House of Commons Hansard #141 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was industry.

Topics

Softwood Lumber
Government Orders

9:25 p.m.

Conservative

John Duncan Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Chair, just as a side bar, I notice that the member for Kenora continues to be called the member for Kenora--Rainy River by many of my colleagues from all parties who were here before this Parliament, because that was the name.

My question for the member is related to the fact that we often talk about how long this dispute has been really going on. I think we are into what most people term lumber four. However, this is the first time that we have dealt with the lumber dispute in the context of the Byrd amendment and all of the provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement. That changes the entire equation. That is why the government needed a strategy, a plan, an approach. That is what has been lacking.

Now after three and a half years of wandering in the woods we have some of the Liberal caucus saying that it is in favour of loan guarantees. We have ministers saying they are still looking at it. We have other statements that perhaps there is going to be some other plan that is delivered.

Is there no shame, embarrassment or sense of urgency on the other side to say, “This is long enough. We're going to deliver. This is what it's going to be”. Can we not have some expectation of a timeline on all of this?

Softwood Lumber
Government Orders

9:30 p.m.

Liberal

Andy Savoy Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Mr. Chair, the member knows that this process has been going on in some form or another for 20 years.

Since the beginning of this last transfer, the fourth launch of this situation, we have been pursuing a two track process initially, which is litigation continuing with negotiations along the same track. We have won on the litigation side and we are asking the Americans to respect that under NAFTA.

By the same token we are carrying on with political advocacy and we are carrying on with the political lobby, a lobby from all Canadians who would like to come to the table and lobby. It is very important on the ambassador side, on the government side and I assume on the opposition benches as well that we should all be agreed on one thing, that we should be advocating for the U.S. to follow NAFTA.

Once that is followed and the disputed duties of $3.5 billion are paid out, we can look at a negotiated settlement, but a durable solution, not a negotiated settlement that will result in another round, the fifth round of this process, a fifth launch of litigation by the United States. We need to find a durable solution that will address the root cause of the last four of these subsidy allegations.

It is critical that we look at a durable solution that will address the root cause of these subsidy allegations after we have talked about and received the $3.5 billion back in CVD and ADD.

Softwood Lumber
Government Orders

9:30 p.m.

Conservative

Bill Casey North Nova, NS

Mr. Chair, the member for Tobique—Mactaquac commented that there has been a lot of lobbying and a lot of contact back and forth. I received a letter today dated October 20, five days ago, signed by 21 U.S. senators which kind of indicates that we are not making a lot of progress. This is a letter to the secretary of commerce, and I will just read certain parts of it:

Dear Mr. Secretary:

There is no question that Canada subsidizes the lumber industry. The Commerce Department has repeatedly found significant countervailable subsidies--

It goes on. Basically it says that they are urging the secretary of commerce to continue.

--we urge the Department, in responding to this flawed NAFTA decision, to fully consider and utilize any legal and appropriate alternative that would allow this essential trade law relief to stay in effect.

My point is we are not making a lot of progress apparently by that letter from 21 senators. Even though they are saying that Canada subsidizes its industry, there has never been an accusation that Atlantic Canada subsidizes the industry. We have a completely different regime there and we have protected it religiously and avoided any possible steps that would allow even an alleged accusation of subsidies.

If we do make some headway with the U.S. in getting the money back, what exactly does the member see the process is to establish this durable solution that he talks about?

Softwood Lumber
Government Orders

October 25th, 2005 / 9:30 p.m.

Liberal

Andy Savoy Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Mr. Chair, as I said, the first step in this process is to receive the $3.5 billion back in contested anti-dumping duties and countervailing duties.

After that is completed, we must move into negotiations. As we know, the negotiations in the past did not work. We should not fool ourselves. We have had 20 years of this. We had 19 months of those 20 years where there has been no trade solution, no trade dispute, if you will, some type of quota or countervailing duties. In 20 years we have had 19 months.

This time around we need a durable solution that will recognize Atlantic Canada's traditional exemption and will recognize the root of these previous subsidy allegations and the root of these previous problems.

