Madam Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-100.
I want to start my remarks by recognizing that we are ending the session shortly and this could very well be my last speech in the 42nd Parliament. That will no doubt delight my Liberal friends, but if they stay to listen to the content of my final remarks, they will have no delight because they will outline their failures.
I want to also send special thanks to a couple of exceptional Canadians, Dr. David Stevens and Dr. Bill Plaxton in Kitchener Waterloo. I have been away the last week with my wife who had surgery. She was in the hands of those amazing medical professionals at Grand River Hospital. I want to thank them and I want to thank her for allowing me to come and speak tonight to NAFTA. I have been trying to help at home a little this last week.
All of us in the House rely on exceptional spouses, partners and families. If these are my last remarks of this Parliament, I think all of us do not thank our families enough. I love Rebecca and I love my family. The sacrifices we make in the House lead to reflection at this time of year. It has been good for me to spend time with my wife who is my partner in this adventure. I want to thank Dr. Stevens in particular for his exceptional care.
I will now proceed to upset my Liberal friends in discussing Bill C-100, back to my normal approach.
I hope a lot of Canadians are watching. I doubt they are, but I will push this out because we have to break this narrative that the government has approached the U.S. trade relationship and NAFTA renegotiations in any form of strategic fashion, because that has not been the case.
Much like almost every foreign relations approach under the Prime Minister, Canada has suffered, our sectors have suffered, employers, job creators, employees have suffered. The Liberal Party always puts the Prime Minister's brand and their own electoral fortune ahead of the national interest. Nothing highlights that more than the famous state visit to India. However, if we look at all the strained relationships Canada has around the world right now, we have never had so many. Almost all of these diplomatic entanglements are attributable to the Prime Minister's own approach, style and obsession with his image and electoral prospects.
We saw that with photographs from the India trip, but we have also seen it in flawed trade relations with China, where we are in the biggest dispute since we have had relations with China in the 1970s, with Saudi Arabia, with the Philippines. Countries like Italy have imposed tariffs on durum wheat. We are losing track of the number of countries that have a serious problem with Canada on trade, on security or in other relations because of the Prime Minister's government.
As much as I have some admiration for the Minister of Foreign Affairs, she is presiding over probably the worst period of modern diplomatic relations of Canada. I do not think 10 more magazine covers of Maclean's will correct that record.
Nothing should concern Canadians more than the situation with NAFTA. Two-thirds of our economy relies on trade with the United States. I have said this many times. Canada became lazy for the last half century, relying on the fact that we lived just north to the largest, most voracious free market economy in the world. In the post-world cycle, Canada traded, produced, were drawers of water and hewers of wood for the largest market just south of us.
Until the Harper government, we did not look much beyond our shores to enhance free trade and develop partnerships to diversify our trade relationships. We were so reliant, but we were also pioneers in free trade.
We can go back to the Harper and Mulroney governments, even back to Pearson with the auto pact of the mid-1960s when there was free trade in automobiles for the first time between two modern industrial countries. An automobile assembled in Oshawa by people like my father and his colleagues who worked in Oshawa where I grew up, or an automobile assembled in Windsor, or Oakville or Sainte-Thérèse, Quebec was considered just the same as if it had been assembled in Michigan.
Over the subsequent decades, we saw a Great Lakes free trade based in auto. It was the epicentre of the global auto industry. With just-in-time manufacturing, a part could be made in Aurora, put on final assembly in Oshawa and 70% of the vehicles produced in our Ontario auto plants were for sale in the United States anyway. Therefore, our free trade with the United States was built upon the auto industry.
I say this for two reasons. The first is because representing Oshawa and that industry, the retirees and the workers there now is a priority for me. The second reason is because it should trouble Canadians that the minister did not mention the auto industry in her priority speech on NAFTA, despite the fact the Liberals' best friend, Jerry Dias, was on the NAFTA advisory committee. I was pushing for auto to be a priority. whereas Jerry Dias was applauding the Prime Minister for an agenda that did not mention the auto industry.
Let us do a recap. President Trump was elected, and before his inauguration, before he was president, the Prime Minister volunteered to renegotiate NAFTA. There have been so many mistakes between now and then, we forget that our Prime Minister inserted us into something that was likely going to be focused on modernization with Mexico. Later on, the U.S. outlined what it wanted.
