House of Commons Hansard #157 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was liberal.

Topics

Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I believe if you would seek it, you would find unanimous consent to see the clock as 5:30 p.m.

Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is there unanimous consent to see the clock as 5:30 p.m.?

Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Supply
Royal Assent

5:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received as follows:

Rideau Hall

Ottawa

November 24, 2005

Mr. Speaker:

I have the honour to inform you that the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Governor General of Canada, signified royal assent by written declaration to the bills listed in the schedule to this letter on the 24th day of November, 2005, at 3:47 p.m.

Yours sincerely,

Barbara Uteck

The Secretary to the Governor General

The schedule indicates the bills assented to were Bill S-37, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Cultural Property Export and Import Act--chapter 40; Bill S-3, An Act to amend the Official Languages Act (promotion of English and French)--chapter 41; and Bill C-28, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act--chapter 42.

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from October 19 consideration of the motion that Bill C-364, An Act to provide compensation to Canadian industry associations and to Canadian exporters who incur financial losses as a result of unjustified restrictive trade actions by foreign governments which are signatories to trade agreements involving Canadian products, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Trade Compensation Act
Private Members' Business

November 24th, 2005 / 5:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I would like to make a ruling on Bill C-364, the trade compensation act. I am prepared to rule on the point of order raised by the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader on October 19, 2005, concerning Bill C-364, the trade compensation act.

At the outset I would like to thank the parliamentary secretary for having raised this important issue concerning the financial prerogative of the Crown. I would also like to thank the hon. members for Vancouver Island North and for Fort McMurray—Athabasca for their interventions on this matter.

Bill C-364 proposes that the Minister of Finance shall compensate any Canadian exporter of Canadian goods exported to a foreign state for the loss incurred as a result of any unjustified restrictive trade actions by the government of that state.

The parliamentary secretary pointed out that clause 3 of the bill requires the Minister of Finance to pay all reasonable legal expenses of exporters and industry associations and would therefore require a royal recommendation.

In rebuttal, the member for Fort McMurray--Athabasca argued that such funding was already authorized since the Minister of International Trade announced on April 15, 2005, in a press release that “funding will be provided to offset legal expenses incurred in defending Canadian interests against U.S. trade actions in the softwood lumber trade dispute”.

The Chair would comment that while funding may have been made available for a specific purpose by the Minister of International Trade, Bill C-364 is proposing an expenditure of public funds for a general purpose that is new. Despite what provisions may appear in other acts, the Chair is of the view that such a statutory initiative as expressed in Bill C-364 would have to be accompanied by a recommendation from the Crown as it mandates a new expenditure of public funds.

In his point of order, the parliamentary secretary also stated that clause 4 obliges the minister to provide loan guarantees whenever a deposit, surety or bond must be posted by an exporter or an industry association pending resolution of a dispute by a tribunal and that such a provision requires a royal recommendation.

The member for Vancouver Island North argued that the loan guarantee only commits the government to back a loan in that it does not result in public funds being actually removed from the consolidated revenue fund.

It is important to note, however, that if such a loan defaulted, the Crown would be responsible for paying the debt. For this reason, the bill requires a royal recommendation as it mandates a new expenditure of public funds by imposing this liability upon the consolidated revenue fund.

Consequently, I must conclude that Bill C-364 requires a royal recommendation.

The member for Fort McMurray--Athabasca said on November 14 that this does not prevent debate from continuing at second reading or prevent the bill from being considered in committee or at report stage if the House so decides. He is absolutely correct in this respect. However, the purpose of my decision today is clarify the requirement for a royal recommendation before third reading.

Accordingly, due to provisions which authorize spending, the Chair will decline to put the question on third reading of this bill in its present form unless a royal recommendation is received.

Trade Compensation Act
Private Members' Business

5:20 p.m.

Pickering—Scarborough East
Ontario

Liberal

Dan McTeague Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I want to take the time to acknowledge the ruling that you have just made. For that reason, of course, the position of the government is upheld, and indeed, this is a matter that would require an expenditure issue, a money bill. Therefore, the bill will not go beyond this one hour of debate.

At the same time I want to recognize my colleague, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade, who is also the member of Parliament for Sydney—Victoria. I have been with him for some time here and I know that he has been extremely able in terms of opening new markets and opportunities for Canadian business. His work, often done in other fields and jurisdictions, has indeed borne much fruit for labourers, individuals and small companies right across this country. I think Parliament owes him a very strong vote of thanks for the work he has done.

I am pleased to take part in today's debate on Bill C-364, which is, as you have stated, an act to provide compensation to Canadian industry associations and exporters who incur financial losses as a result of unjustified restrictive trade actions by foreign governments which are signatories to trade agreements involving Canadian products.