As we move forward we need to look at the root of the previous subsidy allegations. We need to look at the traditional exemption for Atlantic Canada and come up with a durable solution.

Softwood Lumber
Government Orders

9:30 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Rivière-Du-Loup—Montmagny, QC

Mr. Chair, why are we having this take note debate this evening on the softwood lumber issue? Quite simply because the dispute has not been settled. The Americans have decided not to respect the NAFTA panel ruling. We are in a situation where a free trade agreement should apply. The Americans have decided not to respect the ruling. This is the situation we are in today. To show how serious the situation is, I want to read a few lines from a letter that was sent to me by a Tembec employee.

Now the situation is getting even worse. This year we have seen plant closures that have resulted in many direct and indirect job losses. Tembec has over $300 million tied up in the United States because of the softwood lumber issue.

Further on, he says:

The forestry industry operates for the most part in small towns and villages. If the forestry industry is not given any support immediately, we will see even the small towns and villages shut down.

This is not a Bloc Québécois member or an opposition member talking. This is someone who, as a worker in this sector, is experiencing what the forestry industry is going through today.

The same thing is happening in my riding, whether in Saint-Pamphile, Saint-Joseph-de-Kamouraska or Saint-Juste-de-Bretonnière, where there are companies, people and entire villages that depend on the forestry industry. We are all wondering the same thing. How do we get out of this jam? The Americans do not want to respect the NAFTA ruling. In my opinion, the answer is in the question.

Take for example the letter my colleague was mentioning. Twenty U.S. senators have signed it and said that Canada subsidizes its lumber industry. We have taken the right position. What they fail to mention and what we should say in response is that the agreement was examined by a NAFTA panel, which ruled in favour of Canada. We could respond to them and go to Washington as well. We could tell them that the Government of Canada has decided to support its companies by giving them loan guarantees to help them get through this crisis. This is what is currently missing from the government's position.

We are putting up a brave front. The Prime Minister told the Americans they should keep their word. That is very good. That covers a good part of what needs to be conveyed. But the part that is missing is, “I will stand by my companies right to the bitter end. I will give them loan guarantees. When the legal battle is over, they will still be standing. Then, you will give them back the money you levied illegally”.

That part is missing in the government's mandate, and this is seriously hurting the Canadian government's bargaining position. Hopefully, our debate this evening will regularize the situation. In recent years, the Bloc Québécois has repeatedly asked questions about loan guarantees. One needs dogged determination to get anywhere in this Parliament. Today, questions on this issue were put in the House of Commons by all opposition parties. This evening, the president of the Liberal Party's forestry caucus said he was examining this position.

I hope that the debate this evening will leave the door open for the government to act. I am wondering where the blockage is in Cabinet. We kept asking ministers why they were not acting. We never got a clear answer. Legal opinions have confirmed that certain elements were consistent with NAFTA, consistent with WTO rules. But the federal government is not jumping on this opportunity. It is difficult to understand why it is not moving forward on this initiative. The government's strategy is therefore incomplete. I think that this strategy should be beefed up.

First, why would we in this Parliament not pass a motion stating that we deplore the fact that the American government is not keeping its word? Why not send this motion passed by Parliament to all those who are currently negotiating free trade agreements or any other type of agreements with the U.S.? The message would no doubt hit home one way or the other if we said that the Americans do not keep their word. I think that this approach should be considered.

There is also the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group, which has already done a fair amount of work in this regard. This summer, I took part in three parliamentary missions. It made me realize how unaware Americans were of this issue. Something that makes headlines here is hardly mentioned in American newspapers.

The Canadian government must really send a much stronger message through diplomatic channels. There are tools available at every level. For example, we distributed maps of each U.S. state that benefits from trade with Canada. We must knock on doors and ask for a reversal of position in a much more energetic fashion.

If we maintain our current attitude, if we merely assert that we are right, that we won our case before the NAFTA panel and demand that the Americans do something, we will not succeed. Once the legal battle is over, there will be no one left, because our businesses will either have been sold or will have shut down. Unfortunately, that has already been the case for a number of them.

