House of Commons Hansard #27 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was tariffs.

Topics

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Saskatoon--Humboldt has raised a point. I draw to the attention of all hon. members, particularly those sitting near him, since he is in perhaps the most difficult place for this rule to apply, Standing Order 16(2) of the House. It states:

When a Member is speaking, no Member shall pass between that Member and the Chair, nor interrupt him or her, except to raise a point of order.

This is a rule that sometimes is not carefully observed in the House, but I would remind all hon. members that it is a Standing Order which we live by in here and which should apply to all hon. members.

I stress the point about interruptions and I stress, on behalf of the hon. member for Saskatoon—Humboldt and all other members, the rule that members are not to pass between the person who has the floor and the Chair. Usually it means having to go by another route. If the member for Winnipeg Centre, for example, wanted to get up and leave the chamber during the hon. member's question, he has to go forward and out that door or across the House and not back between me and the hon. member.

Is the message clear? The Standing Order says so. I can only enforce the Standing Orders. I thank the hon. member for Saskatoon—Humboldt for drawing this to the attention of all hon. members.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order on the same issue. I would like to point out that the member who has just spoken is not a part of our caucus and if there are members of the Conservative Party, who just clapped, who would like to have him sitting over there, we would most definitely welcome that.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

I do not think the hon. member is rising on a point of order. She seems to be getting into a debate. If she wants to debate the Standing Orders, the place to do that is the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs Committee, and I would invite her to go there with this point.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Howard Hilstrom Selkirk—Interlake, MB

I would certainly ask that member from B.C. to withdraw those remarks.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

I do not know to what remarks the hon. member is referring. If it was suggesting a change of seating or something, I do not know. I think we will leave the matter at rest.

When the House broke for question period, the hon. member for Nanaimo—Cowichan had the floor, and I understand there are eight minutes remaining in the time allotted for his remarks.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-21, an act to amend the Customs Tariff, be read the third time and passed.

Customs Tariff
Government Orders

3:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Reed Elley Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, one of the dangers of speaking just prior to question period is that with the passing of an hour one sometimes forgets one's train of thought. If the rest of my colleagues and perhaps those who are viewing at home will humour me, I may repeat myself a bit. I am sure everyone will agree that it does bear repeating.

Bill C-21, an act to amend the Customs Tariff, has provoked an interesting debate in the House on a number of issues that surround the issue of trade itself. Being a member of Parliament from the west coast of Canada, in fact one of the most westerly ridings in Canada, there is no question that the economy of my riding depends very much on the imposition of a good rules-based trading system.

Most of the people in my riding, even though they have concerns about globalization and its effect upon particularly underdeveloped countries around the world, realize that they gain their bread and butter from having an effective rules-based trading regime in place.

We do not always like what we see happening under NAFTA or under the WTO. However, we are glad that there are rules and procedures that we can follow in terms of dispute resolution to take care of some of the problems that we see in trade today.

I stated before question period that I had travelled in the Orient a number of times. I am pleased to see that there is a rise in the standard of living in countries such as China, where indeed more jobs have been created by the entrance of foreign capital and corporations which are beginning to increase their production in these countries.

However, even though we realize the importance of Bill C-21--and indeed there is an absolute necessity that this legislation be passed in the House because the old legislation indicated that it would expire on June 30 of this year--we have some concerns about the way in which the Liberal government introduces legislation itself.

Why bring it in now? There is the possibility of an election being called in a week, two weeks or a month, who knows? Is it the government's desire to then rush through these kinds of bills in a short period of time, perhaps not giving the bills adequate debate, not giving members of Parliament the opportunity to really take a look at all of the issues surrounding the bill, and to simply move it forward by haste to reach this deadline?

I want to suggest that over my seven years in the House this is simply a brand of the way the Liberals do business. It is a Liberal tactic. It is the indication of a government that has been far more reactive to situations than proactive. That is one of the sad things that I have experienced in the House from the government. Instead of giving Canadians a vision of hope for the future, a five year plan or a 10 year plan in any area of government that would tell us where it is taking the country down the road, it reacts to crisis rather than be proactive to produce a plan that will work for Canadians.

We saw this taking place in a number of areas. I have seen it personally in the way it handled the Iraq war. My personal preference was that we not enter the Iraq war with the United States; however, what happened in that situation was that the government put off enunciating Canada's position until the very last moment. It opened up all kinds of misunderstandings and misinterpretations of where Canadians really stood on this issue.

