House of Commons Hansard #92 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was trade.

Topics

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

Vancouver Kingsway
B.C.

Conservative

David Emerson Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics

moved that Bill C-55, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the States of the European Free Trade Association (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland), the Agreement on Agriculture between Canada and the Republic of Iceland, the Agreement on Agriculture between Canada and the Kingdom of Norway and the Agreement on Agriculture between Canada and the Swiss Confederation, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour for me to stand in the House today and lead off debate on this trade agreement with the European Free Trade Association.

It is important when we debate our trade relationships to bear in mind that Canada has been, is now and always will be a highly trade dependent country. Indeed, there is probably not a member in the House or a person in Canada who is not dramatically affected by Canada's trade and Canada's trade performance.

I should note that we are unlike the United States, for example, as we are nearly two and a half times more trade dependent than the United States. We have a domestic market of 34 million people compared to nearly 400 million in the United States.

Trade is Canada's lifeblood. We can look at the forces of protectionism, which will be damaging to the United States over time if they continue, and we can see that if such forces were to be unleashed in Canada, I can assure hon. members it would be not just hurtful but devastating to Canada. Therefore, it is critically important that Canada continue to develop trade relationships such as the one we are debating today.

As you have noted, Mr. Speaker, this agreement is with four countries: Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. It is really a milestone in terms of Canadian trade policy. It is a milestone for a couple of reasons.

First, it is really our first substantial trade agreement in over a decade. Canada had a small agreement with Costa Rica in 2001, but I have to tell hon. members that the trade and investment numbers between Canada and the EFTA countries are nearly 30 times that of our relationship with Costa Rica. Really, our previous most significant trade agreement was back in 1996-97, when we made the deal with Chile.

We can look at the trade numbers and see that the combined exports and imports between Canada and the EFTA countries were over $13 billion in 2007. That is of course higher than our trade with Korea. It is a very substantial volume of trade and has grown rapidly in recent years.

When we look at foreign direct investment, we can see that two way investment flows between Canada and the EFTA countries are in the $28 billion range as of 2007. While people may make light of the fact that this is not a deal with the entire European Union, which would be our next priority on that side of the Atlantic, this is a very significant trade deal. These countries are relatively wealthy. Their GDP per capita is among the highest in the industrial world. They are technologically advanced countries. As I say, it is our first trade deal with a European bloc or country in terms of our bilateral free trade agreements.

When we look at it strategically for both countries, we can see that this is a trade deal that allows the EFTA countries to think of Canada as a gateway to the entire North American market, a market of 440 million people, and it allows Canadian businesses to look at the EFTA countries as a gateway into the European Union, because the EFTA countries do have a free trade arrangement with the European Union.

It is also important because Canada, and I think the majority of Canadians, most provinces and certainly the Government of Canada, is anxious to deepen our economic relationship with the larger European Union. To have shown that we can establish a free trade deal of the kind we have done with EFTA puts us in a very strong position to maintain and improve momentum in terms of doing a deeper trade deal with the European Union. That is a very high priority of this government.

As I look at our trade relationships, it is very important for members to recognize that we really have been on the sidelines for the better part of a decade in terms of our trade policies. We have become extremely dependent on the United States market because of NAFTA. That is all good, but for our trade it does mean that roughly 76% of our exports are going into the United States market. That is highly concentrated.

There are protectionist pressures in the United States these days, so it is critically important that we not focus just on improving NAFTA, which is a focus for us, but that we also look at diversifying our trade relationships. Other countries are doing it and they are doing it aggressively.

We can look at the United States. It has free trade agreements with 16 countries. Mexico has free trade agreements with 40 countries. Chile has trade agreements with 53 countries. Many of these countries are negotiating additional agreements as we speak.

We can look at Canada. Before this agreement, we have had free trade agreements with five countries through four agreements covering five countries. That is not good enough for a trade dependent economy like Canada's, which is why Canada is actively negotiating free trade agreements with a number of countries.

We have active trade negotiations going on with some 27 countries. When we broaden it to cover air bilaterals, investment agreements and free trade agreements, we are negotiating presently with something in the order of 100 countries.

This government is committed to a re-energized trade policy. We are moving forward aggressively to ensure that Canada is back in the game and that Canadian producers and Canadian jobs are not disadvantaged because we are sitting on the sidelines.

I would also note that on the same day we signed the EFTA agreement in Davos, Switzerland, we also concluded negotiations with Peru. That is another very significant trade agreement. It is a new generation trade agreement. When it comes before the House I will be able to explain to members some of the new and innovative elements in the agreement with Peru.

This agreement is what we call a first generation trade agreement because it was initiated roughly a decade or so ago, so it does not cover trade in services. It does not have an investment chapter, although it does have provision for those chapters to be added within the next three years.

I should say that this deal is a good one for both agricultural and non-agricultural interests in Canada. It has certain sensitivities that have been inhibiting the closure of this agreement over the years. The shipbuilding industry was one particular area in which we have had some sensitivities.

This agreement has the best provisions on shipbuilding of any free trade agreement that Canada has ever signed. The tariff phase-out is 15 years on the most sensitive products and 10 years on the next most sensitive products, and the first 3 years is a period during which there would be no tariff reductions at all.

When we combine what is in this agreement with the buy Canada shipbuilding program that the Government of Canada is bringing along, with over $8 billion in shipbuilding, and when we combine that with the replenished structured financing facility for shipbuilding, I think we are on the threshold of a renaissance in the shipbuilding industry in Canada. I think it will be very good for the shipbuilding industry.

Even today as we speak, the Davie shipyard in Quebec, which has gone through serious financial problems over the last 10 years, is now owned by a Norwegian company and its order book goes out at least five years, with many of the vessels and work being done in that shipyard being sold back into the Norwegian and European markets.

I would also note on the agriculture front that this agreement does exclude the supply managed sectors. As members know, we have committed not to put those on the table in our free trade negotiations with other countries, and we have not done so in this case.

Let me wrap up by saying that this is part of the government's approach to enhancing Canadian competitiveness and to recognizing that while we have had the strongest economy among the group of eight, certainly fiscally and economically, we do see risks on the horizon. Everyone knows there are some serious economic adjustments taking place in the United States and the rest of world. We are aggressively moving to ensure that Canada's economic performance in the long term is enhanced, because Canada's economic performance will be driven by our trade performance.

There will be no way that we can spend our way to prosperity in Canada. It does not work that way. It leaks out in terms of just enhancing imports for Canada. We have to trade. We have to export. We have to sell to other countries. Our global commerce strategy, which is part of “Advantage Canada”, is designed to do just that.

I would note that our approach is driven by the modern integrated approach to international trade which recognizes that trade today is driven by global value chains. Global value chains are driven by investment. Global value chains are driven by technology. Global value chains are driven by the movement of capital and people around the globe.

Rooting those value chains deeply into Canada is a critical part of our trade strategy, which is why our free trade agreements are important. It is important to expand our free trade agreements from goods to cover services and investment. It is important to bring air bilaterals into the mix, because if we do not have good air services between Canada and our trading partners, we cannot service and be efficient in terms of being part of global supply chains.

We are also doing investment agreements. As I noted earlier, investment agreements are critical because investment carries with it technology and opportunity in terms of driving exports and imports.

We are looking at transportation and logistics in a way that integrates this, like no other country and like never before in Canada, with our trade policy. Our transportation and logistics gateways in the Atlantic, in the Pacific, through Churchill in the north, and north and south between Ontario and Quebec and the United States, are critical elements of trade policy. Without transportation and logistics at a globally competitive level, we simply will not be a competitive trader in the world economy today.

This is part of a larger mosaic of policies that are fitting together in a comprehensive way to ensure that Canada, Canadians and our kids and grandkids have opportunities like those we have enjoyed in the past. I welcome the discussion on this agreement today.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Gerry Byrne Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the minister on certain aspects of this agreement.

However, I would like to ask him a question as well. Does this agreement with the four European continental countries involved explicitly provide a basis for those four countries that prevents them from banning seal products from their marketplace on the basis of perceptions of the animal cruelty aspects, which other European countries are currently providing? Does this agreement provide a rules-based approach that prevents those four countries from doing so?

Would the minister, in consideration of any potentially expanded European free trade agreement with other European countries, put the marker down right now that Canada will not engage in any discussions with any other European country unless they agree immediately to put into a rules-based approach that the banning of Canadian seal products would be explicitly illegal?

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10:20 a.m.

Conservative

David Emerson Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member raises an important question for Canada. That is the number of initiatives that have been launched in Europe, in particular, where countries are attempting to ban seal product exports from their markets.

This agreement does not actually have to deal directly and explicitly with the banning of seal products because the World Trade Organization rules, in Canada's view, already prohibit that type of a ban. We are aggressively pursuing consultations and possibly will follow that up with trade actions to ensure those rules do prevent and prohibit these types of bans in the future. We have ongoing discussions with a range of countries around this very issue.

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10:20 a.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the government has said that shipbuilding is of strategic importance to the sovereignty of this nation. We have people like George MacPherson from the Shipyard General Workers' Federation talking about the fact that currently the shipyard industry is only operating at about a third of its capacity and that over the next 15 years it will be worth about $9 billion in Canadian jobs. The Shipbuilding Association of Canada and Irving Shipbuilding have called for a carve-out. We know that in the United States, for example, under the Jones Act, the Americans did a carve-out and were able to protect the shipbuilding industry in the U.S. Given all that, why would this minister not consider putting on the table a carve-out for the Canadian shipbuilding industry?

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10:20 a.m.

Conservative

David Emerson Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think I should correct the member. The United States actually does not carve shipbuilding out of its trade agreements. The United States has domestic policies that prohibit foreign-constructed vessels from plying between two U.S. ports. Canada does not have such a policy.

I would reassert that this agreement has the longest tariff phase-out of any agreement in Canada's history, in terms of the shipbuilding industry.

I would also note that the Canadian shipbuilding industry is poised for a major expansion that I believe is going to tax the capacity of Canada's shipyards. It is going to require the training of shipyard trades that will be employed in the future. The Canadian shipbuilding industry is becoming technologically sophisticated.

We have carved out the “buy Canada” privilege that we now are able to apply to ships that are purchased by the Government of Canada and its agencies. So, that is preserved. Also, when we look at the billions of dollars in ship procurement that Canada will be doing over the next few years, our shipyards are going to have all the work they can handle.

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10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened very carefully to the minister's remarks. I have two specific questions for the minister.

The first question is with respect to the free trade agreement itself. In his remarks he mentioned that it is simply a generation one agreement and deals strictly with goods. He alluded to the fact that in 2007 there was approximately $13 billion worth of two-way trade, in terms of goods. However, there is also tremendous opportunity in the investment regime, as well; approximately $24 billion worth of two-way investment between Canada and the EFTA countries.

Would he speak to the fact that this deal does not specifically address that and what steps is the government taking to deal with that?

The second question is with respect to the issue around shipbuilding. I think that is a very important issue that has been raised by the Liberal Party, in the Liberal caucuses; specifically, the Atlantic caucus, which is standing up for shipbuilders.

The minister has been very clear about the concerns around that, as well, but the government has only proposed a $50 million renewal of Industry Canada's structured financing facilities. Does he feel that $50 million is sufficient to help the industry transition when the tariffs are reduced?

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10:25 a.m.