I have another suggestion. Earlier, we heard about a partisan Liberal caucus on forestry issues. Why not expand this caucus to include all members of the House and use a non-partisan approach? We could then adopt a common position. Hon. members could also use their frequent flyer points to go to Washington. Would it be possible to have a large number of MPs influence public opinion by travelling to Washington and making Americans aware of the seriousness of this situation and of its negative impact on them?

A few years ago, we undertook phase one, assuming that we would win before the courts and then the Americans would have to bow to the decision. Today we are aware that they have not budged. So now other means have to be used to get them to pay back what they collected improperly.

As members of this House, we have a responsibility to show the Canadian government that its present position is inadequate and too soft. It talks a good game but does not follow up with actions.

There are people affected in every one of our villages, factories are closed or downsized, and families are suffering. The income they were counting on is no longer coming in. A solution must be found. Everybody has made commitments. A motion has been passed unanimously in this House calling for a return to free trade in softwood lumber. We must take all necessary steps to achieve that result. Since the government has not yet done so, our responsibility as parliamentarians is to goad it into action.

It is my hope that in tomorrow's cabinet meeting, or in another one shortly, ministers and members will be able to score some additional points, particularly as far as loan guarantees are concerned, following on the very clear arguments that have been raised in this House. There is no time to be wasted. Many companies are at risk of having to sell out. We could then lose control over an important sector of industry. Let us not forget that our forests are already subject to other constraints that are very hard to cope with at this time, particularly the rising dollar and reduced harvest capacity. Life is very hard for people in a number of Quebec villages because cuts are below 20%.

Last week, government programs were announced to help Quebec deal with the reduction in access to softwoods. The federal government has announced a partial aid package under the same program, but is not allocating any funds to address the softwood lumber crisis, despite the fact that this crisis is one of its responsibilities. It is the one that made Canada's sovereignty an issue in this debate. It is the one that said it would seek a return to free trade for softwood lumber and that this would benefit everyone. Now it must respect its commitments. So far, it has not. As a result, it is not achieving the expected results, because it is taking too long to react.

In closing, I want to say that we have a relationship with the American government and with Americans. The U.S. economy is huge. However, we must raise and put forward arguments in order to ensure that the international community knows that the Americans are not, at present, keeping their word with regard to a ruling by a tribunal mandated under a free trade agreement. We must repeat this over and over to get the Americans to change their position.

We must restore our companies' ability to compete, an ability the Americans took away from them by collecting these duties. We must grant loan guarantees to our companies. That way, when the Government of Canada, parliamentarians and the industry put up a fight, they will know that they are well supported. This position would be different from that taken by government to date.

This is the weakness, the Achilles heel of the government's policy. We hope that, in days to come, we will correct this situation.

Softwood Lumber
Government Orders

9:40 p.m.

Liberal

Don Bell North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Chair, because softwood lumber is a very important issue to the people of my riding and more particular in British Columbia where the lumber industry is one of the major industries and the backbone of the provincial economy, I would like to ask the hon. member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup this question.

The Bloc and the Conservatives seem to have formed an unholy alliance, and we have seen some strange bedfellows in this House. Does the Bloc support the position of the Conservatives that they would send an envoy to the United States to speak on behalf of Canadians and Quebeckers on the softwood lumber issue?

The hon. member has suggested that it is taking too long. If an envoy were to be sent, such as the Conservatives have suggested, what would the envoy do? Would the envoy negotiate further as the Americans have indicated?

Softwood Lumber
Government Orders

9:45 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Rivière-Du-Loup—Montmagny, QC

Mr. Chair, I thank the hon. member for his question. I want to point out to him that, indeed, there is a British Columbia company called CanWest that has a sawmill in my riding. It is a relatively large company in the forest industry and its plant in our community plays a very important role. So, we have some common interests in this regard.

As regards the member's question specifically, I think that there is something we should do first. When we travel to the United States, whether it is the Prime Minister, parliamentarians through the Canada-United States interparliamentary group, or our delegations to the United States, we should have with us the means to convince the Americans, regardless of who is the emissary and how this is done. Before we go back to the negotiating table, the Americans must admit that they have to respect the NAFTA agreement.

