. As everyone knows, today's technology allows us to do a lot more than before in much less time. Back in the day, we thought that would give young people more leisure time. However, the reality is quite the opposite. The Minister of Finance was asked some questions. I will read a brief excerpt from what he said, but before I do, I would like to say that I think that all young people should take the time to read this article.
The other day, Finance Minister...told Millennials, the generation most-addicted to high technology and social media, that they had best get used to a series of dead-end jobs and continuous retraining, coupled with bouts of unemployment, and a life where job security is a pipe dream.
That is unbelievable. What kind of message is the government sending our young people?
He called it “job churn,” as in never-ending job losses and job searches, resume rejections, and living day-to-day....
The Liberal plan for youth is to teach them to get fired, get a new job, get fired, get a new job, and so on. Is that the Liberal job-creation plan? Every new hire-and-fire will count as a new job. That creates zero jobs and puts us no further ahead.
The article quoted the Minister of Finance. Is that supposed to make young people feel hopeful?
The Minister of Finance said this:
“We need to think about, How do we train and retrain people as they move from job to job to job?”.... “Because it’s going to happen. We have to accept that.”
No, we do not have to accept that. Our young people have the right to stable jobs. Our young people have the right to work. Like us, they have the right to have a career, to succeed, and to hope for something better than going from job to job to job. The Liberal hire-and-fire plan is not good enough for us.
The economic forecasts are dismal despite the Liberal government's fine promises. The Bank of Canada, the Bank of Montreal, and TD Bank all say that the economic situation has not improved under the Liberals despite their fine promises.
I will vote against Bill C-29, and I hope that parliamentarians will vote in favour of the amendment proposed by our finance critic, the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent. His amendment amends the motion considerably, making it significantly more acceptable to Canadian taxpayers.
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