We saw it happen of course with the softwood lumber agreement which greatly affects my riding. I indicated this before question period, how the softwood lumber concern, a trade issue, has affected so many jobs in my riding.

Simply put, here was an agreement that the government knew expired in the year 2001, and instead of being proactive and ensuring that we could move into something that could take its place at the expiration of the negotiated treaty, we simply moved into this protracted period of almost three years now where we have no agreement with the Americans over softwood lumber. It has deeply hurt the industry across Canada, particularly in British Columbia.

This again is an indication of a government that does not prepare. It simply reacts to crisis and once again we see that in the way it treats legislation. It puts it off and then when it is somewhat politically opportune, it brings it in, deals with it by rushing it through Parliament. We do not have the kind of time and attention paid to legislation that we should in this place.

We see the same sort of thing in reference to the same sex marriage question where it wants to put it off to the courts rather than to allow members of the Parliament of Canada, who speak for the people of the nation, to represent their concerns in the House on such a huge issue. The government puts it off. It tries to put it out of its particular purview and make someone else responsible for it.

That is irresponsible and it is in the same kind of vein in terms of the legislation before the House. It brings in legislation at the very last moment when it is politically opportune to get it out of the way. It is almost like a work filler for us to have something to do before the election comes along. I suggest that is not the way it should be.

Even though we have these concerns about the bill, and its timing, we do agree with the bill and we will be supporting it when it comes to a vote in the House.

Customs Tariff
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ted White North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, there were a couple of issues which my colleague raised during his speech which I just could not wait to comment on. One of them was about the sweat shops. He did express the concern which we hear about a lot here and out in the general public as well about the sweat shops which are in existence in some third world countries and actually, regrettably, in Toronto and Montreal as well.

Certainly, in third world countries there are quite a lot of sweat shops manufacturing products which we consume. The real question is, how do we as a nation help to get rid of these sweat shops and improve the quality of life for those people and improve their wages?

The NDP and a lot of left wing activists would have us get the corporations out of there and close these sweat shops. Of course, anybody who thinks through the problem will realize that does not solve it at all. All it does is throw the people into more poverty, so it really is not an answer. In fact, it is cruel to even suggest that should be done.

The correct way to do it and perhaps I will relate back to the example I gave earlier going back a couple of centuries to good old England. At that time, there were little boys working as chimney sweeps, climbing the insides of chimneys. Many of them died at a young age from cancer of the scrotum because of all the carbon that was on their skin.

These were the horrible conditions that existed only a couple of hundred years ago in a society that we now consider very advanced. How did that situation improve? By encouraging initiative, free trade and expanding markets so that companies could expand and improve the lot for their workers. Unions appeared and were able to improve working conditions.

The answer is not to close down the sweat shops. Tough as it seems, we may just have to continue to buy the goods and hopefully, within a very short time because of the expansion of the markets, those sweat shops will start to disappear.

Another issue the member mentioned was the failure of the government to offer any real vision for this country. It is ramming through these bills at the last minute before the election.

During question period we saw an absolutely disgraceful display of a standing ovation on the other side when a member tried to bring up an absolutely heinous crime that occurred in B.C., which the people of B.C. are absolutely outraged about. It has been front page news there. It is on all the talk shows and people are absolutely outraged that a person who almost murdered his wife, raping her and beating her, was sentenced to probation. It is absolutely an outrageous crime and to see these people over there standing and applauding a mindless answer from the minister really indicates where their heads are.

They claim to have a monopoly on compassion, tolerance and understanding in this country. In fact, they are the least compassionate, least tolerant, and least understanding people in the whole country. They should be treating that as a serious issue that needs attention. It should be part of the vision for the country to correct those imbalances in the legislation, instead of rushing through and taking the ridiculous attitude of rushing through pieces of legislation at the last minute. That is what we are faced with.

I would like to ask the member, reverting back to the sweat shops, does he see some way that we can contribute to closing those down through these free trade agreements and lessening of tariffs?

Customs Tariff
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Reed Elley Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his comments and his questions. I would agree that one of the effects of globalization is that in the initial stages of helping undeveloped countries develop their own economies and infrastructures, unfortunately this kind of thing happens. It is a fact of life and there are enough unscrupulous people around that they will take advantage sometimes of situations like that.