When we go and talk to the Americans, we must tell them that we are right, that the NAFTA ruling supports our position. We can also tell them that the Canadian government is giving our industries loan guarantees that will allow them to make it through the crisis. This will counter the Americans' main strategy, which is to make the crisis drag on and on so that, in the end, there will be no survivors left. Loan guarantees are the way to deal with this. This is how we will be able to counter the Americans. We can let them know that we will ultimately prevail.

However, if we do not provide these means, we will not achieve the result that we want, regardless of who travels to Washington. We will also not succeed even if the Prime Minister of Canada presents a position that is not supported financially.

We need tools to get a strong mandate to negotiate and win this battle. Currently, the government has not put in the industries' hands the tools that would allow them to make it through the crisis.

Softwood Lumber
Government Orders

9:45 p.m.

Liberal

Don Bell North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Chair, in response to the hon. member's comments, I appreciate his concern about the issue and his earlier comments on the NAFTA. Is the member aware that Canada is pursuing litigation in the U.S. courts as well as in the NAFTA and the WTO and that we are pursuing this file in every legal forum we can, which is over a dozen?

Does the Bloc believe, as the NDP has stated, that we should tear up the NAFTA or does he believe that we should pursue the course that the government has taken to get the NAFTA respected?

Softwood Lumber
Government Orders

9:45 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Rivière-Du-Loup—Montmagny, QC

Mr. Chair, that is a good question. The free trade agreement is essential. Prior to that, we had to automatically go before the U.S. courts. It will not be any easier now. The American courts are a sort of quagmire we will not get out of easily. It will take a long time before we win. NAFTA was supposed to replace that.

We realize today that the Americans do not feel obliged to respect NAFTA rulings. They are even challenging the constitutionality of NAFTA in the courts. Fortunately , the U.S. government will be forced to take a stand and join forces with the Canadian government to defend the constitutionality of NAFTA. I think that agreement is a good thing for Canada, for the United States, and for Mexico.

In light of the present situation, what is harmful to this agreement is that the Americans are not true to their word. This again shows us that agreements like NAFTA have to have decision-making mechanisms that are as clear as possible. As well, those in a position to negotiate must have solidly based arguments available to them.

As for the fact that the government is continuing to argue before the tribunals because the Americans have failed to hold up their end of the bargain, perhaps we lack the means to do otherwise. However, we are also playing the Americans' game by doing so, if we fail to grant our industry the loan guarantees it needs to survive this crisis. I believe that this is the main flaw in the government's position. The government has not given our industry the ability to survive this crisis.

For the past two, three or four years, the Americans have repeated the same message: we can wait; we will appeal every case we can; we may even dispute the constitutionality of NAFTA; that way, time will be on our side again and again; and Canadian companies will be on their last legs or taking their last breath. That is the situation we are in.

In conclusion, I want to come back to the letter I received from people at Tembec. They are speaking on behalf of all those suffering in all the regions, and they are calling for the government to adopt emergency measures.

This letter said, “If the Americans do not comply with NAFTA, we can go forward with loan guarantees. We are complying with the WTO and NAFTA, and we are entitled to take such action. We cannot be taxed for not complying with international agreements when our own trade partner does not want respect a ruling by the NAFTA panel”.

As the employee who sent me the letter said, “Without immediate support for forestry companies, even small towns and villages will close. The Canadian government has the responsibility to prevent that from happening”.

Softwood Lumber
Government Orders

9:50 p.m.

Sydney—Victoria
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Mark Eyking Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade (Emerging Markets)

Mr. Chair, I would like to commend the hon. member from the Bloc Party on some of his comments on cooperation in the House. He mentioned many times that he would like to be a member of the forestry caucus and that we should work together. It is very important, even as Americans watch how we approach this whole challenge, that we have a unified approach in the House. It is good to hear the Bloc is interested in that.

My question to the Bloc is on its support for the NDP. Is there support for the NDP's recommendation of putting taxes on exports of energy and oil and is the Bloc in favour of retaliatory measures against imports coming into the country?