I would also like to use my time to respond to some of the statements already made by certain opposition members during the first hour of debate on the bill. As we know, the bill would provide compensation to Canadian industry associations and exporters that incur financial losses as a result of unjustified restrictive trade actions by foreign governments which are signatories to trade agreements with Canada.

On that point, I am obviously very pleased with the initiative by the government, the Minister of Trade and the Prime Minister on the question of softwood lumber. It would appear that our plotting has certainly been very successful and will continue to be so.

Mr. Speaker, I speak with some certainty in saying that you understand this industry perhaps better than most in Parliament.

It is for those reasons that this is indeed good news for that sector and for trade.

As we know, there are two components of the bill. The first would require the federal government to defray legal expenses incurred by the private sector in instances where a foreign state restricts Canadian exports in a manner that is found to contravene any bilateral or multilateral agreement. The second component proposes that the government provide loan guarantees to cover deposits, sureties or bonds that may be required of Canadian exporters by the foreign state, pending the final determination of a tribunal.

As I have mentioned, my colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade, stated during the first hour of debate on October 19 that the federal government appreciates the concerns relating to legal costs associated with the defence of Canadian interests in these trade disputes. The Government of Canada understands that costs associated with the defence of trade cases, particularly legal expenses, are often significant.

The complexities of issues entrenched in trade disputes, along with the number of parties involved in such cases, are all factors that can contribute inexorably to increased legal costs. There should be no doubt that this government is unequivocally committed to representing and actively defending Canadian interests in all and any international trade fora. We do so every day.

We devote considerable financial and human resources to fostering a domestic environment conducive to the development and maintenance of consultative domestic networks. These networks allow stakeholders a voice in the determination of the Canadian response to unjustifiable trade restrictions by foreign governments and we cannot and should not underestimate the valuable work and role of Canadian representatives abroad in the defence of our national Canadian trade interests.

I can assure members that Canadian trade officials in our embassies and missions abroad work very hard to represent trade interests. Targeted advocacy campaigns and meeting with foreign decision makers, the business community and local media are just some of the daily tasks executed by our representatives abroad. Their objective is clear: to advocate and foster positions favourable to Canada.

I would like now to respond to some of the statements made by my hon. colleagues across the floor when this issue was debated in October. I was somewhat surprised when the member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca stated that it was about time that the federal government “spent some attention on softwood lumber and other issues of trade dispute”. As was mentioned earlier, this issue is now well on its way to being resolved as a result of what the government has done.

By our actions, we have made it crystal clear that the softwood lumber dispute is a top priority for the government. The Government of Canada is exploring every possible option with a view to resolving the dispute, including litigation, high level political intervention and advocacy.

As the hon. member knows, the Prime Minister has raised the issue with President Bush at every opportunity, including most recently on November 18 during the meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group, APEC, in Busan, Korea.

We certainly understand and are very sympathetic to the adverse impact of U.S. duties on Canadian companies, workers and communities. This is why the Government of Canada is committed to continue working with our industry and the provinces to press the United States to live up to its trade obligations.

This collaborative work is also done on behalf of other Canadian industries that are subject to unjustified restrictive trade measures. For example, when the United States initiated trade investigations against Canadian exports of wheat or some live swine, or when the United States blocked Canadian exports of beef, the government took action.

To say, then, that the government has “ignored” Canadian stakeholders involved in trade disputes would obviously be wrong. In fact, it would be the exact opposite.

I do indeed agree with the hon. member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca when he states that Canada is a trading nation. I could not agree more with him when he states that “the Canadian government has a clear duty...to take every step available in law to protect our export industries and our trade”.

We have done so and this government will continue to do so. However, the hon. member and other members of the opposition parties seem to send contradictory messages when discussing the bill. On the one hand, the member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca has stated that “legal bills to date...are $350 million and are escalating by $100 million a year”. Then he stated that Bill C-364 “...likely will not cost the taxpayers any money at all, either in the short term or the long term”. Clearly with your ruling today, Mr. Speaker, I think that is certainly put to rest.

Unless I have misread Bill C-364, it is the hon. member's expectation that the bill would cover at least part of the legal costs incurred by the Canadian softwood lumber industry.

Of course, I am not trying here to downgrade the importance of the backdrop of Bill C-364, nor am I attempting to diminish the concerns associated with legal expenses in these kinds of trade disputes. The federal government also incurs legal expenses, but we believe that there are more effective and efficient ways to assist industries involved in trade disputes.

One example is the recently announced CAN-Trade initiative, in which the government reaffirmed its commitment to fostering jobs, economic growth and sustainable prosperity.

There are four major thrusts to this initiative. First is to strengthen and expand Canada's bilateral and multilateral framework and advocacy efforts. This will include promoting a successful completion of the Doha negotiations of the World Trade Organization, defending Canadian rights through NAFTA and the WTO, and developing, of course, new trade and investment policy tools and instruments.