Conservative

David Emerson Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would offer an update on the numbers on direct investment between Canada and the European Free Trade Association countries.

The numbers for 2007 now show that investments are up at $28 billion, from $24 billion in 2006. So investment is a chapter that we intend to add, as well as a chapter on trade and services. The agreement makes provision for those to be added as chapters. It also stipulates that should be done within the next three years. So, we will be working with the EFTA countries to ensure that we put those chapters in place in a timely way.

I have spoken to shipbuilding. I will say again that the Canadian shipbuilding industry is about to go through a renaissance. I think it is dinosaur thinking to build the future of an industry as potentially dynamic as shipbuilding on the kind of protectionism that we have applied in the past. It is an industry that has the capacity in certain kinds of vessels and certain technologies to be globally competitive. It is an industry that can have a long term future, not just a future that is propped by interim protectionism. It is an industry that has a future.

The structured financing facility, as the member knows, is not in my bailiwick. That is the Minister of Industry's portfolio. However, I would say that we, as a government, will be assessing that on a go-forward basis, assessing whether it is sufficient to support the global competitiveness of the shipbuilding industry. Then we will see how it looks over the next couple of years.

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10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Brian Storseth Westlock—St. Paul, AB

Mr. Speaker, as usual I will have to leave the agriculture questions to this side of the House.

As the minister knows, the agriculture industry has become increasingly reliant on trade with the United States. Our producers realize this and realize the need to look somewhere else, to be able to open markets in other places of the world. That is what they are reliant on our government doing.

I would like the minister to ensure for us that the agriculture industry is going to be a net benefactor out of this. I would like the minister to perhaps take a bit of time to talk about some of the benefits in the free trade agreement for our producers.

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10:25 a.m.

Conservative

David Emerson Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, we have made some quite significant gains in terms of the opportunities for agriculture in this agreement. Certainly, on durum wheat we are going to see some real opportunities from this agreement. Moving into crude canola, it will see some significant gains as a result of this agreement as well.

On the agri-food side, frozen french fries, beer and frozen blueberries will gain market advantage. There will be a wide range of tariff reductions on processed and frozen foods in all three markets and in other sectors as well. In the non-agricultural area there will be significant gains for a number of manufacturing producers in Canada.

This should give Canadian producers a real opportunity and more than that it gives them an opportunity to go into these markets and establish a supply chain between EFTA and Canada but also extend that supply chain into the European Union because the European Union does have a free trade agreement with the EFTA countries. It is a real opportunity for Canadian companies who are really serious about competing in the global marketplace to take a great leap forward.

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10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I take great pride in the fact that I have an opportunity today to speak to this very important bill, Bill C-55, with respect to Canada-EFTA, now referred to as CEFTA, the Canada-European free trade association agreement.

From the outset I want to indicate our party's position on this very important bill, which is that the Liberal Party supports this deal, but calls on the government to continue to monitor and consider the issues around shipbuilding and the shipbuilding industry because this is something that has been brought to our attention on numerous occasions.

We look forward to working with stakeholders in the shipbuilding industry and with the government to make sure it addresses these concerns. I will allude to some of these concerns in my remarks as well.

Before I begin, I want to take a step back and create a context for the reason why we are supporting the bill. It is very important for the members in the House to recognize that we are the party of free and fair trade. We are the party of Wilfrid Laurier. We are the party, since that time, that has expanded Canada's trade opportunities abroad. We recognize that we are a trading nation.

It was during the Liberal Party's regime that we signed and even created side agreements that were very important, beginning with NAFTA in 1994, then, as the minister alluded to, Chile and Israel in 1996, then Costa Rica in 2002. All these agreements gave Canada additional opportunities and allowed us to succeed in the international community.

Currently, under the leader of the Liberal Party, the leader of the official opposition, and understanding points of trade, we recently made an announcement. I just want to remind members about the importance of trade because as the minister alluded to, we need to look at opportunities and we need to ensure that we take advantage of the opportunities.

In my opinion I feel the government has done limited work. I understand the minister has done a lot of good work, but I think he is constrained by the Prime Minister in that the Conservatives have done very little work when it comes to Asia, for example, and that is an area where there are tremendous opportunities.

On February 20 the Liberals made an announcement to allocate $50 million for the creation of the South Asian foundation to really harness the growth potential in a booming Asian economy.

I mention this in the context that we need to look at trade from a macro level. We promote the Doha round discussions very much and we think trade is very important, but we also need to look at how we deal with an emerging Asia, how we deal with a united European Union, and how we position ourselves within North America for economic prosperity and for the opportunities that exist.

In terms of this particular free trade agreement, I would also like to remind the House that it was under the Liberal government that this initiative was started, but we recognize there were some legitimate concerns around shipbuilding, and so we worked extensively with the shipbuilders to see if those issues could be addressed.

This is a generation one agreement. It strictly deals with goods. It does not have provisions for investment or services, and those are areas where there have tremendous opportunity and potential. We need to work with that. That was the question I asked the minister earlier because I felt that it was very important and needed to be addressed.

With respect to the trade agreement, people sometimes do not recognize our trade with EFTA and how important it is, but it is actually a very important trading partner. It is Canada's fifth largest merchandising export destination. It has two-way trade of approximately $13 billion. It is a tremendous opportunity for our businesses here in Canada to export into those markets.

People sometimes underestimate their importance when we allude to some of the countries involved in this agreement: Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Iceland and Norway. People do not think of those as countries that we necessarily trade with, but we do a lot of trade, However,t more importantly, there is a lot of investment and two-way investment between those countries.

I have 2006 data with me. Investment has increased, but we actually invest around $8.4 billion into those countries and they in turn invest $15.6 billion in Canada. There is tremendous opportunity there with respect to trade. Those trade statistics allude to the importance of our trading relationship and this will enhance that relationship. However, there is a tremendous potential that exists in the service sector and the investment regime as well.

The other area that was mentioned that I thought was very important to discuss, and the member opposite mentioned it as well, is with regard to agriculture and agricultural products. This is an important issue that was raised during a committee discussion as well. When the free trade agreement was initiated and eventually signed, there were legitimate concerns around supply management.

We support this free trade agreement because it maintains the Canadian supply management program. That is very important to us. As a Liberal Party, we have been staunch defenders of this initiative and we feel supply management is very important for our domestic market.

Therefore, because of the provisions in the agreement and the fact that Canadian supply management programs are maintained, the agricultural issues by and large are addressed. This was our primary concern with respect to agriculture. We understand the importance of agriculture. We raised this issue and ensured this issue was dealt with in the appropriate fashion in the agreement.

I alluded earlier in my remarks to non-agricultural goods. I said we supported this deal but we had concerns specifically around shipbuilding and the shipbuilding industry. We are supportive of the deal because it legitimately address some of those concerns, for example, the fact that for the first three years there is no tariff reduction, which is very important for shipbuilders. Once the deal is signed, hopefully effective January 1, 2009, if all goes well, it will ultimately mean that by 2012 there will be no tariff reductions for shipbuilders.

Subsequent to that, there will be a 15 year phase-out on Canada's most sensitive vessels. Those sensitive vessels range from ferries to cruise ships to offshore supply ships to basically salvage ships. Those vessels will have a 15 year phase-out. The other vessels such as tankers, those having to do with drilling platforms, drill ships, ice breakers are given a 10 year phase-out period. Those are sufficient safeguards to allow for the reduction of shipbuilding tariffs and allow the Canadian industry the opportunity to rebuild itself in some context, to redefine itself and ensure that it can compete not only domestically, but abroad as well.

The other issue we felt was important was whether the requirements for buy in Canada procurement policy would remain intact, which was important to us. When we saw the deal, this had been maintained and honoured in the free trade agreement. There was no requirement to modify the buy in Canada procurement policy.

Therefore, not only do we have a long tariff reduction phase, but we have a buy in Canada procurement policy that is maintained and protected.

The other concern we had was with respect to the dispute mechanism and how we would deal with any disputes if they were to occur. We again have very little confidence in the government. If we take, for example, the softwood lumber agreement, or as some refer to it, the softwood sellout, that very much questions the government's judgment and the way it represents Canada.

I remind the viewers and the members in the House, that agreement cost $1 billion of Canadian taxpayer money. It left $1 billion on the table. It created a quota system in Canada. It in effect forced companies in Canada, the softwood lumber industry, to be subjected to quotas. Now we are going to the courts again with the U.S. government on these issues again. We are being sued on these matters, or being taken to court in litigation over this.

More important, the fundamental issue we had with that was we lost our sovereignty. We lost the ability to genuinely be able to create programs in Canada to work with industry, and that concerned us.

Therefore, we want to ensure the dispute mechanism does not reinvent the problems we incurred with the softwood lumber agreement. The dispute mechanism in this agreement addresses some legitimate concerns around snap-back provisions, about the fact that it will establish a joint committee to supervise the implementation of CEFTA. Disputes will be resolved through cooperation and consultation and any matter not settled in 90 days may be referred to a tribunal to interpret the agreement and determine consistency with obligations. These important provisions have been addressed in the agreement.

We support the bill. We support the free trade agreement. As I said before, we are the party of free and fair trade. Liberals understand the importance of trade and of creating opportunities for our businesses.

I want to share one small example with the House. I come from the riding of Mississauga—Brampton South, which is situated close to the airport. Many logistical companies, owners of small business and others rely on trade and look for opportunities to expand trade. It is unfortunate that the Minister of Finance is attacking Ontario. He has said not to invest in Ontario. I hope the Minister of International Trade will not follow suit and will use his better judgment.

The reason I bring that up is because Canada's trade surplus has been in decline since the Conservatives took power. Our trade surplus is shrinking each month and our export market opportunities are fairly limited. The government needs to continuously examine foreign markets to look for opportunities for our businesses, specifically small and medium sized enterprises, like the ones in my riding, that depend on trade, and create a lot of jobs and economic opportunity.

This is a first generation trade agreement. It is a step in the right direction. It addresses some legitimate concerns around agriculture, supply management, and the shipbuilding industry, but we still have some concerns.

I asked a question earlier today with respect to the structured financing facility. The shipbuilding industry is supported through Industry Canada by a $50 million renewal. This is not sufficient. The government needs to do more.

The Minister of International Trade, in his previous job as a minister in the Liberal government, was also the minister responsible for Industry Canada. He looked at this issue. I asked my question in that capacity. I wanted him to explain to the House what more was being done to help this industry in terms of financing. The minister is very optimistic about shipbuilding. He feels it is a dynamic industry with a lot of potential. I want to ensure that the minister understands we share those same concerns. There is tremendous opportunity as well in that industry. Perhaps the minister could speak to that issue and explain what more is being done to help it out.

I look forward to any questions or concerns by members opposite.

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10:40 a.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member made a number of points about the government's policy on trade in general, but specifically on the proposed trade deal.

Our party has raised concerns about our shipbuilding industry, and my colleague from B.C. raised it earlier. This is not a concern for only Atlantic Canada; it is also a concern for B.C. as well. There is the potential for jobs for manufacturers right across the country in supplying parts, et cetera. In the case of B.C., we have called on the provincial government to do more.

The member talked about procurement policy. Governments can make a difference, in this case a provincial government. They can buy Canadian. They have to remember our Canada first policy. We are frustrated because we do not see that happening.