Softwood Lumber
Government Orders

9:50 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Rivière-Du-Loup—Montmagny, QC

Mr. Chair, personally, I think that we have to be careful not to mix apples with oranges. These are two entirely different actions. We are facing this giant, the United States. We must not necessarily tax them, but make them understand better that we are their main supplier of energy.

Last summer I took part in three parliamentary missions to the United States: one to Connecticut, one to Des Moines, Iowa, and one to Seattle, Washington. I asked a great number of American elected representatives the question. Most people thought their main supplier of energy was Saudi Arabia or other Arab countries, but it is Canada.

We need to review the entire relationship between the U.S. and Canadian governments. In my opinion, the softwood lumber crisis is evidence of our complacency in our relationship with the Americans, in thinking we were good neighbours and that everything would work out fine. The world is changing and there is upheaval. We need to make sure that the Americans have a better sense of who we are. We have to make them understand that we can broaden our market and sell energy elsewhere in the world. Then their supply might cost more not because of a tax, but quite simply because of the competition we can create on an international level.

The Americans need to feel that by not respecting NAFTA rulings, they are harming themselves internationally. We need to have the courage to confront them. I made a proposal that could be partially followed. This House could send to several other parliaments in the world a motion for the countries that are currently negotiating an agreement with the U.S., or that plan to be in Hong Kong in December to sign accords on lifting subsidies from agriculture or any other sector, that they make sure the ruling mechanism and the rulings themselves will be respected. We will inform them of Canada's example, which shows that the Americans do not respect rulings.

The Americans would have a hard time responding to this issue all over the world. It is not very diplomatic, but we have to use this type of argument. Slapping additional taxes on energy is not an adequate solution. However, we must not close the door on other ways to change the rules of the game and to open up the dialogue so that the entire planet knows that the country that claims to be the biggest promoter of free trade in the world is not keeping its word right now. We must not be afraid to say things politely.

To conclude, I repeat that we have to take vis-a-vis the Americans a position which unequivocally conveys that our industry will be well protected by loan guarantees and other forms of assistance consistent with international agreements that give us a strong upper hand. Not only do we have to speak loudly, but our actions also have to speak loudly.

Softwood Lumber
Government Orders

9:55 p.m.

Liberal

Brent St. Denis Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Chair, I am thankful for the opportunity to say a few words as we debate a very important issue not only to Canada, but in particular to the area that I come from in northern Ontario.

It struck me as I listened to the excellent speeches this evening that we are surrounded by some very beautiful carved wood in this place. It also struck me that we have for too long taken for granted in our society the valuable role in our economy and in our culture and communities that the forestry sector has played and continues to play.

When times are good, it is easy to put aside this very important sector and not worry about it. As has been the case for a number of years now, and especially over the last months, weeks and days, we are reminded of how important this sector is to our economy, to our communities and to all of us, not only as individual consumers of wood products, but as members of a society whose very roots are in our natural resources, much of that being in wood.

I am also struck by something else. Those who may be watching this debate on television might see that there is a certain partisan aspect to this debate. Quite frankly, that may apply only to the ways that we each would solve the problem we are having with our American neighbours over the softwood lumber issue. In truth, there is no partisanship when it comes to the fundamentals of the debate. All members of the House agree that this problem has to be resolved. We have to continue to remind our American neighbours that they have before them the right decision that they should be making. We all agree that the forestry sector is important to our economy and that unanimously we want this situation solved.

Different parties would accuse the government of doing this or that or not doing enough in one area or another. I can assure the House that our Prime Minister, our international trade minister, our foreign affairs minister, the parliamentary secretary in particular, all those who are implicated in this important file have worked very hard, very diligently. Whether it is this government or governments past, whether it was a Liberal government or a Conservative government, they have worked hard to try and get this issue resolved once and for all. It is not an issue that only goes back a few years. This issue goes back decades.

I would like to put before the House that as important as the lumber industry is to northern Ontario, in fact my grandfather moved from Papineauville, Quebec in the 1890s to the Massey area. As a young man, my grandfather Arthur St. Denis became involved in the forestry industry and that was his livelihood throughout his life.