In July 2017, a United States trade representative laid out a series of priorities for the U.S. It spelled them out in detail, including things related to state-owned enterprises and non-market economy-type structures, which were a surprise to people at the end. The U.S. laid it out in July 2017 in detail, rules of origin, part content and the fact it wanted to go after what it perceived to be subsidies in the agriculture sector in Canada, despite the fact the U.S. spends more on agricultural subsidies than we spend on our military. However, it laid out what it wanted to talk about.
What did the Liberal Party lay out a few months later in August 2017 at the University of Ottawa? The minister launched her vaunted progressive agenda speech. There was no response to what the U.S. had already put out on trade. That is how a negotiation is supposed to work. The U.S. talks about the priorities it wants to talk about at the table and we put forward a contrary position. We should have pushed back and said that the U.S. had to stop subsidizing its agriculture sector before it could lecture us. However, the Liberals did not do that. They proceeded to make it all about the Prime Minister again. The “progressive agenda” they called it.
I invite Canadians to look at the speech. The core objectives of the minister's speech were laid out in detail and they were failures across the board. I know the minister has a high degree of education, but if she was getting marked on her paper, her speech, she would have failed.
Let me take the House through the core objectives laid out by the Liberal Party at the beginning of NAFTA.
The first objective was to modernize NAFTA for the digital revolution. That did not happen. In fact, there are concerns with respect to data transfer and localized storage of digital information that Canada was not able to negotiate into the new NAFTA. Therefore, the first core objective was a failure.
The second objective was the progressive section within NAFTA, where the minister, and later on the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and others, said that the government wanted clear, new chapters on climate change, gender rights, indigenous issues regarding reconciliation, those sorts of things. At the time, I said it was hard to be critical of things that were very important social programming and policy issues, particularly reconciliation. I take that responsibility very seriously. However, I also recognize that NAFTA is a trade agreement. There is not even a constitutional alignment between first nations and indigenous peoples, between Mexico, the United States and Canada, so how could we ever negotiate a trade agreement with a chapter on indigenous issues, for example? It was impossible.
Why were those elements the second prong of Canada's NAFTA strategy? Because it was the Prime Minister's brand. That could have been ripped out of the 2015 Liberal election platform.
When we are putting up policies to ensure we guarantee almost two-thirds of our economic activity as a nation, we should not be doing the posturing that the Liberals do on all these relationships. It leads to bad outcomes.
The third core objective the Liberal Party outlined was harmonizing regulations. That did not happen either. In fact, the last government had regulatory co-operation in the western hemispheric travel initiative, beyond the border initiatives. We have gone way back. We are not harmonizing any regulations.
The fourth core objective was government procurement and eliminating local content and buy American provisions. The Liberals failed on that one too. There remain buy America provisions, and the trend is getting worse.
The fifth core objective was to make the movement of professionals easier with respect to allowing Canadian professionals or people transferred to work in the United States. They failed on that front too. They did not secure that. That should have been low hanging fruit.
The sixth core objective was supply management, which the Liberals caved on as well. What I never heard the government say was the fact that the supply management system was criticized relentlessly. We heard President Trump talk about high tariff rates. I never heard a Liberal minister push back on the United States and say that its collection of direct agriculture subsidies amounted to more subsidization of the agricultural sector in the United States than in Canada by a country mile. In fact, the Americans spend more on agricultural subsidies on average each year than we spend on our military. We should have been pushing back at this narrative.
Those were the six core objectives of the minister's speech at the University of Ottawa. I would invite Canadians to look at it. We did not achieve a single objective. If that is not failure of colossal proportions, I do not know what is.
At the same time, we had section 232 speculation about steel and aluminum tariffs. The Conservatives said at the time that we needed to talk security, that we needed to talk trade, that we needed to ensure we could use NORAD and other relationships that were unique to Canada as a way to ensure we did not have section 232 tariffs applied.
The Prime Minister did a steel town tour when the government gained a one month exemption from tariffs. A month later the tariffs applied and they hurt Canada hard for a year. If we look at the statements by Secretary Ross in the United States, we could have avoided it.
Bill C-101 that is before the House now on safeguards is what the U.S. had been asking for. Had we aligned on concerns about oversupply of steel from China, had we aligned on security provisions, we could have avoided section 232 tariffs and we could have had a better NAFTA.