I listened carefully to the minister and to the member about the tariff phase-out. Most Canadians want to see a healthy shipbuilding industry, one that is supported by provincial governments. They want to see our Canada first policy.

Before we enter into a deal like this, should we not have a healthy, robust shipbuilding industry? Norway has done that. If we enter into a trade deal like this, it will have all the advantages and we will have all the disadvantages. As was mentioned by my colleague, we are not at full capacity. We are not buying Canada first. We need to have a healthy shipbuilding industry. Should we not focus on our shipbuilding in Canada first before we enter into a trade deal like this, particularly in light of Norway?

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10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, in my opinion, many members of the House share the same concern. I know I do. Members not only from Atlantic Canada but across the country, especially from British Columbia as well, share concerns about the shipbuilding sector and the fact that the industry might be exposed to tremendous competition from EFTA countries, specifically Norway.

I am glad he mentioned Norway. That point was raised in committee on numerous occasions. We received clarification time and time again that Norway no longer had a program or a regime that provided subsidies. The concern with Norway is a legitimate concern, but it was been addressed in committee.

At the beginning of my comments, I said that we supported the agreement, but we had legitimate concerns about the need to ensure the meeting Canada's procurement policy was kept intact, which I believe it is. That is my understanding and that is what the minister and the government have said. I also said that I wanted further clarification on structured financing.

We need to pursue free trade agreements, especially with some of the challenges we face, such as the Doha development agenda. We need to create more export opportunities. With the strong Canadian dollar and the tightening of the border, we need to look at diversifying our markets. There is potential opportunity here, recognizing the concerns he has referred to with the shipbuilding. If the government could provide further clarification on a structured financing for the industry, that would definitely help the industry put itself in a competitive position going forward.

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10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to echo the comments made by the hon. member for Mississauga—Brampton South about the minister. He has done some good work. I had the opportunity to work with him when he was on the Liberal side. I congratulate him on the free trade agreement, which we have signed.

My question is around the shipbuilding industry as well. I have a concern from the perspective of B.C. The member said that it was a 15 year trade out period, but those post-Panamax cargo vessels are not part of the agreement.

Could the member explain how it would not affect British Columbia and Atlantic Canada when it comes to those ships? Also, could he explain in detail what small businesses in his riding will benefit with the trade with South Asia, so we can look forward to trade with those nations?

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10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, again, I believe the member is referring to the comments I made with respect to the announcement by the leader of the official opposition, on February 20, with regard to a $50 million commitment to create a foundation to strengthen ties with Asia.

There is no doubt that the member from British Columbia is very concerned about that because British Columbia acts as a portal to Asia. It is very important for us to create strong economic opportunities. I hope the government takes those comments very seriously and understands the importance of building strong relationships with Asia.

Specifically, the questions he mentioned with regard to shipbuilding and the tariff reduction regime, I alluded to them in my remarks. I will highlight which ones are subject to a 15 year tariff reduction and which ships and vessels are subject to a 10 year tariff reduction.

Ferries and cruise ships are subject to a 15 year tariff reduction. Again, I want to preface this comment by saying that made in Canada procurement policies are protected and exempt in this agreement as well. Dredgers and salvage ships are subject to a 15 year tariff reduction. With respect to 10 year tariff reductions, this includes tankers, fishing vessels, drilling platforms, drill ships, production platforms and icebreakers.

Those are categories, If there is anything specific that the member has with regard to any particular vessel, we can always look it up to ensure it is part of the regime. If not, then I will take it into consideration and follow-up.

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10:45 a.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I paid close attention to the member's comments. I want to address shipbuilding, coming from British Columbia.

In the early 1980s our shipbuilding industry was very healthy. What has happened over many years of government neglect, which we can lay both at the Conservative and Liberal doors, is the shipbuilding industry has gone into crisis. We have seen shipyard after shipyard close.

The member pointed out, quite rightly, that Norway's shipbuilding industry currently is not subsidized, but it had a long period of government investment and subsidy to get it to the place where it was healthy enough to be able to stand alone.

Why would the member not support the shipbuilding industry's own request to have a carve out provision for the shipbuilding industry and then to have an effective government policy to actually support shipbuilding, particularly in view of the fact that it is of strategic national importance? Why would he not support a carve out?

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10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, when we pursue free trade agreements, it is a two way negotiation process, a give and take. The fact that there are long tariff reductions, a made in Canada procurement policy, that supply management is protected and that for the first three years there is no tariff reduction, all these very much play into our national interests, and they were addressed in the free trade agreement.

I share the member's concern with respect to shipbuilding. The government has done very little to develop a comprehensive plan to deal with our domestic shipbuilding industry and to create a long term strategic initiative and partnership with the shipbuilding industry so it will be able to compete. Norway is a very good example because it did subsidize. There is no doubt that it no longer provides subsidies now but it did subsidized before, which allowed its shipbuilding industry to be in a competitive position.

The onus and responsibility now lies with the current government to put together a plan for not only structured financing but a more comprehensive plan that can position our industry, once the tariffs are reduced, especially when the tariff reduction starts in 2012, to be on an equal and competitive footing. Even though the subsidies no longer exist today in Norway, there is no doubt that the subsidies in the past have put it in a more favourable position. Therefore, I do very much recognize the member's concerns.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak about the proposed free trade agreement with Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland, the members of the European Free Trade Association. I am speaking on behalf of all the Bloc members and would like to acknowledge in particular the contributions of the members for Sherbrooke and Berthier—Maskinongé to the Standing Committee on International Trade, which has studied the proposed agreement and the free trade agreement.

The Bloc believes that this is a good free trade agreement that deserves to be supported. Moreover, we believe that Quebec will benefit a great deal from this agreement.

For example, the pharmaceutical industry in Quebec, like the industry in Switzerland, is very healthy. We can therefore expedite trade and perhaps pave the way for more and more transactions. To penetrate the American market, Swiss pharmaceutical companies might be tempted to produce drugs here, which presents an attractive opportunity for us.

We would remind this House that Quebec is the home of the brand name drug industry in Canada because of its pool of skilled researchers and its tax breaks. For Quebec this agreement will pave the way for new business opportunities.

The agreement facilitates trade between a company and its subsidiaries and is likely to mean new investments in the pharmaceutical industry in Quebec. That is good news.

Let us turn our attention now to Norway. Nickel accounts for over 80% of our exports to that country. The largest mine in Canada and the third largest in the world is owned by the Swiss company Xstrata and is located in Ungava. This agreement may also have benefits on that front.

Let us continue our tour of the countries with a stop in Iceland. Aluminum is our main export to Iceland. Aluminum production is also concentrated in Quebec.

Overall, this is an attractive agreement. I would also say it does not have the same drawbacks as previous agreements.

For example, NAFTA and the agreements with Costa Rica and Chile all contain what could be called bad clauses on investments that give companies the right to sue a government that adopts measures that would reduce their profits. This sort of provision is not found in the agreement with the EFTA. Consequently, the free trade agreement with Europe, at least this part of Europe, is worthwhile. There will be no sword of Damocles hanging over our heads, because this agreement does not contain any such clauses.

Furthermore, the agreement only covers goods and not services. It will not create competition with public services, whether they are offered by the state or not, since they will not be covered. Similarly, banks providing financial services will not be in competition with Switzerland, which is known to have a very solid and very discreet banking system, and Liechtenstein, which is a true haven for the financial world when it comes to taxation and anonymity. We are already having enough problems with Barbados without adding any more. It would be best if the agreement did not allow this type of exchange.

For government procurement it is the same thing. The government is still free to favour domestic procurement, subject to the WTO agreement on government contracts. It would be somewhat ridiculous for the government to negotiate room to manoeuvre and then decide not to use it. It is imperative that the federal government, which is the largest purchaser of goods and services in Canada, favour suppliers here and consider the potential spinoffs from its purchases.

We have another absolutely ridiculous example. Canadian athletes will be dressed in material that is made in China. There should have been a different solution. We could call this an obvious and quite unacceptable lack of pride. This is outside the limits of the agreement before us, but I wanted to mention it anyway. When we look at an agreement like this, we have to look at what it will allow us to do. This agreement does not allow for such an absurd possibility.

The whole issue of agriculture is a concern that a number of MPs have mentioned in this House. Supply management is not affected by this agreement. The Bloc Québécois motion passed here in 2005 has become the cornerstone of the Canadian government's position on protecting supply management. We are very proud of that and we hope things will continue this way.

We are just as proud of the fact that the supply management model is being developed throughout the southern countries. It may be part of the solution to the food crisis. The more countries that use this type of system, the less agriculture will be subjected to traditional trade patterns. Thus, it will be possible to provide better protection that will allow both communities and producers to be well served in terms of agricultural production.

This agreement ensures that supply management will not be affected. That is another reason that the Bloc Québécois likes this agreement.

This agreement will make it possible to implement bilateral agricultural agreements as add-ons to the free trade agreement. We will see how this will come together. Bilateral agreements will not necessarily have a huge impact on Quebec agriculture, because milk proteins are excluded from the agreement and the tariff quotas and over-quota tariffs remain unchanged. In short, supply managed products will be protected.

However, there is one sector where this agreement would be good, although the federal government will really have to go out of its way to make a sustained effort. I am talking about the issue of support for shipyards. A number of members in this House have brought this up this morning. As a member of the maritime caucus, I know that there have been questions. They have been handled in an acceptable fashion in the agreement, but that does not mean that the Canadian government will not have to have a more aggressive and constructive policy on shipyards. In fact, we have some concerns.

For example, imported vessels are currently subject to a 25% tariff. Under the agreement, these tariffs will gradually decrease over three years, and will be completely eliminated in 15 years. In the future, in 15 or 20 years, we do not want to see a whole industrial sector disappear, as was the case with the textile sector. We know that the government needs to take action now to ensure that once this all disappears, our industries in this sector will be competitive.

Our shipyards are currently less modern than Norwegian shipyards, for example. They are in worse condition. So some things will need to be renewed, since Norway has invested heavily in modernizing its shipyards, while ours have been completely abandoned by the government.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

Order, please. It is now time for statements by members. The hon. member will have 13 minutes left for his speech.

The member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar.

Centennial Festivities
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Carol Skelton Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am inviting you to come to Saskatchewan and experience some of Canada's rich heritage by joining the towns of Asquith and Delisle in celebrating their centennial in July.

English settlers named their town after Lord Asquith who called it the centre of the British Empire and presented a silver cup that Lord Asquith School proudly uses to this day.

Delisle took its name from its first postmaster, John Amos Delisle. Twenty-six of his direct descendants will come back to celebrate 100 years. Delisle is also the hometown of NHL legends Max and Doug Bentley.

The CPR and the CNR made these early settlements flourish. Today, agriculture and potash mining are their economic mainstays. Asquith and Delisle are also commuter suburbs of Saskatoon, the Paris of the Prairies.

Visit Saskatchewan and enjoy the history, beauty and warm hometown hospitality during Asquith's and Delisle's centennial festivities.

Government Policies
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Lui Temelkovski Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government has really failed to live up to its promises.

Remember when health care was one of the five priorities of the government? No? That is all right, neither does the government.

Remember when the Prime Minister said the Conservative government would not monkey around with income trusts? It would be unfair to seniors, the Conservatives said. Well, they did not just monkey around with them, they ripped them apart like King Kong with a biplane.

