House of Commons Hansard #151 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was trade.

Topics

Motions for Papers
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Beauséjour, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am very sad to admit that much of it has gone over my head as well, but that could be because the hon. member for New Brunswick Southwest is mistaken. The questions that he has on the order paper will obviously be answered in the prescribed time limits. Mr. Speaker, you would expect nothing less of the government. We certainly do not want to have to waste valuable time at committee discussing why the government did not meet these deadlines. That is why we always meet the deadlines.

Perhaps one way to ensure that all of these Questions on the Order Paper, and there are many, and all the Notices of Motions are answered would be to keep Parliament sitting for many more months. That way we could be assured that these questions were all answered with great haste.

Motions for Papers
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for New Brunswick Southwest. It will have to be very brief.

Motions for Papers
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Thompson St. Croix—Belleisle, NB

Mr. Speaker, the point we are making here is that for members of Parliament to do their jobs, this information is important. The government simply wants to sit on it and dither away its time, if you will--

Motions for Papers
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

The Speaker

I know there is a disagreement but this does not sound like a point of order to me. It sounds like a matter of disagreement over the rules. The hon. member can of course go to the procedure and House affairs committee if he thinks the time given for answering his questions is too long and have the periods shortened, if the committee agrees with that kind of submission, but we do not need to have that kind of debate on the floor every day when some questions are answered and others are not.

The House resumed from November 2 consideration of the motion that Bill C-68, An Act to support development of Canada's Pacific Gateway, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Pacific Gateway Act
Government Orders

November 16th, 2005 / 3:35 p.m.

The Speaker

When the House last debated this matter, the hon. member for Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre had the floor. There are five minutes remaining in the time allotted for his remarks, as well as five minutes for questions and comments at the conclusion of his remarks. I now call on the hon. member for Regina--Lumsden--Lake Centre.

Pacific Gateway Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, at the end of my presentation a few days ago I was actually talking about western alienation. Even though the bill deals with the Pacific gateway, the House may wonder why western alienation came into my conversation. To recap, the Pacific gateway bill deals with $400 million which the government is suggesting it spend only after a suitable amount of time to study it by appointing a committee, many members of which would be appointed by the government, to determine what to do with the money. My point was that the British Columbia port strategy committee had already examined this issue very extensively through its own blue panel experts and had determined all of the priority spending items that should be made.

Whether the government likes it or not, people in British Columbia are feeling probably somewhat alienated by this initiative because the government is delaying and has not listened to their advice in the first place.

I can assure the House that in Saskatchewan, my home province, the feeling of alienation probably goes far beyond any other province for one primary issue and that deals with equalization.

I want to give the members who are sitting in the House today a bit of a history lesson about equalization. I want to also put the record straight. The Minister of Finance has consistently stood in the House and I believe has given some poor information, let me put it that way, about the equalization formula, the program and its impact upon Saskatchewan.

As most members probably know, equalization was designed in the late 1950s to assist provinces that did not have the fiscal capacity of others to try to equalize the level of taxation and try to equalize the level of services provided by each of the provinces. This is uniquely a Canadian program, something which I do not believe any other jurisdiction in North America and perhaps even in the world deals with.

While the program is generally beneficial and recipients are quite happy to receive the equalization payments, the fact of the matter remains that the equalization formula itself is seriously flawed. When it comes to Saskatchewan, it is costing Saskatchewan residents money.

Quite frankly, what equalization means is this. There should be a formula to determine the fiscal capacity of each and every province and then payments would be made to those have not provinces to equalize their revenue stream so that they could provide the same level of services and offer roughly the same level of taxation as some of their more wealthy neighbours.

The problem with the formula is it includes non-renewable natural resources. All of the leading experts on equalization have agreed that non-renewable natural resources should be removed from the equalization formula because that does not truly indicate fiscal capacity. Why is that? Quite simply, because non-renewable natural resources, as the name suggests, once they are taken out of the ground, as in the case of oil, are gone forever. They are not a renewable source of wealth or income. Taxation and income from other sources are renewable, but energy resources, oil and gas primarily, are not renewable.

Experts agree that they should be taken out of the equalization formula. If they were taken out, here is the impact it would have on Saskatchewan. One, our fiscal capacity would be defined at a far less level than it is today. Currently with the oil and gas prices we see today, billions of dollars are being removed from the ground in the form of oil and gas deposits. The revenue is great, but unfortunately that gives a false sense of what our fiscal capacity truly is.

On top of that, during the times that we are a have not province, for every $1 that we make from oil and gas sales in our province, the government claws back from any equalization payments up to $1.28. It is not an incentive for us to actually drill for oil and gas.