The CAN-Trade initiative is about being aggressive and proactive with respect to targeted advocacy work in our new key and emerging markets. To this end, an additional $12 million is proposed to broaden Canada's advocacy efforts in key markets, including through activities aimed at establishing institutional linkages and joint research in support of Canada's trade and economic interests.

International trade is a priority to the government and we continue to demonstrate this by our actions.

The federal government works with all Canadian interested stakeholders, both in Canada and abroad, toward a strong and unified position.

Are there unexpected delays in trade disputes? Yes.

Would we like to see the dispute settlement process work in a more timely fashion? Of course.

This is precisely why senior officials of all three NAFTA countries are discussing ways to improve the functioning of chapter 19.

Members may recall that the Prime Minister made Canada's concerns regarding this issue clear to President Bush during the president's visit in November 2004.

Let me assure this House, members and the Canadian public that the government will continue to work diligently and responsibly in defending Canadian trade interests involved in trade disputes.

Finally, the Government of Canada will continue to cooperate with domestic stakeholders toward strong and unified positions and will continue to be an active player within NAFTA and the WTO to clarify and improve the rules governing all international trade.

Trade Compensation Act
Private Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Rivière-Du-Loup—Montmagny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will begin by repeating that the Bloc Québécois is in favour of the adoption of Bill C-364. In fact, if there has been one aspect of the federal government's action in the softwood lumber crisis that has been worthwhile, namely the legal preparations for eventually winning the case, there has also been an aspect that is far less worthwhile: the federal government's reluctance to provide the companies with any proper help and support.

The hon. member's initiative is part of the remedy to that.

There is a need to send a clear message to all countries. In this case, it would apply to the Americans and the softwood lumber crisis. If they decide to go against international agreements, they will find their way blocked, as far as Canada is concerned, by a government that will defend the industries in the country that is affected and will make sure they are protected. That is the message from the government that I would have liked to see before, and am glad to find in the bill the hon. member has just introduced.

It is along the same lines as today's announcement by the federal government. There was a lot of extremely negative reaction to that. One article has as its headline “Forest industry aid program more than disappointing”. It goes on:

Guy Chevrette, CEO of the Quebec Forestry Industry Council is extremely disappointed with the forest industry aid program announced today by the [naming the Prime Minister of Canada] government .

Mr. Chevrette is quoted as saying “It would appear that the Canadian government has still not grasped how precarious the financial situation of the Quebec forest industry is. In excess of $330 million has been collected illegally by the United States every year since May 2002.”

In line with this bill, we need to send a message to the Americans that we will, unequivocally, defend our industry.

In the same vein, we would have expected the federal government to provide loan guarantees for the total amount the companies have paid to the Americans, who received that money illegally. As far as the NAFTA panel is concerned, the Americans finally decided to comply, but without giving the money back. This is yet another indication that they want the debate to drag on, thereby ensuring that at the end of the day, there will be fewer and fewer Quebec and Canadian companies left.

Even if we win the legal battle, even if we achieve a return to free trade on softwood lumber, there will no longer be any companies left to celebrate.

In this vein, we wanted to see up to $5 billion in loan guarantees. As the Quebec forest industry council said:

The Council finds that this decision sends the wrong message to the Americans, suggesting that Canada believes it can recover only $800 million of the $5 billion collected at the border.

We see what a negative impact the federal government's rather petty approach has on what remains the most important point of the negotiation, namely, recovering the $5 billion illegally collected by the Americans. To ensure this is done, that a firm position is taken during the negotiation on this money, there should have been loan guarantees for the total amount. There also should have been a bill, like the one we have today, stating that if the U.S. government or any other government in the world does not respect decisions made by international agreement, we will protect the affected industry and come to its defence after that country has shown it failed to respect the international agreement.

The Americans have made a decision to respect the panel, but there is still no decision to ensure that we will recover the $5 billion. We absolutely must move forward in that direction. For Quebec alone we are talking about $1.2 billion paid to the Americans, while today the federal government has announced loan guarantees for only $150 million.

It is as though they have decided to keep the companies afloat, but not to give them a serious hand. There are other aspects of the program that might be interesting in today's announcement, but the urgency of the moment, the urgency I felt at the meetings I had, the contact I had with industry people, with small, medium and big companies affected by the softwood lumber crisis, is that hard cash is needed as soon as possible to help our companies breathe and get through this crisis. In the same way today, the debate shows that the government is still nervous about the Conservative bill. In its action plan it has the same logic and is very nervous.

We should also look at the statements made on this initiative. The Quebec government made such a statement and said that, in its opinion, the assistance plan announced by the federal government for the softwood lumber industry is inadequate. The economic development, innovation and exports minister, Claude Béchard, hopes that the door will remain open in Ottawa, even after the federal election, so that Quebec can get more.