There is one area where the government has overachieved, one area where the Conservatives are performing at a level beyond anything seen in Ottawa since the days of, well, Brian Mulroney. This is one more area where the government is going to surpass the achievements of Brian Mulroney. Mulroney was thrown out of office after two elections. The current government will get it done in one.

TQS Network
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, Remstar would like to purchase TQS. As part of its demolition plan, the company announced its intention to dismiss 270 of its 479 full-time employees. In Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, 36 out of 40 jobs will disappear between now and the fall.

Closing the newsroom is a breach of the commitments the TQS network made to the CRTC. The sale of TQS should not come at any cost, and certainly not at the cost of eliminating regional news services. In Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean alone, TQS produces five programs that reflect our regional reality.

The Bloc Québécois is an ardent advocate of TQS services. Eliminating the newsroom would be a major blow to the diversity of information available to Quebeckers.

I hope that all political parties in the House will defend the interests of the Quebec nation before the CRTC.

Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government has once again gone out of its way to embarrass itself on the international stage. This time it is the nuclear non-proliferation treaty preparatory committee meetings in Geneva.

While the rest of the world attempted to take a more constructive approach to the challenges of nuclear non-proliferation, the Canadian government delegation stood almost alone, hurling accusations at Iran and North Korea, ignoring the fact that supposed non-NPT states like India, Pakistan and Israel have acquired nuclear weapons as well.

This is tragic and it is dangerous. Canada is blessed with world-leading civil society experts who have helped form our nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation policies. Thanks to them, Canada has been known as a world leader in this area.

Disgracefully, for the first time at the nuclear non-proliferation treaty preparatory committee, the Canadian delegation did not include a single NGO participant.

These days when Canada speaks, the world shakes its head. The government is destroying our international reputation and undermining the global fight against nuclear proliferation.

Barbara Ann Scott
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Royal Galipeau Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I invite this House and all Canadians to celebrate the 80th birthday of Barbara Ann Scott, a Canadian figure skating icon.

From Ottawa's Minto Skating Club, where my daughter and her Capital Blades team also skated, Barbara Ann had a stunning career. She began winning national awards when she was 11 years old. She was the first woman to perform the double Lutz in competition.

In 1948, she competed on an outdoor rink during the winter games in Saint-Moritz, Switzerland, becoming the first Canadian to win a gold medal for figure skating. To this day, she is the only woman who has done that.

A hundred thousand people lined the streets of Ottawa to acclaim her.

She has been an inspiration for generations, including my daughter, Miriam.

Happy birthday, Barbara Ann Scott King.

Canada loves you.

Madawaska UCT Council 830
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Jean-Claude D'Amours Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, on April 12, I had the opportunity to participate in the Madawaska UCT Council 830's 50th anniversary celebration.

I would like to begin by telling the House about the dedication of UCT councils to their communities across Canada. There is no doubt that UCT councils' commitment and contributions to numerous communities promote both community and social development.

The Madawaska UCT Council 830 is no exception, and that is why I wanted to salute it here today. The Madawaska Council 830 is very active, and its contribution makes its community a better place in which to live.

I would like to thank the founding members who were honoured during this event: Paul E. LeBlanc, Armand Couturier, Yvon T. Cloutier, the late J. Germain Fournier, Robert T. Martin and Alphé Thibodeau.

Thank you and congratulations to all members of the UCT for their good work.

Burma
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is time for the Burmese dictatorship to stop playing politics when people's lives are at stake. We are alarmed by the reports that the military junta is seizing international aid shipments from the World Food Programme. This is unprecedented and must stop. This dictatorial regime's response to this disaster is just the most recent example of its failure to meet the basic needs of the Burmese people.

Canada stands ready to help. We have pledged $2 million in aid. We have offered our disaster assistance response team. The Minister of Foreign Affairs personally assured the UN Secretary-General that Canada is there for the Burmese people.

The military junta must let aid agencies do their work and allow international aid workers to enter the country during this period of crisis. Given the widespread and devastating effect of the tropical cyclone Nargis, Canada calls upon the military junta to focus on meeting the immediate needs of the people rather than pursuing its own narrow interests.

Cluster Bombs
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, on May 19, 2008, the international community will gather in Dublin in order to adopt a declaration to ban cluster bombs.

Cluster bombs are known for being dangerous and they endanger the lives of civilians across the globe. According to Handicap International, 98% of victims are civilians.

While dozens of countries will attend this international meeting, this government is not even sending the Minister of Foreign Affairs to the conference. Instead, it is sending junior representatives who can only take notes and who will not even be able to offer real financial support.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs has the opportunity to show his support for the security and protection of millions of civilians and set an example for China, Russia and the United States. He must take advantage of this opportunity.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is time to pass Bill C-50, this year's first budget implementation bill. Every day constituents are calling and writing asking when Parliament will approve this important legislation.

Constituents know that included in this bill are measures to implement the landmark tax-free savings account. While some politicians might think the best place for taxpayers' hard-earned money is in government coffers, this Conservative government believes that it is better to stay where it belongs, and that is in the hands of hard-working Canadians.

The tax-free savings account would allow Canadians to place $5,000 into a sheltered account and then watch their money grow tax free without the tax collector ever being able to put his hands on it again. Simply put, this is the best thing that has happened to the tax system since the RRSP.

Canadians want Parliament to act before summer. I am asking all members of Parliament to support the important measures in this bill. Let us make Parliament work and give Canadians the tax-free savings account before summer.

Zimbabwe
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, Cathy Buckle is a Canadian in Zimbabwe who is witnessing the atrocities in that country. Her words are very powerful. I would like to read an excerpt from a recent posting:

What a disgraceful insult these 2008 elections have become to the people of Zimbabwe who have suffered so much....

Every day the reports of horror continue to emerge. Youngsters in uniform going door to door in villages at night; men with guns; beatings, house burnings and torture....Listed amongst the people murdered is a five year old boy.... This little boy, too young to read or write and a complete innocent in this month of hell, burnt to death in a house set on fire during the rampage of political vengeance that is tearing our country apart.

As each day has passed since the elections, Zimbabwe has drawn quieter and quieter - silenced by fear. No one knows who to trust, who they can talk to or who might be listening....

The world has learned the lesson of staying silent when human rights are trampled. The people of Zimbabwe need Canada and the world to listen to their voices and to take action now.

Bloc Québécois
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, if the success of the Bloc can be measured by the brevity of its mandate in Parliament, as Lucien Bouchard so aptly put it, clearly, after 18 years, those members have really failed. Yet they have cost Canadian taxpayers $300 million. Their ineffectiveness is well known, since nearly half of the 116 members elected for that party have never introduced a single bill. Among such members are the members for Laurier—Sainte-Marie and Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour.

Since the Conservative government won the confidence of Canadians, the Bloc has introduced only 29 private members' bills. Not one of them has received royal assent. This negligence is a stark contrast to the results obtained by this government.

To be present means to be in a position to take real action, solve problems and deliver the goods. To be absent means being a Bloc Québécois member in Ottawa.

International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to pay tribute to the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. With the dedication of up to 97 million volunteers worldwide, Red Cross and Red Crescent have honoured their mandate to protect human life and health, ensure respect for human beings and prevent human suffering. The movement has provided its services to every corner of the world without discrimination.

The current crisis in Burma reminds us of the importance of this movement. Organizations like the International Red Cross and Red Crescent have already been able to provide aid to those affected by this devastating cyclone.

Yesterday we celebrated World Red Cross Red Crescent Day in the House with words; today we call for action. Canadians from coast to coast to coast want our government to finally meet its international commitment to dedicate the equivalent of .7% of our GDP to aid so that organizations like the Red Cross can contribute to do their important work.

Public Transit
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Albina Guarnieri Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

Mr. Speaker, the annual reports of the Toronto Transit Commission prove that the government's non-refundable tax credit for transit passes is a total failure when it comes to increasing ridership and protecting the environment. The TTC results reveal that ridership trends did not change at all after the transit pass plan was launched; no more riders, no less pollution.

The government's tedious tax credit plan was supposed to pay for two free months of public transit, but as the TTC says, there is “The Better Way”. The government could work with the provinces and use the same money to deliver free public transit for two months every year: no receipts, no accountants, just a free ride for all who can get out of their cars, get a break from gridlock and get a breath of fresh air.

Frontaliers de Coaticook Hockey Team
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Bloc

France Bonsant Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, hockey fever has taken over Quebec. In Coaticook, fans were riveted by the performance of their new Junior AA hockey team.

In their first year, the Frontaliers de Coaticook accomplished a remarkable feat, winning the Estrie-Maruricie Junior AA Hockey League championship. This win gives them the opportunity to represent our region in the Dodge Cup.

In this symbolic tournament for junior hockey in Quebec, the Frontaliers wiped out their competition, but they unfortunately lost in the final game. This was not insignificant, considering that there are 77 of the most competitive teams in Quebec in the Junior AA Hockey League.

I would like to pay tribute to this team, which had an extraordinary season. I would also like to highlight the dedication and commitment of their president, Michel Philibert, who helped bring the wonderful world of Junior AA hockey to Coaticook.

Conservative Party of Canada
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, I came to Ottawa to work on public policy, but unfortunately the Conservative government has mainly served up scandal to chew on.

Last week when the Conservatives were reeling under their election financing scandal, they must have said, “First Mulroney-Schreiber, then the Cadman bribe, then NAFTA-gate, then the finance minister's juicy contracts”. By last Friday they surely felt that at least it could not get worse. They were so wrong. How they must long for those delicious days when all they had to worry about was the Prime Minister's voice on an audio tape describing how agents in his party were authorized to offer a bribe to a dying man; or Brian Mulroney, they must miss those happy times when the ethical scandals were centred on Mr. Mulroney and all they had to do was stonewall an inquiry. It turns out it is a lot more difficult to stonewall an RCMP raid.

As Conservative MPs head home for the weekend, I wish them well. Perhaps next week, policy rather than a banquet of Conservative ethical problems will be on the House menu.

Liberal Party of Canada
Statements By Members

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Bev Shipley Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, our Conservative government has permanently implemented the gas tax and the GST rebate to all Canadian municipalities for infrastructure.

Recently, I had the opportunity to present display cheques to 13 municipalities in my riding of Lambton—Kent—Middlesex that represented approximately $28 million they are receiving from the federal government, and next year, the gas tax portion will double.

Under the Liberals, Canadians would experience a much different scenario. In fact, Canadians would again pay much higher taxes in order to pay for over $62 billion in new spending.

The GST would shoot back up to at least 7% and Canadians would pay approximately another 50¢ to 60¢ a litre for gas because of the new carbon tax the Leader of the Opposition recently promised to implement.

High taxes and extravagant spending, that is the kind of Canada that the Liberals want back but it is not what Canadians want and it is sure not the kind of Canada this Conservative government provides.

Burma
Statements By Members

11:15 a.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I ask at this time, notwithstanding any Standing Orders of the House, to seek the unanimous approval of the House to consider and approve the following motion. I move:

That the House:

(a) denounce the Burmese military regime's deplorable response to the crisis following cyclone Nargis;

(b) condemn the unprecedented seizure of international aid shipments by the military regime;

(c) urge the Burmese regime to allow full and unrestricted access to international aid agencies and non-governmental organizations; and

(d) reaffirms its support for the Burmese people during this tragic period in their history.