That is the biggest source of alienation that we have in our province. It demonstrates that the government does not care about our province. This is the most fundamental and revenue driven program that we have in our province, and the government and the Minister of Finance are totally ignoring reality.

I will conclude my remarks by saying that if the government truly wants to address issues such as western alienation, why does it not for once listen to members and heed their advice?

Pacific Gateway Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Saint Boniface
Manitoba

Liberal

Raymond Simard Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Internal Trade

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to speak today to this important bill. It is of particular interest to me because I was a member of an all party committee that studied this very issue.

Over a year and a half ago a group of us went to countries such as China, India, South Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, and had a chance to see firsthand the emerging markets in that area. I do not think anyone can question that this is where the future lies. Canada needs to position itself very squarely in their view.

I would like to mention a few statistics that we received when we were there. People will probably have heard this already, but it confirms the importance of the market in the Asia-Pacific region. One of the statistics we heard when we were there is that 60% of the building cranes in the world were in China. Second, China, in the year that we were there, was going to be introducing 40 new models of vehicles which ties into my third point which speaks to the middle class in both China and India.

If China is introducing 40 new vehicles, obviously there are people there who are going to buy them, so the world is changing rapidly and the Asia-Pacific market is changing rapidly. These figures may change, but we are told that between 150 million and 250 million middle class now exist both in India and China, but these figures vary depending on who is speaking.

When we were in China, we were told that a port is being built there that will be able to service 15 times what Vancouver is able to service at this time. So again, everything that is done in that area is done on a huge scale. It is very important that we be present there to accommodate further trade.

We were also told that, in terms of education, India alone is producing between 250,000 and 300,000 engineers a year. If I look at Manitoba, where I am from, I believe that our faculty is probably producing between 100 and 150 engineers a year. When we look at those numbers, it is absolutely mind boggling. If people think that the quality of education is inferior, they really need to take a second look at this. We had an opportunity to visit some of those universities and the quality of education is absolutely world class.

I am very pleased and I applaud the hon. ministers of Transport, Industry, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, and Western Economic Diversification for having recognized the importance of this market and for having recognized the importance of establishing a Pacific gateway strategy.

I am told the strategy will see up to $590 million invested in specific areas to help Canada deepen its economic links with the Asia-Pacific region and ensure that Canada remains a key trading partner of the world's most powerful emerging economies.

The strategy and the proposed Pacific gateway act currently before Parliament is about positioning Canada to take full advantage of global commerce and ensure lasting prosperity for Canadians. Thanks to Canada's rich cultural diversity, our nation already has many people to people links to the world beyond our borders.

One of the things we established when we were there was the importance of these people to people links, the importance of student exchange programs to ensure that in the future these people continue doing business with each other. We found in Hong Kong, for instance, that many students had studied at McGill University. They are currently preferring Canadian businesses at this point because of their connection to Canada. That is a very important part of what we would like to do.

However, the time has come to build more economic links as well. With the global economy shifting into high gear, Canada needs the infrastructure to support these links and ensure that Canada is well positioned to benefit from the emerging markets of the world.That is what the Pacific gateway strategy is all about.

Today, I would like to talk about what this plan means for Canada's trade and its aim to make Canada the premier gateway between the North American market and the vast emerging markets of Asia. Indeed, the strategy's initiatives will go a long way to furthering our goals under Canada's international commerce strategy outlined by the Prime Minister last April as part of Canada's international policy statement.

As the statement makes clear, global business is evolving at an increasingly rapid pace. What is driving this change are advances in information and communications technology, lower transportation costs, and reduced barriers to trade and investment.

A business as usual approach no longer works. Canada's future prosperity depends on the rapid, seamless, and secure movement of people, goods, investment and knowledge. It depends on developing high efficiency trade corridors with the economic powerhouses of the world.

Until recently, Canada's trade corridor could be best described as a north-south corridor. The United States has been our number one trading partner and continues to play an essential role in Canada's economic life. These days, remaining globally competitive means looking beyond North America, especially to the emerging markets of the Asia-Pacific region.

Economic powerhouses like China and India represent the future of world trade. Take China for instance, the world's fastest growing economy. It is currently the world's seventh largest economy and the prospects for future growth look very bright. Canada has already made a number of important links to this exciting market. China is our second largest two-way trading partner with total trade valued at $30.8 billion in 2004.

The Pacific gateway strategy is all about strengthening links with economies like China and making a series of key investments that will position Canada's west coast as a nexus for our trade with the Asia-Pacific region.

