House of Commons Hansard #54 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was industry.

Topics

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member may recall that when the softwood deal came up it was a rush. Again, it was one of these issues where the government had to have an answer quickly. The Prime Minister was not even here for question period. The Conservatives were just doing it and then they tabled it, gave it to the other leaders and said that we were in the House and we had to make a decision.

That deal which was presented to and addressed by the House at that time is not the deal that is represented in Bill C-24. In fact, some of the provisions are there, but the deal has changed substantively. It seems to me that this is not a long term solution to this problem.

In fact, the bill itself only provides a horizon of less than 24 months, and we are going to be right back at it because we have abandoned the dispute resolution mechanism. The government has put the onus on those who want to pursue their legal rights. It has put them under pressure, saying that the government has abandoned them. The Minister of International Trade has said that the industry is going it alone if it does not accept this deal.

Perhaps the member would care to at least comment. I understand that he wants to protect the industry in Quebec, but we really need a long term solution. This bill represents only a short term solution. Is the member going to continue to fight for the rights of the softwood industry after this deal--maybe--goes through?

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, the problem of my Liberal colleague and his party is simple. Once again, they are not in touch with what the public is asking. We are much more pragmatic than that. Of course we are capable of analyzing documents, making legal analyses and other things. The industry is saying they have had it with discussions on legal documents. The only problem is that the Liberal Party does not understand that and it is still wrapped up in discussions on legal documents.

The industry and workers are now saying that time is up. They want their countervailing duties back and even if it is a bad agreement, they want it now. That is why a majority of Quebeckers put their trust in the Bloc Québécois to defend their interests. We have a symbiotic relationship with the people of Quebec. Employers and employees are asking us to sign the agreement and that is what we are doing. We are not overjoyed to do so, just as they are not overjoyed to accept it.

The only problem is that the Liberal Party still has not understood that the legal discussions are over and that it is now time to move on, help the companies, the employees, the men and women who work and who have dedicated their lives to this industry. The Bloc Québécois made this decision to help its people and to stop fighting. As they say, the worst agreement is always better than the best trial. That is what the Bloc Québécois chose together with the industry, employers and employees.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Bloc

Raynald Blais Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

First of all, I wish to pay tribute to my colleague who just spoke. I think that he is putting us back on the right track as opposed to what we heard previously from the member for Outremont.

Second, I would like to ask a very simple question. Who did the NDP, the Conservatives or the Liberals consult in Quebec? I am under the impression, from what the NDP, the Liberals and the Conservatives are saying, that they did not consult anyone in Quebec. Or, if they did, they were not listening.

I would like my colleague to comment on this.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine for his question. He is quite right. If the NDP and the Liberals vote against this agreement, despite the appeals from the industry, workers and Quebec citizens, it is because they have not understood and they have not consulted

The Conservative party managed to negotiate a sellout agreement. They did not adopt the plan put forward by the Bloc Québécois. This plan, supported by the industry, called for loan guarantees and tax credits to cover potential losses. The Conservative Party negotiated this agreement, I reiterate, without consulting the industry.

Thus, the Bloc Québécois is the only party that is attuned to and wholeheartedly supports the interests of Quebeckers working in the forestry industry. These people can count on us.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to join this debate. I would like to share with members of this House the concerns of the United Steelworkers so that they will realize that these are not just casual concerns and how serious this issue is.

The United Steelworkers represent over 280,000 Canadian members, 50,000 of whom work in the forest sector. They know the issue well and they are very serious about their concerns. They truly believe that the deal we are considering is a poor one and that Canadians already had a successful strategy to deal with the U.S. forest industry and administration's unfair and illegal imposition of lumber tariffs and duties in May 2002.

Since then we have shown the Americans that many Canadian sawmills could outcompete them, even with exorbitant duties on our lumber exports. Any recent economic problems firms face have more to do with the rising Canadian dollar than with U.S. protectionist measures. By winning in court, meanwhile, we showed them that the Americans' legal case was groundless and their protectionist measures were illegal.

Canada was winning after all, whether in North American Free Trade Agreement tribunals, the World Trade Organization, or U.S. courts of law. On July 13 the Court of International Trade ruled that the tariffs and duties were illegal, a judgment that simply serves to confirm our views. The U.S. is rapidly exhausting its legal avenues before NAFTA, as witnessed by NAFTA's rejection of American extraordinary challenges appeals. The U.S. is even losing at the WTO, the only body which had previously upheld some of its contentions.

We find it unfortunate, therefore, that the current government is prepared to throw away the advantages we have earned at law and instead decided to saddle the industry with what is clearly a terrible negotiated agreement.

In agreeing to the terms of the current agreement, it appears that the current government has fallen into the trap that Carl Grenier of the Free Trade Lumber Council describes when he observes that Canada has admitted that we are “guilty as charged” of producing subsidized lumber, dumping it on U.S. markets and unfairly harming the U.S. industry. We are therefore prepared to throw ourselves on the Americans' mercy, as Grenier notes.

But Canada is not guilty as charged on any of these counts. We all know that. Successive court rulings continue to prove it.

Nonetheless, for policy reasons known perhaps best to the government but not to Canadians, the government has rushed into this devastating agreement. It did so without proper consultation with affected governments and stakeholders. In spite of commitments to the contrary, the deal was even initialed in Geneva before industry representatives had a chance to comment.