Of course, in some ways the market does solve the problem itself in terms of the economy growing and people's standard of living starting to be raised, and we move out of that kind of circle of perhaps abuse.

One of the other things that has to be done too is that Canadians--we all invest in companies and mutual funds--need to put pressure on companies to be ethical and just in their treatment of people around the world.

I want to reflect briefly on the little incident that occurred just after question period. I, too, found it reprehensible that a member, even though we may not agree with his particular point of view in many cases, would be treated with such contempt particularly by people who have the name democratic in their party. I just cannot understand that. In this country, the race toward political correctness has very often shut off legitimate debate on serious issues that Canadians are really concerned about.

If we were to have that viewpoint dominant in the House in the years to come, it would bode ill for our country and our democracy. I hope that our Speaker and others who are in authority will continue to keep us on the right track on those issues.

Customs Tariff
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John M. Cummins Delta—South Richmond, BC

Mr. Speaker, I certainly appreciated the comments of my colleague from Nanaimo. I think that the issues raised by this bill and the hurry up fashion with which it is being rushed through the House are symptomatic of the way the government has been treating some important legislation over its mandate. I find that particularly reprehensible.

I think that one of the key issues reflected in the bill has to do with the failure of the government to look far enough ahead when these sorts of agreements are due to expire.

My friend has an interest in the softwood lumber issue in British Columbia, where we had the same sort of happenstance. We were aware that the agreement was going to expire well in advance of the due date, and yet only in the moments leading up to that did the government decide it had better get on the bandwagon and try to solve the problem. I wonder if my friend sees any parallels between the way Bill C-21 has been brought forward and the fallout from the other.

Customs Tariff
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Reed Elley Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I touched on that issue in my speech, but I simply want to reiterate that I do see some parallels here. I am afraid that it is a pattern of governing that has infected the Liberal Party and its approach to government. I am sure that Canadians are getting tired of this. They want a government that has a vision. They want a government that can enunciate that vision to the country. Canadians want a government that will be proactive in terms of meeting the real challenges of the 21st century. After all, we are in the 21st century. We in Canada need to do a lot of things to bring our country into the 21st century, most of all in the way we govern ourselves and in the institutions of Parliament.

I have been here for seven years. Over those seven years I have heard people say that this place needs to be modernized, that government needs to meet the needs of the people, and that people ought to have a direct say in government.

Those people on the opposite side of the House, members of the governing Liberal Party, have been making promises for years and now we have a Prime Minister who is suddenly awake to the democratic deficit as if it was never here during the last 15 years he has been here. I think that he and the government have set a terrible example for the country. They have known about these problems all along and have not done anything about them.

Customs Tariff
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Howard Hilstrom Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, we are here today to debate Bill C-21. For the riding of Selkirk—Interlake, any bill dealing with trade and tariffs is of primary importance. I have some points to make here today that will add to the debate.

Just so it is clear, as some people may be watching at home, Bill C-21 amends two sections of the customs tariff, specifically the general preferential tariff and the least developed country tariff. Under this bill, they are extended for another 10 years until June 30, 2014. The current legislation expires on June 30, 2004, so this matter is becoming fairly urgent. That is why it is being brought to the House now. This is the kind of legislation that the government should be making an earlier commitment on, a commitment to have it fully explored as opposed to trying to have it done in a rush without due diligence or thought.

These sections of Bill C-21, along with the act itself, are very important due to the fact that the majority of nations in the world that we trade with fall under this act in relation to the international agreements we have with them. Canada needs this stability in its import markets as well as in the export markets. On trade, it is my opinion that Canada absolutely needs to have the most extensive trading network possible on the international scene.

Every country in the world has something that Canadians would like to buy and probably every country in the world would like to buy something from Canada. Of course every country looks at this and says that for a country to get richer, it would like to sell but not buy anything. In this way a country could get richer and it would let other countries fend for themselves. But that is not the way it works. We have trade agreements that help facilitate this.

I believe that the ultimate objective in the world would be to have a trading system or relationship that is without tariffs and without barriers to trade so that all nations, and poor nations in particular, could bring themselves to a higher standard of living and become richer. I think that is what trade does.