Burma
Statements By Members

11:15 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is there unanimous consent to put the motion?

Burma
Statements By Members

11:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Burma
Statements By Members

11:15 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Burma
Statements By Members

11:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Burma
Statements By Members

11:15 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

(Motion agreed to)

National Security
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the government House leader.

After the exchanges yesterday, a number of security experts, including Professor Wark, the National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister, have indicated that there are some legitimate questions that need to be answered with respect to the situation facing the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

If the government House leader would simply respond in the affirmative that the government has every intention of ensuring that there is no security problem or security issue with respect to the situation facing the Minister of Foreign Affairs, I am sure that would go a long way to satisfying members of the House that the appropriate steps have been taken.

National Security
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, this government takes very seriously national security issues. We do not see that asking questions about the private lives of ministers in the fashion that the opposition has fits that bill.

We are surprised that the hon. member for Toronto Centre, after we thought he was too classy to ask these questions, would.

However, we would point out that if that party were at all concerned about national security in a serious way, its members would not have stood in this House on Wednesday asking us to fly back, at taxpayer expense, someone suspected of terrorist links, against the United Nations rules, who happens to be on a no-fly list. That is hardly a party that is concerned about national security.

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I really do regret that the minister has missed an opportunity here to take advantage of what was a very practical approach to what I think most people would see as a problem.

However, I would like to ask the minister another question on another subject having to do with the comments that were made yesterday by the Prime Minister on the radio in Toronto.

The Prime Minister is quoted as saying that “anti-Israeli sentiment, really just as a thinly disguised veil for good old-fashioned anti-Semitism”. He then went on to say, “I am disturbed that there are some elements in our political system, there are even some members of Parliament…that were willing to cater to that kind of opinion”.

Perhaps the minister will understand the sensitivity that all of us feel as members of Parliament. Could he perhaps tell us who exactly the anti-Semites are that the Prime Minister is talking about?

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I know the member for Toronto Centre takes these issues seriously and supports strongly, as does this government, the right of the state of Israel to exist and the right of that state to coexist in peaceful security with its neighbours. We know that we have to stay vigilant in that support of Israel.

I know the member himself has, in his own leadership campaign, experienced the kind of anti-Semitism, of which the Prime Minister spoke, and the damage and corrosive impact that it can have. He knows full well that does continue to exist as a force in our society and it is something that we must fight against at every opportunity.

Burma
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, with great respect for the minister, this is not about me. This is about a statement made by the Prime Minister. I do hope that when he comes back next week he will be able to clarify the situation.

My third question is also for the minister and has to do with Burma.

The United Nations Security Council adopted the responsibility to protect doctrine. Given the resolution that we have just adopted here, does the minister agree with the Liberal Party that the time has come for Canada to contact its allies—France, the United States, the United Kingdom and others—to talk about the need to invoke the doctrine of responsibility that we, as citizens of the world, have to save people's lives—

Burma
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

The hon. Leader of the Government in the House of Commons.

Burma
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, Canada has been a leader on the world stage in standing up for the rights of the Burmese people and standing up for democracy and freedom in Burma. We are a leader right now in the efforts to ensure there is proper and adequate aid for the people of Burma.

We are very troubled, as is the hon. member, with the situation that we encountered. We worked with our partners through the United Nations. As the hon. member knows full well, the United Nations has a special envoy who has been dealing with a very difficult regime that resists any kind of foreign intervention. That special envoy has been most successful but he himself has experienced considerable difficulties. I know when I met him--

Burma
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

The hon. member for London West.

Terrorism
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Sue Barnes London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister labels people who question his government's judgment. When we asked about the Afghanistan mission, he called us Taliban sympathizers.

The government House leader has accused the opposition of backing two terrorists, implying Mr. Khadr and Mr. Abdelrazik. No one in the House backs terrorism but we do believe in legal rights and due process.

When will the government bring Mr. Khadr and Mr. Abdelrazik to Canada so they can be dealt with here in compliance with Canadian justice and due process?

Terrorism
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Calgary East
Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and to the Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has said that these are complicated issues. These people have been charged and accused of terrorism. The government is taking this issue very seriously. We will give it attention and work in the best interests of Canada.

Terrorism
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Sue Barnes London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canadians who are detained abroad deserve to know their government will help them. Canadian citizenship should mean something. However, the Conservative government has developed a pattern of trying to be judge and jury, arbitrarily deciding whose rights it will respect.

When will the government bring Mr. Khadr and Mr. Abdelrazik to Canada so they can be dealt with here under Canadian justice and in compliance with due process?

These are important matters that Canadians believe in, our due process and the Canadian justice system and values.

Terrorism
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Calgary East
Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and to the Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, I am just amazed at the hypocrisy of the Liberal Party. All those cases started at the time when the Liberals were in power but they did nothing and now they have all these questions.

I would remind the members that the government will act in the interests of Canada and we will continue to ensure that we will act in the interests of Canada.

Minister of Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Foreign Affairs has access to extremely sensitive information, so he should be subject to a more in-depth security screening. Given his ex-girlfriend's shady past and given that organized crime does not hesitate—and that is putting it mildly—to exercise undue pressure, he should have done the right thing and disclosed this situation.

My question is for the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons. How can the Minister of Foreign Affairs have been so irresponsible as to hide his ex-girlfriend's shady past during his own security screening?

Minister of Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I know members of the Bloc Québécois worked very hard to publicize this issue.

They themselves, however, confess, by their actions, that they do not think these questions are appropriate for the House of Commons, which is why they never asked any of these questions in the House of Commons until such time as they could try to persuade or threaten some reporters into actually publishing the story so they could finally go with it.

They know it has no place here but it still does not stop them.

Minister of Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, matters of public interest do have a place in Parliament.

According to Professor Wark, who is a member of the Prime Minister's security advisory committee, people who have or have had connections to biker gangs are considered high-risk by those responsible for government security. I would also remind members of the government that he said that the Hell's Angels are not to be taken lightly. Yesterday, Michel Juneau-Katsuya reminded us all that infiltration is one of the many tactics used by biker gangs.

Why did the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who knew of his girlfriend's shady past, not have the basic good sense—

Minister of Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

The hon. Leader of the Government in the House of Commons.

Minister of Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I can assure the House of Commons that the Prime Minister has no intention of interfering in the personal relationships of members of his caucus.

Minister of Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, if the matter was of no consequence, as the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs claim, it is hard to imagine why a journalist from The Hill Times had such a terrible time trying to obtain the name of the minister's companion. She contacted Foreign Affairs, Industry Canada and the Privy Council to establish the identity of the minister's companion, but no one would talk.

Is this not further proof that, at the time of the swearing in, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister's Office were aware of this woman's somewhat shady past and that they wanted to conceal her identity?

Minister of Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, clearly, the Bloc Québécois does not want to talk about serious issues. For instance, it does not want to talk about today's news that, last month, 19,000 new jobs were created in Canada. That is good news for Canada.

Minister of Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, as the head of Canadian diplomacy, the Minister of Foreign Affairs should be subject to a more stringent security screening than his fellow cabinet ministers.

Since the government and the minister were aware of the shady past of the spouse of the Minister of Foreign Affairs but failed to do a security screening on her, is that not further proof of this government's carelessness?

Minister of Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, there were some who thought that the Bloc Québécois had some respect for people's privacy. I find it surprising to hear what they are urging upon us.

As I said earlier in French, I can assure the House that the Prime Minister has absolutely no intention of controlling, regulating or monitoring the dating lives of the caucus.

Burma
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, the military junta in Burma is preventing international aid from entering the country. The United Nations was forced to suspend its humanitarian flights. There are claims of soldiers confiscating shipments. Canadian NGOs have thousands of people on the ground, but the aid has not arrived.

Will the government send a special envoy to Burma? Why is one not already en route to Rangoon?

Burma
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, as I already said, the junta in Burma is causing a lot of problems with its undemocratic approach. Therefore, it is difficult to establish democratic relations with this country.

Today, the House adopted a very strong motion that represents the feelings of all members on this issue.

Burma
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, the military junta in Burma is letting its own people die. Canada must use every single tool available to convince the Burmese dictatorship to accept the world's help.

Our aid agencies need assistance to get supplies into the most devastated regions. Canada's aid agencies have a long history of working with the Burmese people and Canada must be in the lead here. Why will the government not appoint a respected eminent Canadian, a special envoy, for cyclone relief in Burma?

Burma
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, what we are interested in doing is delivering results. We have been in the lead in dealing with Burma. We delivered, in a symbolic way, honorary citizenship to Aung San Suu Kyi. We delivered, in a very substantial way, the toughest sanctions in the world to show where we stand on the Burmese regime.

We are working with our colleagues, our allies and others with an interest in the issue to press that as strongly as possible. We are doing exactly the same thing with regard to the aid problem. We are working with our allies, together with the United Nations, to find any way we can. Make no mistake, it is not easy working with the Burmese regime. It will resist at every step. We are working together with others to stop that resistance and help the people in need.

Airbus
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it has been more than six months since the Prime Minister promised an inquiry into the Mulroney-Schreiber affair and over a month since the government received the final report from Dr. Johnston.

Can the government House leader please tell us when the commissioner is going to be named? Also, will it be a true public inquiry or will it be held in secret and behind closed doors?

Airbus
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I anticipate that very soon a commissioner will be appointed to conduct the inquiry consistent with the terms of Professor Johnston.

As we indicated, there are some legitimate questions of public interest that need to be delved into and they will be. They were not delved into properly at the committee that dealt with the matter in the House of Commons, although that did provide some useful information. It will be a public inquiry and we look forward to that announcement soon.

Airbus
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it was over a month ago that the government House leader said, “We expect that will happen very soon”. It clearly turns out that “very soon” means in their own sweet time.

I know the government is tied up with one ethical crisis after another, but how could it possibly have forgotten this one? Or is this crisis just too large and the spin unit in the PMO just too busy to deal with another one?

Airbus
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, far be it from Liberals to speak about the ethical conundrum in that issue.

It was the member for West Nova who, on the very question of participating in questioning at the committee that dealt with this matter, was found in conflict of interest by the ethics commissioner, who said that the member for West Nova's “participation in the Committee proceedings involved acting 'in [a] way to further' his private interest in the lawsuit” and that “I conclude, therefore”, that he is in conflict with “section 8 of the Code”.

Liberals are the only people who have been found guilty of anything in this matter.

Elections Canada
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, in the last election the Conservative Party shuffled thousands of dollars in and out of local campaigns to buy national ads but avoid national spending limits. It was a laundromat.

The parliamentary secretary refuses to answer any questions but instead repeats irrelevant examples that have no bearing on this matter and that have already been dismissed by the Federal Court. Will the government recognize that the Conservative Party is under investigation for committing fraud to get elected, yes or no?

Elections Canada
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Nepean—Carleton
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, I have systematically demonstrated that the Liberals participated in a program of in and out. They did this to get around national spending limits and to amplify their taxpayer funded Elections Canada return.

On July 8, 2004, the Liberal Party transferred to Beth Phinney's local campaign $5,000. On July 9, 2004, Beth Phinney's local campaign transferred to the Liberal Party $5,000. Five thousand in, five thousand out: in, out--

Elections Canada
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Some hon. members

In, out.

Elections Canada
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

Order. Any more chanting like that and some people will find themselves just out.

The hon. member for Halifax West.