We feel a deep dissatisfaction about the announcement that was just made. We have been engaged in this dispute with the Americans for a number of years. We know that we have a good case and a good legal defence. However, we still do not have adequate financial support. Today again, we do not see this will, because the government refuses to pass the bill now before us, and because the program it unveiled today is clearly inadequate.

Several months ago, it was announced that legal costs would be covered, but we are still not able to do that. When a nice political statement is made, such as announcing that the associations' legal costs will be covered, among other measures, it provides some oxygen. Then, month after month we expect a cheque that never comes. In the end, there is no assistance. No support is provided.

Even though a plan was announced, we are forced to raise the issue again today because industry people are still waiting for something in writing to take to their bankers, confirming that the government is guaranteeing that the legal costs will be covered. This way, they could ask them to give them a chance with their lines of credit. We are still waiting for that announcement to be made.

It is obvious that the Quebec forestry industry and the Government of Quebec are disappointed. They are not happy with the action plan announced by the federal government. For one thing, it came too late. We had to stay on its case for more than two years. The Bloc Québécois has asked for a plan repeatedly in this House. I have lost count of the number of questions we have put—20, 25, 30 or 50 perhaps—to have the government provide loan guarantees. Finally, it is announced that guarantees will be provided, but only to the tune of $800 million on a total of $5 billion; that is 16%. For each $100 in duties paid to the U.S., the Canadian government will guarantee $16. This will leave $84 unguaranteed.

During the negotiations that will take place to recover that money, the Americans will realize that the Canadian government does not want to take risks. It expects to get $800 million out of $5 billion, and to recover 16% of the money. The Americans may adopt an inflexible position and say that they will not pay the $5 billion, or that they will not even pay 50% of that amount. Ultimately, that position would be very damaging, considering there is no reason why that money should remain in the Americans' pockets.

I will conclude by saying that the hon. member's initiative deserves to be supported. The government should have taken into consideration all the suggestions made to help the industry much sooner, and it should also have taken into consideration the questions that we kept repeating in the House. For a long time, we were told that loan guarantees could not be provided, that this could not be done because it was not legal and it would violate international agreements. It does not violate international agreements. The government decided to do it, but not to the degree that is required. In the same spirit, it should have adopted the bill.

The Bloc Québécois supports the bill before us today. It provides an additional tool that would allow our softwood industry to get by. The industry really needs this measure. Today, in light of its reaction to the federal assistance plan that was announced, we can see that this plan is not satisfactory to the industry. It will not allow it to make it through the crisis without being hurt. This will result in less money spent on research and development, reduced competitiveness and fewer jobs.

By the end of the crisis we will have won our case, and while we may congratulate ourselves then, there will not be any company or workers around to benefit from that victory. This is why we should pass the bill that is now before the House.

Trade Compensation Act
Private Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to have the opportunity to speak in the debate on Bill C-364, the trade compensation act. I want to compliment the member from northern Alberta for introducing this bill. It is an important contribution to the discussion that we have had around the softwood lumber dispute. In the first hour of debate our party's trade critic spoke in favour of this bill.

The bill is an act to provide compensation to Canadian industry associations and Canadian exporters who incur financial loss as a result of unjustified restrictive trade actions by foreign governments which are signatories to trade agreements involving Canadian products. It is in response to the softwood lumber situation that we have had recently in Canada.

Unfortunately, Canadians have seen that the Liberal government has done nothing to resolve the softwood lumber dispute. It has hung workers and their families out to dry. It has hung Canadian communities out to dry. It has hung exporters and industry associations out to dry with the legal expenses they have incurred over this dispute.

Four million dollars a day bleeds to the U.S. due to the illegal tariffs imposed on Canadian lumber. This is not a new occurrence; it has been going on for years. Over $5 billion has been illegally collected by the United States, despite Canada having won judgment after judgment, including NAFTA's binding dispute resolution mechanism.

It is not just an issue of timeliness in trade negotiations, as the parliamentary secretary would like us to believe. It is a question of whether or not these agreements are working at all to the benefit of Canadians, or working as they were intended to work.

We have also heard concerns that the Liberal government may be prepared to bargain away some of that $5 billion to negotiate with the Americans on the issue of how much is exactly owed to Canadians because of this dispute. It is appalling if that willingness is there. That money is owed to Canadians and should be paid. This agreement should be made to work the way it was intended to work.

We have heard that exporters and industry associations have had to ante up $350 million for their legal fees because of this dispute. We agree that assistance should be offered to them given this extraordinary situation, given the U.S.'s intransigence on the issues around softwood lumber and given the inaction of the Liberal government.