There are many aspects to this issue, but we are in unison on the need to get it resolved. I would like to take this opportunity to imagine that I was speaking to Condoleezza Rice who was in Ottawa. She is Mr. Bush's most senior cabinet member on foreign affairs. In fact, I am not sure if she is watching. I hope she is, but if not, I hope her officials and members of the U.S. embassy are watching.

I would like to tell her that this problem with the Americans is causing tremendous difficulty for many of the small communities in my riding and for the workers who work in the plants, and for the families of those workers. Those people work hard every day. They like to earn an honest paycheque, bring it home to feed their families, to educate their children and to have a good life.

Those people understand bad weather. They understand that forest fires cause problems for their sector. They understand that machinery breaks down. They understand all kinds of things that come along to disturb their enterprise, their workplace, just as farmers expect from time to time that sadly, there are going to be droughts or floods. These are the unfortunate parts of having a business. What these workers do not expect is a good neighbour to be disturbing their workplace in a serious way.

I call upon Ms. Rice to consider the plight of the families, whether they are in Hearst, Opasatika, Nairn, Thessalon, Chapleau, Dubreuilville, or any of the number of small communities in my riding that depend on the forestry sector. In fact I would like her to come and visit one of these communities to see what it is like first hand.

Sadly on the other side of the border there is a special interest group which is a very small group and in fact if the Byrd amendment is applied and a payout of some of the $5 billion is made, it is going to end up in the hands of a very small number of people, a couple of dozen companies and individuals. The American consumer is not going to benefit. The American taxpayer certainly is not going to benefit. It is a net zero benefit to the vast majority of Americans and Canadians. Continuing on this line that I am speaking to Ms. Rice, it is patently unfair.

In Canada we like to play by the rules. We expect those whom we trade with to play by the rules as well. In fact I would suggest that our American friends, and they are our friends and neighbours. We are not going anywhere. We have to live together. We have to cooperate on this continent along with Mexico. We have to make it work. Whether it is softwood lumber, wheat, steel or security, it does not matter; we have to make it work. We are not going anywhere.

I say it is unfair. The message that Americans are sending to others around the world is a bad message. Should other countries be contemplating making a deal with the Americans in light of this situation, I do not know. I would be wondering about that. We call upon them to be fair.

I would point out to Ms. Rice that there is all-party support for getting this issue resolved once and for all. Notwithstanding that there are different ideas on how this is done within our country, we all agree on the ultimate goal.

I would tell her that the Minister of International Trade was in my riding in September. He spent the day visiting the little village of Hallebourg near Hearst to meet with stakeholders. Later in the day he visited Elliot Lake and those along Highway 17 from Espanola and Thessalon that are involved in this sector. What he heard consistently was not to negotiate with the Americans until they make a very serious gesture on the $5 billion that they are holding illegally. I think they would prefer to see it all. Perhaps there is a little bit of wiggle room, but we want a very serious gesture from our American friends on those duties that are being held.

I would probably conclude by saying to Ms. Rice that regardless of what we do on our side of the border, I support the notion of providing a loan guarantee to the industry as it awaits the return of the improperly held tariff dollars in the U.S. Whether it is half, one-third or two-thirds, I do not know, but our government should advance some reasonable proportion of those dollars to the industry. I will trust our ministers and our Prime Minister on how we do that. I would say to Ms. Rice that U.S. consumers are suffering.

It is very interesting that a lobby group or a special interest group in the U.S. in the cement industry is doing the same thing to the Mexicans on cement as we see another group doing to us on softwood lumber. It is nothing more or less than protectionism, and not protectionism because they are worried about all the Americans, only because they are worried about a couple of different special interest groups.

I would say to her that if there is rhetoric on both sides, that is the nature of politics I suppose, but we have a greater responsibility to our kids and grandkids to create a North America that is a good place to invest, a stable place to invest, a place where our children and grandchildren can grow up and have careers and families and so on.

The Americans might say that over 95% of our trade goes without problems. I would say, so what? The 5% that has problems is a serious 5%. I would be happy to earn 5% if I had some money in the bank. Five per cent is a big number.