Elections Canada
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary demonstrates that the only reason he is here is that, as Conservatives say publicly, “he'll do what's asked of him without too much questioning”.

The government is so conflicted that the best the Conservatives can do is recite redundant, irrelevant, farcical responses to confuse the issue, so let us make this very simple. Will the government acknowledge that the Conservative Party is under investigation for cheating in the last election, yes or no?

Elections Canada
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Nepean—Carleton
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, I will acknowledge that on July 21, 2004, the Liberal Party made a transfer to the local campaign of the member for Oak Ridges—Markham for $5,000. On August 6, 2004, the local campaign of the member for Oak Ridges—Markham made a transfer to the Liberal Party for $5,000. Five thousand dollars in, five thousand dollars out: in, out, how could he?

400th Anniversary of Quebec City
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Luc Malo Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, the “almost-queen” of Canada continues to deny the existence of the Quebec nation in her speeches in France. For this government, recognizing the nation was simple duplicity and politicking. By trying to rewrite history as they are doing, they are ridiculing Quebeckers.

Will the Prime Minister admit that by changing history and by making Quebec City's 400th anniversary celebrations Canada's celebrations, he is showing contempt for the Quebec nation and denying its existence?

400th Anniversary of Quebec City
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Pontiac
Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, again, our colleagues from the Bloc Québécois seem to want to get a lot of mileage out of the 400th anniversary celebrations. For our part, we are very proud to have not only contributed financially, but also to have very actively participated in the 400th anniversary celebrations. All of the Conservative members from the greater Quebec City area who were voted in during the last election will be there. And they will be there to celebrate Quebec as a part of Canada.

400th Anniversary of Quebec City
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Luc Malo Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, will the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities admit that 1608 marks the founding of Quebec City and not the founding of Canada, and that his attempt to hijack the founding of Quebec City, birthplace of the Quebec nation, serves to deny the very existence of that nation?

400th Anniversary of Quebec City
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Pontiac
Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, no one here is denying the existence of the nation. We even had to force the Bloc Québécois, against its will, to vote for the Quebec nation within a united Canada. Why? Because twice Quebeckers have said “yes” to Canada. What does it not understand? It is common sense: Quebeckers want to remain a part of Canada.

Inter-Parliamentary Union
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government has imposed conditions on the world conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, such that efforts to have Quebec City host this event in 2010 could be irreparably compromised.

Does the government not think it would do better to enforce the rules in effect at the UN instead of taking a purely ideological approach and trying to amend the existing rules, which suit the 163 members of this international association of parliamentarians?

Inter-Parliamentary Union
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Souris—Moose Mountain
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Simply put, Mr. Speaker, a blanket upfront guarantee of visa issuance is not possible for over 1,500 participants from over 150 countries. However, we can say that we will treat all applications dispassionately and properly. They will be examined carefully and moved along expeditiously.

Inter-Parliamentary Union
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, this association was founded in 1889, and not one of the 163 member countries except Canada has a problem with the rules that govern how the association operates.

Why is the government being so inflexible, if it is not out of ideological rigidity, which is completely unwarranted under the circumstances? Have a little flexibility, please. Help Quebec City get the conference.

Inter-Parliamentary Union
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Souris—Moose Mountain
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Absolutely, Mr. Speaker, we want Quebec to host this convention along with other important events being held. We will do everything possible to be flexible. Where necessary, temporary resident permits will be issued to ensure the events take place and the participants can come as and when required.

Justice
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Commissioner of Official Languages said yesterday that in order for the defendants to have effective access to superior courts in the official language of their choice, it is essential that these courts have a sufficient number of bilingual judges. If not, access to justice in both official languages is compromised.

Does the Minister of Justice believe that Supreme Court justices should be bilingual?

Justice
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Fundy Royal
New Brunswick

Conservative

Rob Moore Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, as we all know, the government is responsible for the appointment of the next justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. We recognize the need to act in a timely manner to fill this vacancy.

However, I should say to the hon. member that if he is so concerned about bilingualism in our courts, he should speak with his unelected Liberal colleagues in the Senate, who are holding up Bill C-13, a bill that will ensure access to both official languages in Canada.

Justice
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, that has nothing to do with it. I agree with the Commissioner of Official Languages that the highest court of the land must reflect the bijural and bilingual values and identity of this country. Accordingly, its justices must be bilingual. I know that the Minister of the Environment does not believe in bilingualism; he demonstrated that the Montfort Hospital case.

Accordingly, these justices must be bilingual, in other words, judges must grasp legal nuances in both English and French. Laws are not translated; they are written in two different versions. I will introduce a private members' bill soon to amend the Official Languages Act. However, we can save some time.

Can the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages ensure that we change—

Justice
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

The parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada.

Justice
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Fundy Royal
New Brunswick

Conservative

Rob Moore Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, the government will continue to be guided by principles of merit and legal excellence in the selection and appointment of judges to Canada's Superior and Federal Courts, including the Supreme Court, while remaining vigilant in seeking competence in both official languages. Each and every one of our 159 judicial appointments reflects these principles.

I do want to quote the hon. member for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, who said, “So far, on the justice end of it, they look like pretty good appointments and I am glad they are filling the vacancies”. We agree.

Official Languages
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Raymond Simard Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, every month that goes by without a new official languages action plan costs minority language communities $18 million. So far, that represents a loss of nearly $27 million that could have been used to fund services that communities really need.

Can the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages tell us why phase two of the action plan has not been launched?

Official Languages
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Parliamentary Secretary for Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, we have made a strong commitment to phase two of the action plan. We are working on it. The minister made it clear that phase two would be launched in the spring.

Official Languages
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Raymond Simard Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, the government has had two years to come up with a new plan. The House Standing Committee on Official Languages made some excellent recommendations to the minister several months ago. Nevertheless, the government thought it best to hold bogus consultations headed up by a former Conservative premier, consultations that amounted to nothing.

This is about respect. When will we get a new official languages action plan?

Official Languages
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Parliamentary Secretary for Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, as I said, in our Speech from the Throne, we specifically mentioned our commitment to official language minority communities. The Liberals voted against our Speech from the Throne. In our budget, we clearly stated that we would support official language minority communities. The Liberals voted against our budget, so they have no right to say anything about this.

The Economy
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Brian Storseth Westlock—St. Paul, AB

Mr. Speaker, the opposition members constantly attempt to worry Canadians with their complete lack of confidence in our country's economy.

Liberals especially, with their doom and gloom scenarios, seem to have given up on Canadian ingenuity. They are constantly advocating massive, short term government intervention in the economy that would send the country spiralling into deficit.

We can contrast that with our pre-emptive action to secure Canada's long term prosperity: $200 billion in tax cuts, key investments in Canadians, and debt reduction. That is why our economic fundamentals remain solid.

Could the parliamentary secretary please update this House on our government's record on job creation?

The Economy
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Macleod
Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, despite global economic turbulence, Canada's employment picture remains strong. In April, for example, nearly 20,000 new jobs were created. That is 832,000 new jobs since this government came into power. The unemployment rates are at 33 year lows. Opposition MPs seem to be the only ones who are unhappy, but thankfully, most Canadians are not noticing that because they are at work.

Infrastructure
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to infrastructure, the government seems to confuse infrastructure with heritage. This was made clear this week. Not only was Parliament forced to shut down due to an infrastructure crisis but two water pipes exploded just down the street causing disrupted traffic, lost business and exorbitant emergency repair costs.

The Conservative government has forced cities to choose between using infrastructure money for their operating costs or raising taxes.

Will the minister agree to come for a walk with me down the street to see the effects of the government and previous governments' lack of attention to infrastructure? I am waiting. I am willing. Let us go.

Infrastructure
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Pontiac
Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I need not walk down the street to see that. As members know, I have quite a bit of experience from the municipal sector, having walked down the streets in Ottawa, but also in Gatineau on the other side of the river.

This government acted at the very beginning and during the last budget we decided to extend the gas tax that is going to help municipalities from coast to coast to coast to support infrastructure needs in their communities. That is something this government believes in, plus the $33 billion that we put on the table.

Heritage Waterways
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, for thousands of years the Ottawa River has been a source of life and livelihood for people living in this region. The campaign to designate the Ottawa River has been ongoing for five years in order to obtain federal recognition for what is already widely known. A request to designate the Ottawa River as a heritage river went unanswered by the Minister of the Environment. I want to ask the minister, can he confirm whether the initiative is still alive and if he is going to support it?

Heritage Waterways
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I say to my friend from Ottawa Centre: yes and yes.

Forestry Industry
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Ken Boshcoff Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, the natural resources committee has been studying the forest products industry since February. Witnesses have emphasized the need for the Prime Minister to host a national summit on forestry. The Prime Minister's pitiful response is to have the Minister of Natural Resources convene a three hour meeting with a few choice guests with a secret invitation list. This is just one more example of the insult and injury to our forestry industry.

Why will the Prime Minister not commit to hosting a national summit on forestry?

Forestry Industry
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands
Saskatchewan

Conservative

David Anderson Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, I am disappointed in the opposition. As he said, we have been working together at committee to put a report together. We thought we had been working in tandem with the opposition. The minister has, as the committee wanted, called a round table of forestry industry across Canada. They will be meeting here next Tuesday to discuss the future of the industry.

We are looking for the opposition to work with us. That is why we invited all the members of the committee to come out to give their input and to hear from other folks about the future of the industry. We look forward to working with them. We wish they would work with us to support the forestry industry across Canada.

Forestry Industry
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Ken Boshcoff Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, if one calls an invitation to a limited meeting working with people and stating that the session will “build upon the standing committee's study”, here is some news. The committee has not finished its work. So, is the minister, more conservatively, disrespecting? Or is the minister again misleading the forestry industry? Intentionally disrespecting or misleading?

Forestry Industry
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands
Saskatchewan

Conservative

David Anderson Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, the member knows full well that we respect the forestry industry. That is why we have created a federal mountain pine beetle program. That is why we launched the forestry industry long term competitiveness initiative. That is why we have ended the softwood lumber dispute with the United States. That is why we put the ecoenergy renewable power initiative in place. That is why we accelerated the capital cost allowance for our forestry industry and that is why we have invested $1 billion in the community development trust fund to help out that very industry.

Post-Secondary Education
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, the British government has indicated that Canadian students will no longer be eligible for the distinguished Commonwealth scholarships. This is a move that has been called a slap in the face to Canada. Under the government we have seen numerous examples of Canada's declining influence in the world. Now our longest running and closest friend in the world has chosen to shut Canada out.

Canadian scholars want the government to act. What is the minister doing to stand up for Canada's international students? What is the government doing to save the Commonwealth scholarships for Canadian students?

Post-Secondary Education
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Blackstrap
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, through “Advantage Canada” we are helping to develop the most well-educated, most flexible and most skilled workforce in the world. We have invested more than 40% through social transfers to provincial governments for post-secondary education. We have also increased funding to the provinces by $39 billion. I believe that we have done more for students than the Liberal government did when it was in power.

Post-Secondary Education
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, we are not talking about Canadian government spending. We are talking about the spending of another government that always included Canada and specifically the Commonwealth scholarships.

Many of Canada's most influential leaders in industry, public service and education have benefited from these. The government was asleep while Canada was shut out again. How does this happen?