Over history, the most successful nations in the world have been those nations that have used trade and the enrichment that trade brings not only to ensure that they have the financial resources to have a good way of life, but to ensure that they also have the cultural effects. People move from country to country and end up spreading their culture and good ideas around.

We also know that facilitating trade and having a lot of trade relationships with other countries have an overall security effect. If countries are closely intertwined in a cultural and economic relationship, they will be less inclined to battle each other and fight to the detriment of both. That is why we on the Conservative side are so much in favour of expanding trade. We are not saying we should expand trade at any cost, and of course the world has not yet reached the point where we can say that it is total and 100% free trade among all nations and everything will be fine, but it is one of those lofty goals that we in Canada have to reach for.

This customs tariff is organized into several major components. One is the most favoured nations tariff. We also have the general preferential tariff and a least developed country tariff. Finally, nations are subject to the general tariff rates.

These rules are under domestic legislation, which is what we are doing here today, and also under international trade agreements. The WTO, the World Trade Organization, is one of those organizations to which this applies. Of course our relationships with other countries on a bilateral or trilateral basis are also trade agreements. NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, is one of those other agreements.

To digress a little, when I am travelling across the country as the agriculture critic with the Conservative Party, I hear farmers say that “those doggone Europeans”, or the Americans or whoever, have slapped a duty on us. For instance, a duty has been slapped onto wheat, affecting the whole country but western Canada in particular. These are examples.

People blame the WTO and NAFTA for the duties that were slapped on. That is a typical trick of the NDP. They just love to say that these world trade agreements and globalization are bad, bad, bad.

The facts of the matter are these. I will use the example of the United States cattle a few years ago. We remember R-CALF, that producer group in the U.S. It was concerned that with our cattle going down there it was causing undue harm to the financial well-being of the United States. The United States producers used domestic U.S. law to put up those tariffs. What do we do when we are a little country of some 30 million people compared to a country of some 300 million people? It is a big difference. It is the old story of the elephant and the mouse. Those tariffs got slapped on and it cost us an awful lot of money. We had to pay to get our beef across the border and the Americans kept the money.

My point is that because of the WTO agreements and the NAFTA agreement we were able to use the dispute settlement mechanisms and we got the U.S. to back off on its domestic trade laws. It had misused those laws and was in contravention of the WTO. That is why we in the Conservative Party are such strong supporters of NAFTA, of World Trade Organization talks and of other international agreements that facilitate trade and, most important, stop the big guy from bullying the little guy.

I have talked about NAFTA and the WTO and the dispute settlement mechanisms. I would like to talk for a minute about agriculture in particular. The importance of tariffs is paramount as the negotiations go on in changing to this new order that everybody is talking about, where tariffs will come down.

I will remind the House that the general belief and policy position of the Conservative Party is that tariffs should be negotiated down. But in the case of supply management, our system in Canada certainly has control of supply. Extra supply is not put out. This is done through a legislative process. There is a built in cost of production formula so that there is some reasonable return on those products.

Part of the three pillars of supply management is that import tariffs have to be sufficient to prevent other countries from putting a lot of product into Canada over and above what we have agreed to at the WTO. Those high tariffs do that for supply management.

Many people like to say that the member for Selkirk—Interlake is against supply management or that he is against this or that. A lot of misinformation is being put out. Unfortunately, I happen to have a lot of these four-legged creatures, called cows, at home, and the beef industry in Canada is protected by tariffs also. We have a limit of around 79,000 tonnes that comes in from oceanic countries like Australia, New Zealand and Brazil. That limit is there for the purpose of not having our beef industry flooded with excessive amounts of cheap foreign beef.

We will be working to lower those tariffs so we can have more free trade in the beef industry. That can be done at the negotiations of the WTO. However, we will not arbitrarily lower these tariffs. It is the same with the supply management side. The Conservative Party very clearly will not arbitrarily lower those import tariffs.

We will have to negotiate those tariffs at the WTO. The former agriculture minister said that the government supported supply management 110,000% and that it would never change. There was that kind of talk. Even the current minister says things along the same idea, but he modifies it a bit.

On supply management, trade and tariffs, in 1995 the Liberal government, with the current Prime Minister as part of that government, signed away article XI, the article in the trade agreements between countries that protected supply management from any change. The government put it on the negotiating table of the WTO. It said that it would agree to 5% imports in 1995. Later the Liberal government negotiated to have the supply management tariffs, which were on the negotiating table, lowered so we in Canada would end up accepting more imports of supply management commodities.