Investments of up to $590 million will go toward improving our transportation system, including our ports, whose capacity is being stretched to its limits; ensuring a smooth flow of goods across our borders; helping to develop common harmonized standards with the Asia-Pacific region; and of course developing future initiatives that will strengthen the Pacific gateway in the years to come.

It is interesting to note that our committee's recommendations discussed exactly this. A lot of the problems are not in Asia. A lot of the issues that we have to deal with are actually here in Canada like better preparing our businesses to deal with the different business environment in the Asia-Pacific region. I am thrilled to see that we are moving on this. It is a great initiative and that is why I am pleased to be speaking on this topic.

Fortunately, Canada is very well positioned to take full advantage of increased trade with the Asia-Pacific region. Canada is blessed with many geographic advantages. By boat, Canada's west coast ports are about two days closer to Asian markets than any other port in the western hemisphere. In fact, the port of Vancouver handled a total of 73.6 million tonnes of cargo in 2004, a 10% increase from the previous year. This is directly attributable to increased trade in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly with China.

Our railways offer among the most affordable freight rates in North America. Our trucking industry is highly competitive and efficient, and a key link to the American marketplace.

We cannot overlook the importance of our proximity to and effective transportation links with the American marketplace. This is a valuable advantage, one that emerging markets in the Asia-Pacific region certainly appreciate.

Canada's many advantages clearly demonstrate that building links to the Asia-Pacific region means more than having the best goods and services in place. Today's demands for rapid just in time service also means that successful nations will be the ones that make the most of their geographic advantages by getting their logistical houses in order.

Getting products and services to market smoothly and efficiently is fast becoming an essential component of a nation's trade. That is why I am happy to see that the Pacific gateway strategy not only recognizes Canada's many advantages, but it also puts forward a plan to strengthen these advantages and ensure that our transportation system, telecommunications, border procedures and regulatory standards give our nation a clear, competitive edge in the global marketplace.

I should also point out that this initiative reaches far beyond western Canada. Strengthening our position in global commerce is a priority for the entire country.

The link is undeniable. Our total trade is equivalent to over 70% of our GDP and one in five jobs is trade-related. That is why the strategy investments are being spent directly on priorities that affect the entire country. For instance, the central and Atlantic provinces exported over $8 billion worth of goods to Asia in 2004, 82% of which depended on efficient marine transportation and port infrastructure, a key component of the strategy. The strategy's investments to improve the flow of goods across our borders will affect all border provinces, not just British Columbia.

I am also pleased to note that there are a number of similar initiatives underway to promote this gateways and corridor concept across the country, in Montreal, Halifax, southern Ontario and Manitoba. I can speak to the Manitoba corridor which is the north-south corridor, which opens up a market of 80,000 people in the American Midwest. It has been an essential part of the Manitoba strategy to develop links with cities such as San Antonio and Chicago. It has worked extremely well. I am very pleased that we are doing this now on an international basis with the Asia-Pacific region.

These kinds of strategic initiatives are essential for Canadian trade obviously. They reflect the importance that all regions of Canada place on boosting our share of the global marketplace and they represent an important step in attracting the kind of investment that will spell real benefits for Canadians in the future.

Together with the groundbreaking Pacific gateway strategy and act, these initiatives will help ensure that Canada remains a key player in global trade for generations to come.

Pacific Gateway Act
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Cambridge, ON

Madam Speaker, clearly this is a great project that Canada needs and the west needs. In my research on this, it seems to me that some experts in the British Columbia area suggested that to do this project correctly it would cost about $4 billion. Therefore, the federal commitment would be 50% or about $2 billion.

It seems to me that the federal government is committing $400 million. That is a complete underfunding of an initiative. Here is where my concern lies. We have consistently heard from this government about funding initiatives that ultimately end up being underfunded.

We had that problem during the BSE crisis. Even in my own riding of Cambridge, this infrastructure money that we get from the government ultimately amounts to paving a couple of blocks on a street in my community. It is complete underfunding.

I wonder if what we are really hearing from the government is just another initiative that the Liberal government has become well known for, which is a lot of talk and ultimately no action.

Pacific Gateway Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Raymond Simard Saint Boniface, MB

Madam Speaker, I would like to correct the facts. The investment is not for $400 million. It is $590 million. There is $190 million invested immediately and $400 million will be set aside for future development.

Yesterday morning we had the Manitoba Chamber of Commerce in town. It was absolutely thrilled with this initiative. I am sure my colleague here from Saskatchewan will be speaking to the people in Saskatchewan about developing their strategy to tap into this future development.