Can the minister tell us when he was made aware of this situation, which will have a dramatic and negative impact on Canadian students and more importantly, what will he do to stand up for Canada and the Commonwealth scholarships for Canadian students?

Post-Secondary Education
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Blackstrap
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, I am not aware of the scholarships. The minister I am sure will answer that question when he is here. However, I will tell the member that we have invested $3.2 billion in post-secondary education. I am aware of that. I am also aware that we have had a 40% increase in funding for post-secondary education. I am also aware that the Liberals have voted against all of our initiatives for secondary education.

Bill C-484
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Carole Freeman Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Mr. Speaker, during the pro-life rally held yesterday here in Ottawa, a number of Conservative members demonstrated to reopen the debate on abortion. Yet the government insists that it does not want to reopen this debate.

If the Minister of Justice agrees with the Prime Minister, will he do everything he can to ensure that his colleagues vote against Bill C-484, which could recriminalize abortion?

Bill C-484
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Fundy Royal
New Brunswick

Conservative

Rob Moore Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Justice has been perfectly clear and the Prime Minister has been clear. This government is not going to reopen the debate on abortion and that is the answer to that question.

Pay Equity
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, four years ago, the pay equity task force released its report. That was four years ago and the Conservative government has done absolutely nothing. Women are still earning only 71% of what men make.

Is it possible that the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages thinks the same as her leader, who, in 1998, as president of the president of the National Citizens Coalition, said that pay equity is a rip-off and that this ridiculous law should be scrapped?

Pay Equity
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Jonquière—Alma
Québec

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn Minister of Labour and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec

Mr. Speaker, our government has been proactive on the pay equity file. We hired new inspectors. We introduced procedures to better inform employers of their responsibilities. Furthermore, our inspectors have visited at least 250 businesses in recent months to make employers and unions aware of employers' responsibilities with respect to pay equity in their businesses.

Public Works and Government Services
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Jean-Claude D'Amours Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, the Centre-ville organization, which includes the Edmundston Central Business Development Corporation, is a non-profit organization that oversees the economic development of downtown Edmundston. Its budget is wholly funded by a voluntary tax on the owners of commercial buildings located in the business improvement area.

The federal government refused to pay this property tax on the buildings it owns in downtown Edmundston and elsewhere in New Brunswick.

As citizens, we pay taxes to the federal government. Why does the government not want to pay its taxes?

Public Works and Government Services
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam
B.C.

Conservative

James Moore Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics

Mr. Speaker, we fulfill all of our commitments. I am not familiar with the case my colleague has just brought up during question period. I could speak with him afterwards.

Health
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Mr. Speaker, since taking office the government has taken a new approach to the issues surrounding drug abuse. Under the previous Liberal government, Canadians were given mixed messages about the legality of drugs and some of the Liberal campaigns stopped just short of actually encouraging children to experiment with drugs.

Last October the Prime Minister announced Canada's new national anti-drug strategy and since then we have made great strides in clamping down on those who traffic illegal drugs while providing meaningful treatment for those in need of help.

Could the Parliamentary Secretary for Health please update the House on any recent developments in this area?

Health
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia
Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Parliamentary Secretary for Health

Mr. Speaker, under this government Canadians can now have confidence that their elected officials are working to help those who suffer from drug addiction.

Last week, the Minister of Health, the Minister of Public Safety and the Minister of Justice announced $111 million that will be dedicated in strengthening Canadian treatment systems right across the country.

Then, just yesterday, the Minister of Health and the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development announced more funding to help those first nations people suffering from drug addiction. This government is getting the job done.

Forestry Industry
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, it was a black Tuesday for working families in Crofton last week when the Catalyst Paper mill announced 80 job cuts. Even though it posted its best production ever last year, Catalyst is battling rising costs and a fibre shortage made worse by recent sawmill closures. At the same time, workers laid off five months ago are coming to the end of their EI eligibility with no further help in sight. Conservative policy of corporate tax cuts is leading to economic decline and an increasing income gap.

Will the government admit that its community development trust is not really helping forestry workers?

Forestry Industry
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands
Saskatchewan

Conservative

David Anderson Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and for the Canadian Wheat Board

Actually, Mr. Speaker, we are very proud of our community development trust fund. It is going to be delivered to Canadians. We are also proud of the things that we have done in this economy. This morning we found out that last month 19,200 new jobs were created across this country. Since the government has come to power, over 830,000 jobs have been created across the country. We are getting the job done.

Fisheries and Oceans
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, nobody is talking about the quality of those jobs.

Let us talk about fisheries. There will be no commercial or recreational fishing of the Fraser River sockeye this year and the aboriginal food fishery has to be rationed among communities. After years of cuts to research, the government has no idea why this salmon run is so low.

Will the minister show some leadership and commit to putting more resources into salmon research before we have another collapse, like the cod fishery on the east coast?

Fisheries and Oceans
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission
B.C.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, yes, there are some concerns about the sockeye run this year. As we know, it is a four year cycle and there were some difficulties four years ago. Ocean conditions are certainly a big part of the problem. The government, though, is continuing to invest in science, particularly on this issue, and trying to address some of the issues that we need to know more about. This minister is committed to doing that.

Trent-Severn Waterway
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to congratulate and thank our Liberal candidate Steve Clarke and the Orillia Packet & Times for quickly exposing Conservative game playing with numbers. The Conservative government has tried to claim an investment in the Trent-Severn Waterway as being new, whereas almost all of it is old money.

I would like to ask, why does the Conservative government continue to try to mislead Canadians so badly and pretend that it is doing something when it is not?

Trent-Severn Waterway
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I am shocked by that question from this member.

Because of the hard work of the member for Simcoe North, we are finally getting around to making some major repairs. It will cost $63 million to support the restoration of the Trent-Severn Waterway. It has been backed consistently by that member and members of this caucus.

I think this is nothing more than a blatant attempt to change the subject from the Liberal Party's new gas tax and also a tax on home heating fuel, electricity and natural gas, something that will hurt middle class families and seniors living on fixed income.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, the countries of the European Free Trade Association are some of the wealthiest and most sophisticated markets in the world. Earlier today the Minister of International Trade opened debate on Canada's first free trade agreement in over six years.

Would the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade please inform the House of the exciting progress being made on Canada's trade relations with other countries around the world?

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Chatham-Kent—Essex for his support for the EFTA treaty.

Certainly, I would like to thank the Liberals for their support for the free trade agreement as well. They rose in the House today and said they will be supporting this treaty, which is a good deal for Canada and a good deal for the four European nations that we will be signing it with.

It should be noted that Canada's exports to the EFTA countries are worth $5.2 billion and Canadian direct investment in the EFTA countries is in excess of $8.4 billion. This is a good deal for Canada. It is a good deal for the European Union. It gives us a toe hold and a foothold into a greater marketplace than we have ever had and it is important for the economy of this country.

Lebanon
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canadians are concerned about the recent escalation and violence in Lebanon. We hear news reports that 10 people are dead, 20 people are wounded, and those are just recent reports.

I have very simple questions for the government. What is the government's plans, diplomatically speaking, to help stem the violence and prevent further violence. Also, what is the preparedness for Canadians if they have to leave Lebanon quickly if the violence gets out of hand and is further to what we have heard today?

Lebanon
Oral Questions

Noon

Calgary East
Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and to the Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, we strongly condemn the actions of Hezbollah to incite violence. These actions only serve to inflame sectarian divisions. Hezbollah and its supporters must not be allowed to pull Lebanon toward war.

We are monitoring the situation closely and are providing information to Canadians who are registered in Lebanon.

Manufacturing Industry
Oral Questions

Noon

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, according to a study by an economist named Stanford, with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the nearly $15 billion in tax reductions that the Conservatives made in 2007 have widened the gap between provinces and benefited the oil companies and banks at the expense of Quebec's manufacturing industry, which is in crisis.

Given these findings, will the government face facts and introduce targeted measures to help the manufacturing industry, such as refundable tax credits for research and development?

Manufacturing Industry
Oral Questions

Noon

Jonquière—Alma
Québec

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn Minister of Labour and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec

Mr. Speaker, with regard to the manufacturing industry, as members are aware, Canada Economic Development is preparing the 2008-2011 strategic plan to support economic development in all the various regions of Quebec.

About two weeks ago, we put in place what we call “major economic and tourism facilities” for the targeted regions, and within two or three weeks, we will be implementing new measures to better support the manufacturing and forestry industries.

Health
Oral Questions

Noon

Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, the government continues to ignore mounting scientific evidence proving the efficacy of the safe injection site in downtown Vancouver. Instead of acknowledging the success of this program, the Minister of Health has left its future hanging in limbo. This is an ideological attack against people who desperately need our help.

Scientists, health experts, the province, the city and the police all support the Insite program. Why does the minister believe his personal bias should trump the health and safety of Canadians?

Health
Oral Questions

Noon

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia
Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Parliamentary Secretary for Health

Mr. Speaker, no decision has been made on this issue, but I will share with the member a statement on the safe injection site, “it's an ad hoc scheme that has nothing to do with treating addictions and getting people off drugs”. Who said that? The member for Vancouver South.

Bill C-377—Climate Change Accountability Act
Points of Order
Oral Questions

Noon

Conservative

Scott Reid Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to respond to the point of order raised on May 8 by the member for Windsor—Tecumseh on the selection of report stage amendments to Bill C-377, An Act to ensure Canada assumes its responsibilities in preventing dangerous climate change.

It will be my contention that the member is, in effect, Mr. Speaker, asking you to allow his party, and especially the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, to act in variation from the principle you laid out for us on March 21, 2001, when you said:

—motions in amendment that could have been presented in committee will not be selected....Accordingly, I would strongly urge all members and all parties to avail themselves fully of the opportunity to propose amendments during committee stage so that the report stage can return to the purpose for which it was created...

Let me give you some background, Mr. Speaker.

Bill C-377 was referred to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development on April 25, 2007, in the previous session and was subsequently reinstated in that same committee pursuant to Standing Order 86(1).

The committee began its study on December 11, 2007, and was granted an extension on March 12, 2008, which gave the committee until May 7 to report the bill to the House.

At its April 17 meeting the committee adopted a motion, on division, which had been put forward by the New Democratic member for Windsor—Tecumseh, to put an end to the committee's clause by clause examination of the bill and to report it back to the House with amendments.The committee adopted the motion well in advance of the May 7 deadline imposed by the Standing Orders.

The bill was subsequently reported to the House on April 29. The committee had more time to complete its work than it used, but it chose not to do so. It chose to do so, on division.

Procedural considerations that should be taken into account are the following. The note to Standing Order 76.1(5) states that the purpose of report stage is:

—to provide Members who were not members of the committee, with an opportunity to have the House consider specific amendments they wish to propose. It is not meant to be a reconsideration of the committee stage of a bill.

The committee decided to end its clause by clause examination of the bill prematurely. One of the persons involved in that decision was the member who is now proposing further amendments. The new Democratic Party is putting forward amendments at report stage therefore that ought to have been considered in committee. Thus, the course of action being proposed to you, Mr. Speaker, by the New Democratic Party is inconsistent with the purpose of report stage.

In this vein I would note that the amendments on the notice paper stand in the name of the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, who is a member of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, where the bill was considered. He therefore had ample opportunity to introduce the amendments at that time.

Mr. Speaker, I apologize for the fact that I sound like I am doing a bad imitation of Brian Mulroney, but I have a cold.