I think the Liberal government is proceeding along with that process because it is on the table at the WTO right now, which is where it should be. We all have to look at every sector of our economy and participate ultimately in world negotiations. That is supply management.

There is some name calling by the Liberals, and I have expressed their misstating of our position on trade and on supply management in particular. However, I would like them to remember that our position is consistent, whether it be beef or supply management.

I will talk briefly about tariffs and the two particular parts of our agriculture industry. This is where I get to the former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and many of the Liberal members, who are still sitting here. Under the least developed country tariff agreement, the prime minister said that we would accept agriculture commodities from the least developed countries to help them enrich themselves. They could sell more to Canada to make their economies work better. That would allow the poor farmer to sell more to help enrich a country. However, he said that we would not let any supply management commodities come into the country. Rather we would allow only those non-supply management commodities. That made a lot of farmers say, “Just a minute”. They said that if we were to have international agreements that affected agriculture, at least it should be done in a uniform basis so all commodities would be affected similarly.

That was one of the big faults with the Liberals. They tried to pick out one or two commodity groups and treat them different from all agriculture commodities across the country. That is just plain not fair, and it causes division between agriculture groups.

I know the Grain Growers of Canada, with their excellent executive director Cam Dahl, has one kind of possession on the trade that we should be moving toward greater trade. The Canadian Federation of Agriculture is generally saying that tariffs should not be reduced too much, that we should keep the status unless we can get the deal we want, and if we do not get what we want, we should not negotiate. Once again, this is causing dissension between commodity groups in the country.

Canada is saying that it is part of the Cairns Group, which is the group of countries, primarily led by Australia. It is recognized as the leaders of those middle sized countries in the trading world that want to see everyone enrich themselves and prosper. It points out that this cannot be done when rich countries and rich groups of countries, namely, the United States and the European Union, have so much money that they can outbid and out-finance every other country in the world and in effect subsidize their farmers to the point where they can compete with anybody because they can produce the food for nothing and still make a living. That is wrong.

The Cairns Group wants to change that, and that is tremendously important in looking at all these tariffs and trade agreements. It is tremendously important that tariffs come down and that trade is facilitated between countries. The Cairns Group is certainly a leader in that.

I wanted to bring up the Cairns Group in this context because Canada is part of that group, but it is not really a leader in it. We are the biggest country in the group, from an economic point of view, and we should be a leader and go for the ultimate goal of freer trade, lower tariffs and greater market access. That is tremendously important.

About four years ago I was in Washington, D.C. We talked to the people who dealt with least developed countries that were trying to enrich themselves. The speaker pointed out very clearly the importance of having countries willing to accept imports from these poorer countries.

The conclusion of my speech is that we have to, as rich Canadians, allow greater imports into Canada by these poorer countries. We will end up becoming richer also, and not with just a good feeling in our hearts. When those countries become richer, they will buy more beef from us, and that will help our cattle ranchers.

Customs Tariff
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Lynne Yelich Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, I listened closely to what the hon. member said about supply and management, and I am curious. When they were negotiating, as the hon. member spelled out, there were some trade-offs. Could the hon. member tell me just who the negotiator was at the GATT talks?

Customs Tariff
Government Orders

March 23rd, 2004 / 3:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Howard Hilstrom Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, there is a long history in regard to the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs. Back in the early 1980s, and before that, agriculture was not really in any international trade agreement. There was trade in agriculture, but it was not really in the agreements. It was brought under the WTO in order to have agriculture as part of it.

The Progressive Conservative Party of Canada was the negotiator at that time. Then the Liberals came into power in 1993 and finished it off. When I say finished it off, they literally did finish off supply management because they negotiated away article XI. When they did that, of course it opened up Canada's supply management system to change. That change is continuing to progress today, and we will see it continue at the current WTO trade talks.

I would like to think, as history moves along and the next day comes along, that hopefully the Conservative Party of Canada will be in a position after the next election to be the ones to do the negotiating and making a much better deal for Canada than would ever be done by the government currently in power.

Customs Tariff
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am not clear whether the hon. member, speaking on behalf of his party, is suggesting that his party would eliminate supply management in its international negotiations or would fight to maintain supply management?