At the time, the Conservatives publicly told the minister to use the North American defence relationship to distinguish Canada. Only Canada has a defence and homeland security partnership with the United States. Mexico does not. Europe does not. NAFTA does not. Only Canada does, and we have had that since the 1950s.
When we are talking trade, or security, or oversupply of commodities from China, we should have been aligned. Oversupply of Chinese steel was something the Obama administration started taking on in the early days of the Liberal government, as the administration was winding down. This was not all about it being hard to align with Trump. No attempt was made by the Liberal government.
The damage the so-called progressive agenda did allowed Mexico to negotiate an agreement before Canada. It should astound Canadians to know that in the final months of negotiations, Canada was not at the table but Mexico was. Mexico had 85 direct meetings with administration officials even though it was starting in a much worse position. The border relationship with Mexico was part of the U.S. presidential election. However, Mexico was strategic. It did not posture. It did not virtue signal. It did not try and run its next election using NAFTA negotiations as the stage.
I cannot stress enough that on almost every major diplomatic entanglement we have had under the current government, it has been the result of the Liberal Party putting its own election fortunes ahead of our national interests, ahead of steelworkers, ahead auto workers and ahead of the softwood lumber industry, which was hardly even mentioned by the government. We have seen those sectors, agriculture and others, let down time after time because of the Prime Minister's particular agenda and his desire to make this all about him. In this Parliament, we should be serving Canadians and not the electoral fortunes of that party.
What has Mexico done? It has surpassed us under the Liberals. In fact, Mexico is now the largest bilateral trade partner with the United States at $97.4 billion in the first two months of this year. That was ahead of our $92.4 billion, even though it is caught in the trade disruption. Mexico has been smarter than the current government has, so much so that it reached an agreement, and Canada was given an option to join it. There were no further negotiations, despite the minister's frequent trips to Washington and storming into the building. The deal was done, and if members go to Washington, everyone knows that. The deal was done, and Canada was given the ability to sign on.
Now we hear the Liberals holding on to things like culture, which was exempted. Culture was never mentioned by the U.S. once. It was not a priority in the minister's speech, and the Prime Minister never mentioned it. The Liberals are now trying to cobble together things they try to say they saved. We already had chapter 19. They are saying that culture was not changed. The Americans were not trying to change it. I read through the six core objectives in the minister's speech. The Liberals failed on every single one.
We have tried to work with them. In fact, the relief from the section 232 tariffs was initiated by the Conservative caucus going down there and saying that we would work with the government on ratification, and the member for Malpeque knows that. He and many people are leaving, because they do not like the way the Prime Minister approached it. I have lost track of how many more Liberal first-timers have resigned today. They do not agree with his approach.
We went down and said that we would try to use the dying days of Parliament to pass a new NAFTA, even though we think it is a step back. Our leader has called it NAFTA 0.5, because we wanted those steel and aluminum tariffs off. They were hurting manufacturers in Ontario. They were hurting people in my riding, like Ranfar Steel, and steel plants in Prince Edward Island that I visited last summer. They were being hurt in Quebec. Therefore, we made an agreement to say that we would try to work with the government on ratifying a deal, which we think is a step back, just to get trade certainty. Businesses want some certainty, even if it means taking a worse deal. This will be a priority for us.
I want to end with remarks that are etched on the walls of the U.S. embassy in Canada. We can let personalities get in the way on both sides, but it will be a priority for the Conservative government to get this relationship back on track.
In 1961 in this chamber, John F. Kennedy said this:
Geography has made us neighbours. History has made us friends. Economics has made us partners. And necessity has made us allies. Those whom nature hath so joined together, let no man put asunder
He said that in this chamber, and that is a challenge to us. These are our closest allies, trade partners and familial connections going back to the origins of our country. We have to be able to fight for our interests and co-operate on security and trade. To do that, the Conservatives wanted to work with the government to get the tariffs done and work with the NAFTA agreement as we have it. We will fix the gaps after a change in government, sector by sector, including auto, softwood and agriculture. To get the certainty, we were prepared to try to work with the government, even though we would have taken a very different approach.
I look forward to questions, including from my friend, the MP for Malpeque.