It is, in short, a hastily concluded deal. The steelworkers truly believe that we all, as Canadians, will come to regret it. After all, it is clear that the agreement is severely flawed. Those are the issues that are being pointed out to the government today.

The terms do not provide free access to the U.S. market, in spite of the Prime Minister's claim in the House of Commons on April 28. Canadian exports are capped at 34% of the U.S. lumber market and further trampled by the so-called surge mechanism, a policy which effectively penalizes Canadian producers for efficiency. Meanwhile the U.S. companies continue to have free access to the Canadian raw logs, while third country producers enjoy truly free access to the U.S. market.

The timeline, which has changed dramatically over the course of negotiations since April 27, potentially gives Canada as little as two years of peace, not the seven to nine we were originally offered. We learned that the U.S. would now enjoy preferential rights to abrogate the agreement, yet the $1 billion price tag remains the same.

The timing is poor, since most industry analysts agree that the U.S. housing market, hot until recently, is now cooling off. That means that from the onset of the agreement, Canadian producers will likely be paying 10% to 15% in export tax, a rate higher than even the current level of U.S. tariffs and duties.

What is in the deal for Canada? As was noted in a submission at the standing committee back on June 19, the steelworkers believe that the only reason to sign off on this agreement is the prospect of getting back a portion of the illegally held money currently held by the U.S. commerce department. They respectfully submit that this is just not a good enough reason to lock Canada into what is really a short term fix that not long from now will permit a renewal of U.S. protectionist measures. Developments since June have merely confirmed this judgment.

After all, although the deal calls for the return of 80% of the illegally taken remissions of Canadian companies, there are still no provisions in the agreement for much needed investment in the Canadian forest sector, even though we have seen a number of recent closures attributed to the lack of sufficient capital formation in Canada.

While many of the plants and their equipment in Canada remain starved for capital, our forest companies have continued to invest profits made in Canada in United States and overseas acquisitions, mergers or outside the sector. Notably, Canadian companies like Canfor, Abitibi, Ainsworth and Interfor have purchased mills in the United States. Steelworkers continue to have major concerns until we move forward.

To this end, there must be commitments that a generous portion of any remissions firms receive from a settlement of the lumber dispute will be reinvested in job creation, worker training and retraining and infrastructure and community adjustment in Canada, not outside Canada.

It is a bitter pill for workers and communities to swallow, for instance, when they learn that while the deal calls for $500 million in spending on such works in the United States, it calls for not one penny to be invested in Canada. How, they ask, can Canadian firms continue to invest in sawmills in South Carolina, Washington and Oregon, the OSB mills in Minnesota or plants in Maine while plants in this country continue to be closed due to lack of investment and capital? The Globe and Mail recently commented:

Underinvestment in the Eastern Canadian forest products industry has been chronic for so long that it would take billions to make the country's pulp and paper mills as modern as those in Scandinavia or South America.

The deal, however, with its abruptly short actual term of peace from U.S. trade actions, even provides the U.S. industry and the Coalition for Fair Lumber Imports with a reward for sponsoring what have now been definitely shown to be illegal trade actions: a $500 million nest egg with which to finance future harassment, as early as two years from the time this deal goes into effect.

In short, by now it is clear that this agreement does not well serve Canadian interests, whether the interests are of our forest industry, forest sector workers, forest based communities, or Canadian citizens. It provides insufficient value to Canada while offering dangerous incentives to future U.S. trade actions. It does not represent a satisfactory resolution to the lumber trade dispute.

Steelworkers recommend the following course of action. Canada must renounce this agreement. The government and Canadian companies should continue with their legal actions. They urge Canadian companies to not agree to withdraw their legal challenges nor to agree to the payment of funds to the U.S. industry. The government should continue to support the legal actions required to erase fully all possible U.S. legal actions.

In short, the United Steelworkers of Canada urge Canadian companies and governments to set aside selfish interests and clearly stand up for Canada and Canadian interests. We must keep in mind the reality that Canada's forest sector is our leading industry and that it is a major source of jobs.

I have appreciated the opportunity to share the feelings of the United Steelworkers of Canada and to ask the government to rethink this whole deal.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, the softwood lumber agreement has dragged on for years, for way too long.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

An hon. member

Twenty-four years to be precise.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Twenty-four years. It is unbelievable, and the previous government could not seem to deal with it.

The lumber producing provinces across this country, including British Columbia, where the hon. member who is yapping back here is from, the industry, all the small loggers and the large loggers support this. Lumber producers from Quebec and from the east coast benefit big time, as do all the lumber producers in Ontario, or the bulk of them, and the ones from my riding.

I ask the hon. member, how many logging companies are in her riding and how many of those are in support of this agreement?

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, my understanding as a member of Parliament is that we are here to represent all of the country and not simply to look at parochial interests in our own riding.

This is an industry that is important and needs our support. We could have had a deal a long time ago. We wanted a good deal. This one is not a good deal. It is not a good deal for Canadians.

The House resumed from September 21 consideration of the motion.

Government Operations and Estimates
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

It being 5:30 p.m., pursuant to order made on Thursday, September 21, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion to concur in the second report of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates in the name of the hon. member for Hull—Aylmer.

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #35

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

I declare the motion carried.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

It being 6:05 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 June 16 consideration of the motion that Bill C-288, An Act to ensure Canada meets its global climate change obligations under the Kyoto Protocol, be read the second time and referred to a committee.