It was only today, days before the fall of the Liberal government, that an aid package was announced around softwood lumber. Unfortunately, it is too little, too late. It is hard to believe that this dispute has gone on for years, that it has affected communities the way it has, that it has affected workers the way it has, that it has affected businesses the way it has, and it was only today, days before the fall of the government, that we heard about some measures to deal with the situation. That is not acceptable. This has been an urgent priority for many Canadians, particularly British Columbians. To have it ignored until this late time is absolutely unacceptable. It is another reason that I think British Columbians, and not just members of the opposition here in the House, lack confidence in the government,.

British Columbia has been hard hit by the softwood lumber dispute. As I said, jobs have been lost. I heard the other day from a member of the B.C. legislature that at least 17 mills have closed recently. Family incomes have been shattered. There has been economic fallout for other businesses. The economic well-being of many communities in the interior of British Columbia depend on the lumber industry. We have seen those businesses badly affected by this dispute.

What did the Liberals do? They made a few phone calls, after taking months to find the President's number. President Bush did not get a phone call for many months. Many times in the House members of the opposition rose to urge the Prime Minister to take some action. He put off that phone call for many months. He could not find the phone number, I suppose.

What is the Prime Minister doing now? He said that he raised the issue with the President and that he raised it at the recent APEC meeting. What is doing now? He is threatening more talk. As my leader said in the House the other day, it seems the only weapon the Liberals have to wield in this dispute with the United States is a broken record that threatens more talk and the same talk over and over again.

That is just not acceptable. The people in British Columbia know this is not an acceptable way of resolving this dispute. People in British Columbia have close ties to the United States. They know what it means to live next door to the U.S. They want action. They are not afraid of standing up to the Americans and saying that this situation is unacceptable. They are not afraid of taking some action that would press the Americans and show them that we are serious about this. British Columbians are not afraid, for instance, of a levy on our energy exports. They know that would get the attention of the Americans in this dispute.

People in British Columbia also are not afraid of raising the whole issue of the takeover of Terasen gas utility by the Americans and putting some restrictions on that. We have the third largest utility in Canada being taken over by Kinder Morgan, an American company, without a protest from Canada. That is despite the fact that over 8,000 British Columbians wrote to the B.C. Utilities Commission to raise serious questions about the takeover of this company, a company that was for many years a public company in British Columbia. For many years, it was prevented from being owned by foreign interests. That was all changed by the current B.C. Liberal government.

Those who wrote to the B.C. Utilities Commission called for action on this and for public hearings. The B.C. Utilities Commission dismissed all their questions and refused to hold public hearings.

We were hopeful that the federal government, through Investment Canada, through the Foreign Investment Review Agency, might take some action as well, but alas, it too caved and said that there was no reason this takeover should not go ahead. It is typical. Eleven thousand takeovers have happened with absolutely no action by Investment Canada. I guess it was a false hope on our part that maybe at this point it would have found the courage to act on behalf of Canadians and in the interests of Canadians.

Many Canadians are worried about this takeover, not only because Terasen is the major oil and gas pipeline and a major provider of gas to over 800,000 customers in B.C. and Alberta. They also are worried because of its interest in water systems in our municipalities. Terasen owns the municipal water systems in over a dozen municipalities in Canada, notably those in Calgary and Kelowna. Many British Columbians and Canadians are worried about the foothold a foreign-owned company, Kinder Morgan, would have on our water systems in Canada and what that would mean in terms of free trade and control of our water resource.

Very serious issues surround the takeover of Terasen. We have protested it in the New Democratic Party. Many British Columbians have protested it. The NDP caucus in the B.C. legislature has worked hard on this and has protested it there. We believe this is one of the areas where our government could have chosen to exercise some pressure on the United States. That pressure could have led to a resolution of the problems on softwood lumber. Without some kind of action on the part of Canada, more than just talk, the Americans will not budge. We all know that is the reality of our relationship with the United States.

Last summer the NDP asked that Parliament to be recalled early to deal with the crisis in softwood lumber. We were prepared to come back from our constituencies to get to work here in the House to resolve this issue. The Liberals rejected that suggestion and nothing was done.

We called for energy levies and nothing was done. We called for an end to the NAFTA-plus negotiations. We are in a situation where the government is actively negotiating an extension of the NAFTA. What kind of craziness is that, when the current agreement is not working for Canadians in such a dramatic fashion?

We believe the bill is an important contribution to the whole discussion around the softwood lumber dispute and that it makes an important suggestion about how assistance might properly be provided to companies that are badly affected by this. We are prepared to see that go forward and be discussed further.

Trade Compensation Act
Private Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's South, NL

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to participate in the debate on Bill C-364. One reason why I want to speak on this is it has been put forth by the hard-working member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca.