The Manitoba Chamber of Commerce talked about the port of Churchill and how it can be tied into future developments in B.C. and also about the possibility of an inland port. Winnipeg has the 12th fastest growing cargo airport in the world, believe it or not, but it is a fact. We see some absolutely amazing future tie-ins with this project.

I believe that the $600 million is quite appropriate at this point. I believe it sets the groundwork. It allows us to establish a structure to move forward in the future.

I am not sure we should be investing $2 billion. We would all like to invest $2 billion or $4 billion and that is obvious. The chambers of commerce were thrilled with this initiative and they did not discuss whether the $600 million initiative was adequate or not. In fact, they thought it was an extremely good infrastructure beginning.

Pacific Gateway Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I wanted to ask my colleague from St. Boniface a few things regarding his speech. Bill C-68, with the new gateway strategy, has some merit in that we are all hoping that we can diversify our trade alliances and not be quite as reliant as we have been on the north-south traffic as the overwhelming dominant force in our trade strategy.

I would ask the hon. member if that trade strategy with China and India and developing nations would take in more than just trade documents and trade agreements? It would take infrastructure as well.

The Liberal government is currently engaged in the sale of the Prince Rupert terminal under a cloud of secrecy, a veil of secrecy. Perhaps he can answer this and shed some light on it. It looks as though a fixture worth hundreds of millions of dollars, a public asset, will be sold for $3 million or $4 million as the going price, with no open tendering practice, and no ability to ensure that we are getting the best value possible for our crown asset that is the Prince Rupert terminal.

Would the hon. member explain to me how this kind of secrecy and this kind of treatment of our public assets is in keeping with the overall impetus to expand the trade and the gateway?

Pacific Gateway Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Raymond Simard Saint Boniface, MB

Madam Speaker, much of the initial investment of $190 million will go toward exactly what he is speaking to. It will go toward port development and rail development, not only in British Columbia but right across the nation. I know the four western provinces are keen on this initiative. They think they can certainly benefit from it.

However, as I was saying earlier, our friends from the Atlantic provinces are also selling $10 billion a year to the Asia-Pacific. All of Canada will benefit from this.

Initially we will be focusing on developing these ports and nothing else. We will be extending our rail line facilities and our port facilities. I am very pleased with the initial investment of $190 million.

I also feel that the $400 million we have set aside is an extremely good idea. It would allow provinces like Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta to begin developing their strategies and see how they fit into the overall picture.

Again, in my study a year and a half ago, one of the most critical parts of our strategy was developing infrastructure in Canada and ensuring that businesses were made aware of how to do business in those areas. I am very pleased that the initial investment is taking place here and not necessarily overseas.

Pacific Gateway Act
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Yukon
Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Madam Speaker, the member from the NDP made a good point when he said that increasing trade, which is so important to so many Canadians, will take more than just this project. I would direct Canadians to read the section of the economic statement on Monday that commits more assistance to that very important foreign trade facilitation.

It was also interesting, as per usual, to hear the Conservative speaker once again suggest ballooning expenses for the federal government. Throughout question period, the Conservatives are always asking us to spend more money on things. We will reduce taxes, as it states in the economic statement, but we will not be making the broad, huge extra spending commitments that the Conservatives keep suggesting.

This is also very important for my riding in the north. We are very resource rich, with mining and forestry, and we need infrastructure. Of course, Prince Rupert is much closer to Vancouver. We do not want a bottleneck for rail and road. We would like to get our commodities out. I hope the member would agree with me that this is very important to the northwest of Canada as well, not just the prairie provinces and British Columbia.

Pacific Gateway Act
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Raymond Simard Saint Boniface, MB

Madam Speaker, the hon. member is absolutely correct. I may have forgotten in my speech to speak to the importance of our northern communities as well in this whole strategy. The ministers involved in developing the strategy have been very forthcoming and upfront to ensure that people do not think that it is uniquely a B.C. strategy. It is a Canada-wide strategy.

I absolutely agree with my colleague from Yukon that a lot of our natural resources come from that area and that is one of the things that our Asia-Pacific clients are looking for. The north is certainly a very integral part of this strategy.

Pacific Gateway Act
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Cambridge, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to ask for clarification from the hon. member.

The member for Yukon seems to be encouraged about getting some of his resources out of Yukon. The way the government takes money, for every dollar in diamonds he gets out of Yukon, his own party will probably take $1.25, so it is probably better to just leave them there.

There was a question earlier regarding selling the port. If we are to sell the port, have contracts been tendered out?