In conclusion, I want to commend all members. It is great that we debate how we take care of business on this side of the border. I know we are sending a unified message to our friends to the south that yes, in times of crisis, whether it is a disaster in New Orleans or a disaster here, we know we can count on each other, but that aside, we have to take care of this piece of very important business for the good of everybody on this continent.

Softwood Lumber
Government Orders

10:05 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Merrifield Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Chair, I listened intently to my hon. colleague who was in a bit of dream world and wanted to talk to Condoleezza Rice. I would encourage my hon. colleague to wake up from his slumber and face reality. I do not believe that Condoleezza Rice is all that concerned about his riding, but I do believe that he is. If he is, I would like him to answer as to why the government, in which he sits as a member, sat on its laurels and did absolutely nothing while it waited for the clock to tick down on the five year agreement for the softwood lumber industry, before this ever got into litigation or got into a battle between personalities, between governments, and ruined the relationship between two sovereign countries.

The Liberals allowed the clock to tick down before any leadership was shown. They sat in a majority government and had the full opportunity to show leadership at that time and they refused to do it. They just sat there, did absolutely nothing and showed absolutely no leadership. Now the member stands and says they are wanting this to be resolved and they are wanting to show some sort of leadership at this stage in the game. A lot of the industry in Canada has lost jobs and it has ruined the lives of some individuals. Their opportunity for employment in the industry is no longer there.

Why would the government show that lack of leadership at that time? The hon. member has to go back to his place tonight and look in the mirror and answer that question, because it has negatively affected the industry in such a terrible way.

Softwood Lumber
Government Orders

10:10 p.m.

Liberal

Brent St. Denis Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Chair, I totally reject the basis of the member's questions and comments. First, the government, since first being elected in 1993, has shown nothing but leadership. The fact that there was an agreement in place that expired should tell the member there was leadership. Why was the agreement there in the first place, and prior to that a memorandum of understanding?

I am trying to put as positive a tone as I can on his question and comments, but the present Minister of International Trade and his predecessors have tirelessly worked on the file without stopping, as have the present Prime Minister, who I commend highly, and our previous prime minister. It is understood that the forestry sector is among the largest exporter of Canadian goods of any sector in the country. Why would we not pay as much attention to that file as anything? It is that important to us.

I totally reject the idea that we were sitting on our laurels. In fact, nothing but the opposite of that is the case.

Just because the negotiations and discussions are held in Washington or Ottawa, not in front of the media, does not mean things are not happening. I am sure that if there is a chance to ask the trade minister at some other time what he has done, and he has told the member before, he will remind the member that this issue is a decade's old issue.

The special interest lobby group in the United States has been at this, without stop, since the inception of this problem generations ago. For us to imagine, in a Pollyanna fashion, that they will go away belies the fact that they will not go away. That is why we need to find a solution that is permanent and impermeable, so the special interest group in the U.S. cannot break through and continue to harass our Canadian industry and the people who work day in and day out in our ridings across the country.

Softwood Lumber
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10:10 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Rivière-Du-Loup—Montmagny, QC

Mr. Chair, I listened with interest to my hon. colleague's speech. I would like to know if he would agree that a major problem with our Canadian strategy at present is the lack of public awareness of this issue.

Would it not be appropriate to pass in this House a unanimous motion highlighting the severity of the softwood lumber crisis and how important it is to us that the Americans keep their word? Copies of this motion could be sent to the U.S. Congress, the House of Representatives and each state legislature in the United States. A delegation of parliamentarians could deliver it to Washington. As Canadian parliamentarians, we could tour shopping centres to explain that, in the current situation, consumers are the big losers.

Is this not basically a very clear sign that having Canadian diplomacy use traditional approaches to try and further the cause really was not enough? Such a tool should be incorporated into the current strategy; we should have a way to convey to the American public how important this issue is.

Over the summer, I have had the chance to see for myself that many members of the U.S. Congress and House of Representatives knew very little about this softwood lumber issue. In this country, it is discussed in the papers every day. Giving prominence to this issue in the United States will certainly not be easy.

Would there not be value in including such a step, starting with the Parliament of Canada taking a unanimous stand, asking that the Americans keep their word, and then having this motion acknowledged worldwide?