One might ask what is the connection between the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl and the member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca. There are very few Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who do not have someone in Fort McMurray. Because of what has happened in our own province over the years, due to government neglect and mismanagement, many of our young people have had to leave and go west. Fort McMurray is the third largest Newfoundland community. That will give members an idea of how many of our people are in Fort McMurray. Any interests which the member for Fort McMurray has, is an interest for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The other question people might ask is why am I speaking to the bill. Even though it does not mention softwood lumber, most of us are aware that the big issue around which the legislation is built is the softwood lumber dispute and the shafting the producers and exporters have had because of government inaction.

I do not have a lot of softwood exporters or producers in my riding. It is more or less an urban riding now. When I had the rural section of it, we did not have many trees and the ones we had certainly were not very big. It has not been an issue with which I have had direct contact. However, we have many softwood producers as well as exporters in the province. Mainly they are in the area of two Liberal members of Parliament, and I will not draw attention to them. They are in Newfoundland and Labrador today making a political announcement on infrastructure, one that was made in Newfoundland and Labrador about a month ago. When an election is coming, Liberals love to make the same announcement twice, maybe three times or four times.

The funny thing about today is when the two members arrived in Newfoundland and Labrador to make the announcement, they arrived independent of each other, each not knowing the other was coming. Apparently both showed up to make the same big announcement. On our local stations this evening there is quite a story on how the members of Parliament could not get their act together.

Since they could not be here, someone has to stand up for Newfoundland and Labrador. We have found that is common practice.

The major concern the bill points to is the period after having signed a free trade agreement, an agreement which the government opposite said originally it would never support. When free trade was introduced by the Mulroney government, the Liberals at the time not only said they would not support it, they said that if were ever elected, there would be no free trade. We all know they said the same thing about GST.

They were elected, and we have free trade and GST. It is a good thing we do. These days the only thing the Liberals can crow about is the fact that we have a surplus. We have had one for a few years. Looking ahead, if the Liberals do not squander it all, which they are certainly doing these days, we will continue to have a surplus. However, they talk about the great fiscal policies.

We know how we really got the surplus. The surplus came to us because of three programs, the main one being free trade. There is no one in the country who doubts that free trade gave us most of the money that we now receive. Second, is the GST, and no one likes it. The government was going to get rid of it, but it brought in a lot of money. It helped balance the budget.

We on this side of the House, leading into the Christmas season, cannot take all the credit for bringing in the plan to address the major deficit of the past, a deficit we inherited from the Trudeau government, which grew when interest rates went up over 20%. However, we had the plan. It was free trade and GST, and it addressed the deficit.

Let us give the Liberals credit for their contribution. They also contributed to creating the surplus. They cut social programs. That was their major contribution to the deficit. All we have to do is look at what happened to our health and education transfers over the years under the Liberal government. The social programs across the country have been cut and cut. Now in the last few days we have seen billions of dollars going back into them without any management plan.

Having given the Liberals all the credit they are due, let us look at the situation at hand.

Producers and exporters have an amount of $5 billion sitting outside their pockets and outside the country, which they should have if there were any leadership by the government or any international presence. We are a joke on the international stage.

I want to get away from the softwood lumber issue for a minute because everybody else is talking about it, about duties and about the lack of ability by government to get the countries which have signed the NAFTA, the United States in this case, to live up the agreement. It is inconceivable. It just lack of leadership.

Let us go to another issue. Back about four years ago, we on this side of the House, and some of us down in the corner at the time, consistently asked the international trade minister when he would address the upcoming softwood lumber negotiations. He would say, and the record will show, that we should worry about it, that Canada had never lost an international ruling. It was not going to be an issue. Suddenly, the time period was up. What happened? All we have to do is ask our exporters and our producers. The government fiddled while Rome was burning.

At the same time, we also asked him questions about the tariff on shrimp going into the European market. If Canadian shrimp is cooked and peeled here, when it is sent to the European markets, it is subjected to a 20% tariff. One might say that the Europeans can afford it. If that were all there was to it, it would not be problem. The problem is in our kindness we give huge allocations of shrimp to the same European countries that are blocking our excess to the markets. They can go home duty free and put their shrimp into the same markets we sell our shrimp at 20% less than we can do it. Every time the quotas off our coast are increased, Canada is the major beneficiary, but the foreign countries get a quota also.

The thing about Canada is we fish what we are given. They fish sometimes up to 10 times as much as they are given. Last year when Denmark was given a quota, it used the objection procedures and said that it did not accept that. It said that it would fish 10 times more than it was given. The Danish fished seven times more, and that is on paper. We can imagine how much they really fished.

What is happening to Danish shrimp? It is going into the European markets. Who is really blocking Canada? Who is really trying to ensure that 20% tariff stays? The Danish. What are we doing about it? There are people in the country who could say what we are more quickly and in fewer words. However, we are doing absolutely nothing. It is the same thing we are doing about the softwood lumber. We are showing no presence on the international stage. We are becoming the laughing stock of the world, and our people are the ones who are suffering.

Trade Compensation Act
Private Members' Business

6 p.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to this private members' bill brought forward by my friend, the member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca.

Bill C-364 is about giving compensation to Canadian companies that incur financial losses as a result of unjustified and restrictive trade actions by foreign governments that are signatories to trade agreements involving Canadian products.

We all know that Canada is a trading nation. Close to half of our GDP is from international trade. It is very important for us to have a rules based system to ensure that we, with a smaller population, do have access to world markets, but under a fair trade system.

For that reason, the Canadian government, including the opposition, have always been fighting to ensure we have what we call fair trading rules. Therefore we give a high level of support to the WTO and to other trade agreements. It is our desire to carry on with these free trade agreements which we are now conducting with Japan and which we hope in the future to conduct with India as well.

I have attended the WTO meetings in Seattle and Doha in the past to ensure that Canada was well represented and to ensure we received a fair rules based system for our Canadian exporters and for our markets.

Hopefully, my colleague from Macleod will be going to Hong Kong for the next WTO meeting, even if the election is on the horizon. It is important for Canada's voice to be heard there. My colleague from Macleod has done a tremendous job in ensuring Canada is heard. I hope he does go there and brings Canada's voice to the WTO meeting.

There is no question that protectionism is growing around the world and it keeps growing. Even with the WTO meeting, we can see that the agricultural subsidies that are being given by the European Union and the U.S.A. are under scrutiny and attack by everyone because it distorts the market.

Canada is trying to get a rules based system. What about the Third World countries that cannot get a rules based system? These countries rely on the WTO. Henceforth, they are demanding at the WTO to have agricultural subsidies removed in order to have fair trade.

Canada has announced that it will be forgiving debt to Third World countries. Canada has announced that it is giving foreign aid and that it is raising its foreign aid commitment, but at the same time it is not opening up the market. I am happy to say that Canada has opened up that market but other countries in the European Union have not opened up their markets.

I watched a documentary recently on Lake Victoria in East Africa, the country from which I come, and the huge amount of fish that is caught that cannot be exported to the European Union due to restrictive measures. Just imagine what would happen if all this fish could be exported to the European Union. We could see the whole economic condition change. These people would not then be needing any foreign aid because they would be able to compete on the world market and go on with their business.

As a member of Parliament I have sat for eight years on the foreign affairs committee. I have seen countries not open up their markets. It is very difficult to get countries to open up their market because of national interests and the domestic markets.

When NAFTA was signed we thought we had a great agreement. We went around the world saying that NAFTA was the kind of agreement countries should have for a free trade agreement. We touted NAFTA as one of those excellent trade agreements that a country could have. Lo and behold, the ruling on the softwood lumber that the U.S.A. is ignoring now has come as a deep shock to everyone here who has been fighting for free trade.

Mr. Bush himself has been saying that he loves free trade. Everybody has been saying they love free trade. It is quite interesting that he was in Buenos Aires recently talking about the free trade of the Americas and yet we have a free trade agreement with him and he is having difficulty even fulfilling that portion of the agreement.

One may ask why we would extend more free trade agreements, why anybody would put credence into the U.S.A. opening up its markets when it cannot even fulfill the NAFTA agreement, which was unanimous on softwood lumber. Today speakers have all identified what has happened with softwood lumber and all the duties that the U.S. is getting.

That leads us to the main point, which is where does the burden fall? The burden should fall on the Government of Canada. The Government of Canada should be fighting for these trade agreements that we sign and stand up for them. Unfortunately, it falls on Canadian companies to take up the legal challenges. It falls on Canadian companies to pay these duties which are now under dispute.

Today, on the eve of the election, an announcement was made that the federal Liberals are going to do something about softwood lumber. We are talking about the duties. It is amazing that an announcement is made on the eve of a general election. It is also after pressure was applied by the three opposition parties. They said that they wanted a definite response from the government and wanted to see what it has done. As we know, all three of them agreed on that.

Nevertheless, there is this business of making promises at election time, getting elected and then not keeping the promises, which is what the Liberal Party has been doing for many years. We see a repetition of the same thing. It is making promises.

What we need is legislation not promises. We need legislation that will address this deficiency that exists, which is how long Canadian companies can carry the burden of what we sign with the U.S. Once we sign these free trade agreements we come across these restrictive practices, which will keep coming no matter what.

This is something we will always fight in domestic markets to international markets. These disputes are going to keep coming so we need a mechanism in place so that industry, government, everybody involved has a cohesive approach to address this issue when these things arise. We should never be caught again with what happened with softwood lumber. We sat down and agreed to NAFTA. Now we find that one partner of NAFTA is not adhering to the decision that it agreed to sign.

I was in Calgary when the President of Mexico was there and he agreed with us too. However, combining Mexico and Canada, we still do not have the huge power that the U.S.A. has, which is the reason NAFTA was established.

What do we do? We are bringing in legislation to ensure that Canadian companies do not suffer unnecessarily or do not go under while these wars are taking place, while we are fighting these things through tribunals, court actions and all the mechanisms that we are establishing in the international market to ensure there is a good rules based system that is applicable to everyone so that we are not bullied by a larger economy, which is always the case.

I just came back from a trade mission in Central Europe, which has just joined the European Union which has again become a large economic block. On one side we have the U.S. market, which is a large economic block, and on the other we have the European Union, which is a large economic block. Therefore we need to ensure that we have mechanisms to help us fight.

In conclusion, I am very happy that my friend brought the bill forward and that the matter can be resolved and sent to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

Trade Compensation Act
Private Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The member moving the motion has a five minute right of reply to conclude the debate. The hon. member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca.

Trade Compensation Act
Private Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased speak in the House today to this bill, the trade compensation act, which would help so many people in Canada involved in exports, including lumber, cattle or whatever it may be. I think the bill would certainly help our companies internationally to compete more effectively and make international companies and other countries realize that Canadians are serious about supporting our industry.

I first want to thank my colleagues for their support and input, including the members for Vancouver Island North, Calgary East and St. John's South—Mount Pearl. I especially want to say to my friend from St. John's South--Mount Pearl that the more Newfoundlanders who would come to Fort McMurray, either permanently or temporarily, would be most welcome to work in the many high paying jobs in that area.

Finally, I wish to thank my leader, the member for Calgary Southwest, for his support, his hard work and his leadership. I can assure Canadians that with his leadership and example I believe we would be much better off as a country.

As well, the situation speaks volumes about the government and its role when it takes a Conservative member of Parliament to introduce legislation that would offer real support to Canadian industry, especially industries that have been so often placated and so often abused by foreign countries that are taking advantage of their own internal legislation to put our exporters at risk in their own jobs.

This trade dispute has especially devastated the Quebec forest industry and the B.C. forest industry. I think it is our role as Canadian parliamentarians to stand up for Canadians throughout Canada, wherever they may be, to ensure they are fairly treated.

The bill offers tangible, concrete support to our exporters. It offers them the help they so desperately need right now. The bill in fact should have been introduced by the government and it should have been introduced a long time ago.

What we have before us is a bill that is unanimously supported by all opposition parties. No member, I understand, from any of the opposition parties takes exception to the bill or what it sets out. Some 65% of Canadians are supporting this type of bill and this particular bill. I would suggest, if we look at the members opposite from northern Ontario, Quebec and B.C., they would have no choice but to support the bill and it would pass with a large number of members supporting it if the government would provide it with a royal recommendation.

I think voters should ask themselves why the Liberal government is not allowing the bill to proceed. I would suggest that they ask that question especially during any time that they have the opportunity to tell the government how they feel about supporting Canadians and supporting Canadian industry.

The government is playing politics with softwood lumber producers' lives, with exporters of cattle, with exporters of all types of industries across Canada. I suppose the best that workers affected by these actions can hope for is a deathbed conversion by the Liberal government and perhaps it will make an announcement.

But wait. The government actually has $1.5 billion that it announced just recently for softwood lumber. But what is it for? It is for retraining unemployed softwood workers, people who are unemployed and cannot find jobs because the government will not support the industry. It is for finding other markets.

What I find is that the Liberal government's answer to this particular crisis in industry is to retrain workers for other jobs and to actually throw more money at bureaucrats to find other markets. Does this mean the world is not aware that we sell wood? Do we not compete in markets around the world currently? Do we have to now buy our customers or is the Liberal government using this money to explore the solar system to establish new markets where they have no earthly competition?

Most likely this $1.5 billion, like most Liberal promises, will indeed go to the solar system. It will disappear in smoke never to be seen or heard from again, another bad use of taxpayer money.

I submit that the workers and the industry in Canada deserve better. They deserve a government that will stand up for our country, for our exporters and take immediate action on issues, not wait and wait and make announcements that have no substance. They deserve a Conservative government.

It has been decided that we need a royal recommendation. I do not appreciate that answer, Mr. Speaker, but I appreciated you looking into it. The questions Canadians need to ask themselves are: Why will the Liberal government not provide a royal recommendation? Why will the Liberal government not answer to Parliament, to the 65% of Canadians represented in this Parliament who want this bill to go ahead? Why are the Liberals opposing it at this stage? I would suggest that they will not because they will not cooperate with the rest of Parliament.

If the Conservatives form the government, we will cooperate with the rest of the parties. We will get work done and we will work for Canadians.

Trade Compensation Act
Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Is the House ready for the question?

Trade Compensation Act
Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.