Furthermore, the Standing Orders state, at page 270:

Motions which were considered in committee and subsequently withdrawn are also generally not selected.

I would note that the amendments that appear on the notice paper are the same amendments the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley had given notice of during the committee's clause by clause examination of the bill. These amendments therefore were effectively withdrawn when the committee decided to report the bill back to the House.

In his point of order, the member for Windsor—Tecumseh took note of the lengthy debate on the bill during the committee's clause by clause consideration of the bill and stated that this was the committee's rationale for ending its work prematurely.

I would concede that this point might have been relevant if the debate in committee had prevented the committee from reporting the bill before the May 7 deadline, at which time, in accordance with the Standing Orders, the bill would have been deemed reported without amendments, thereby depriving the member of the ability to present those amendments in committee. However, this was not the case as the committee decided, with the support of the relevant member, to end its study of the bill three weeks before it was obliged to report the bill to the House.

We turn now to some precedents.

To support his argument, the member for Windsor—Tecumseh raised two previous rulings where the Speaker selected report stage amendments that could have been moved in committee. However, the circumstances in each case were clearly different from the case before us today.

In the first case, the January 28, 2003 ruling, Mr. Speaker, you selected report stage amendments from the member for Mississauga South on the grounds that the member was not a member of the standing committee and therefore could not propose amendments in committee. This is clearly not the case with the report stage amendments to Bill C-377, as the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley is a member of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.

The second example. In a ruling on November 6, 2001, Mr. Speaker, you selected report stage amendments from the member for Windsor—Tecumseh on the grounds that the member sat on two committees that were seized with bills at the same time and therefore it was not possible for the member to be present at the relevant committee at the time when such amendments would have, in the normal course of events, been introduced.

This precedent does not apply to the present case since the committee's minutes of proceeding show that the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley was clearly an active participant in the committee's clause by clause study of Bill C-377.

In short, unlike the precedents cited by the member for Windsor—Tecumseh, the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley would have been able to move his amendments if the committee had chosen to continue clause by clause consideration. Instead, the committee decided to stop its work and report the bill back to the House, thereby precluding the introduction of the said amendments.

I submit to you, Mr. Speaker, that this is a blatant abuse of the rules of the House. This is clearly an example of the majority on a committee effectively suspending or bypassing the Standing Orders in order to abrogate the protection that these Standing Orders provide to the rights of the minority.

By using such tactics, the opposition majority on any committee could theoretically rush through any bill by deciding to report the bill without any study and then proposing report stage amendments to amend the bill. This would be a dangerous precedent to set for private member's bills as such items are already subject to a significant time allocation and are already fast tracked relative to government bills.

Mr. Speaker, to conclude, I would like to draw your attention to your statement of March 21, 2001, on the guidelines for the selection of report stage amendments:

—motions in amendment that could have been presented in committee will not be selected....Accordingly, I would strongly urge all members and all parties to avail themselves fully of the opportunity to propose amendments during committee stage so that the report stage can return to the purpose for which it was created...

I have emphasized that quote because it is so important.

Clearly the New Democratic Party has chosen to ignore the Speaker's wise advice by not availing itself fully of the opportunity to propose amendments during committee stage. NDP members cannot have it both ways. They cannot decide that clause by clause consideration should be terminated prematurely and then expect people to propose its committee amendments at report stage. The NDP is essentially asking that the committee stage of Bill C-377 be continued at report stage, and this is exactly the opposite of what is stated in the Standing Orders and what has been confirmed by the Speaker.

I therefore submit to the House that the amendments to Bill C-377 should not be selected for debate at report stage.

Bill C-377—Climate Change Accountability Act
Points of Order
Oral Questions

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

I thank the hon. member for Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington for his submission. It will be considered by the Speaker and he will give his ruling in a timely manner, probably Monday morning.

Meanwhile, I am sure the whole House will join me in wishing the hon. member a prompt and complete recovery.

Government Response to Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Macleod
Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to one petition.

Unborn Victims of Crime
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am encouraged by the number of people who are responding positively to Bill C-484, the bill that would provide protection for unborn children when they, as well as their mothers, are victims of a criminal attack.

The people who are sending in their names today come from right across the country, as I have experienced over the last number of days. They draw particular attention to the fact that forcing upon a pregnant woman the death and injury of her unborn child is a violation of a woman's right to protect and give life to her child.

This petition contains another 735 signatures today. I am very proud to present the petition.

Human Rights
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Anders Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present a petition that has been signed by a number of people in my riding and from across the country.

They draw to the attention of the House that human rights in China have not improved as a result of being granted the 2008 Olympic Games and, in fact, have become worse, and that the continuing crackdown on Tibet by the Chinese government is an egregious violation of human rights.

Therefore, the petitioners call upon Canadian politicians to boycott the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing and that athletes do not attend the opening ceremonies.

I would like to add that I have Tibetans in my riding who have relatives who have disappeared since the arrests and have not been seen since.

Unborn Victims of Crime
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I, too, have received quite a number of petitions with regard to Bill C-484, which was spoken to earlier in the House.

The petition contains hundreds of, if not over a thousand, signatures, many of which are from my riding. Therefore, I, too, take the honour of presenting this petition.

Unborn Victims of Crime
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Bradley Trost Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, I, too, have received petitions from my constituents who are concerned that under the current federal law an unborn child is not recognized as a victim with respect to violent crimes.

The petitioners began the petition when the member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park introduced his private member's bill. They are very much in line with his position and call upon the House to enact such legislation.

I am very proud to present this petition on their behalf.

Cluster Bombs
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Storseth Westlock—St. Paul, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour today to present petitions signed by my constituents, as well as people across Canada concerning the recognition of the importance of the Oslo process.

These petitioners call upon the Canadian government to continue its leadership role in the Oslo process and the international ban on cluster munitions that pose unacceptable humanitarian consequences.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Macleod
Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, if Question No. 169 supplementary and Question No. 223 could be made orders for returns, these returns would be tabled immediately.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question No. 169
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Joe McGuire Egmont, PE

With regard to contracts and investments under the Industrial Regional Benefits (IRB) Policy: (a) which contracts have been awarded by the government since January 1, 2006 that require the prime contractor to make sub-contracts and investments; (b) what were the names of the prime contractor and the clients; (c) what was the description of the contract; (d) what was the contract period; and (e) what were the details of any and all sub-contracts and investments agreed to under the IRB policy, including (i) the name and location of the companies receiving the sub-contracts or investments, (ii) the description, (iii) the value, (iv) the time period, (v) the Canadian content value for each?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 223
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

With respect to the recently cancelled visit of His Royal Highness Prince El Hassan bin Talal to Canada: (a) has there been any contact between representatives of His Royal Highness and the Prime Minister’s Office ahead of His Royal Highness’ planned visit to Canada at the end of March or early April; and (b) had His Royal Highness or his representatives made special requests for customs and security procedures for their entry into Canada and, if so, (i) were these requests denied and, if so, why, (ii) how did these requests compare to normal customs and security procedures for other visiting dignitaries or eminent personalities from other countries?

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

When we were discussing Bill C-55, the hon. member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup had 13 minutes to finish his speech. He now has the floor.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to reiterate that the debate concerns the proposed free trade agreement between Canada and the European Free Trade Association, which is made up of Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland. The Bloc Québécois is in favour of this bill and the agreement.

In the first part of my speech, I talked about how the agreement could mean attractive opportunities for the pharmaceutical industry in Quebec. The same is true of the nickel sector, especially for one mine in Ungava, in Quebec. The agreement could also benefit aluminum exports to Iceland. Consequently, Quebec is very interested in seeing this agreement implemented.

Moreover, we have ascertained that the agreement will have no impact on agricultural supply management. The existing systems in Quebec and Canada can be maintained.

However, at the end of my speech, just before question period, I made the point that the federal government will have to take far more aggressive steps to support the shipbuilding industry once this free trade agreement takes effect. The agreement provides that tariffs will decrease over 15 years.

I believe that the shipbuilding industry in Norway, in particular, is much better equipped today than Canada's. Canada has abandoned the shipyards. The industry was not really given the tools to grow.

In that context, I would like to point out that one recommendation in the report presented by the Standing Committee on International Trade was adopted by that committee. It had been proposed by the hon. members for Sherbrooke and Berthier—Maskinongé from the Bloc Québécois, our two spokespeople in this matter. They did their work in a very conscientious manner and got support from the committee on the following motion:

The Canadian government must without delay implement an aggressive Maritime policy to support the industry, while ensuring that any such strategy is in conformity with Canada’s commitments at the WTO.

The purpose of the motion is to raise a red flag. Indeed, the free trade agreement is desirable. However, in practice, for the marine industry the government truly has to make a significant shift and implement a support strategy for the shipbuilding industry.

This currently does not exist and our shipyards have often been left to fend for themselves over the past few years. We are seeing the results of that. It is possible to have a healthy and competitive shipbuilding industry, but we have to have a policy to that effect. That is no reason not to support the free trade agreement with European countries.

We are sending a message to all of Europe. The agreement I am currently referring to is the agreement between Canada and the European Free Trade Association, which includes Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland. It is important to note that these are countries Quebec does a lot of trade with. However, this now suggests that the real target should be signing a free trade agreement with the European Union that will help achieve results for all our exchanges with Europe.

For example, the four countries involved in the current agreement represent 12 million people and roughly 1% of Canadian exports. With the European Union, it would be 495 million inhabitants who generate 31% of global GDP. In fact, the European Union is currently the strongest economic power in the world.

Every day we are painfully becoming more aware that our economy is far too dependent on that of the United States. When there is a downturn in consumerism such as we are seeing now in the United States, when we see that the Americans are committing a lot of money to the war in Iraq, when we see the commercial paper crisis, when we see the economic slowdown in the United States, when we see the obvious aggression of emerging countries such as India and China, we can see that it is getting more and more difficult to keep our place in the American market.

This agreement gives us an opportunity to move forward and guarantee that we have access to Europe.

The current free trade agreement indicates that we are moving in the right direction. We should have a similar agreement for the entire European Union, but we do not. We believe that the federal government should speed up its attempts to access Europe so that we can arrive at an even more significant agreement that will give the best possible results.

This is the reality. We have lost 150,000 manufacturing jobs in five years, more than 80,00 of which were lost since the Conservatives came to power. They follow the laissez-faire doctrine, meaning that the market regulates everything, but that does not mean that we should not be open to new markets, as we would be with the free trade agreement we are talking about today, and of course a more widespread agreement with the whole of Europe. The European Union is absolutely essential to diversifying our markets and reducing our dependency on the United States. The fact that Canada has not yet signed a free trade agreement with the European Union considerably diminishes the competitiveness of our businesses on the European market.

At this point in my speech, I would like to say that the Canadian government must realize that it is essential to move forward on environmental issues. Other countries must see that we are respecting Kyoto, and that we will be firmly committed to Kyoto plus, which will be developed at the Copenhagen conference next year. As it stands, we could end up paying export taxes because the international community does not recognize that we have made an adequate effort on environmental issues. The government will have to be tougher and much more active in this respect, and it will have to recognize that sustainable development is not only good for the environment, but it is also good for the economy. Canada is not currently a leader, as it could have been if it had truly decided to accept Kyoto, to implement it and to create resources more quickly, such as a carbon exchange, so that we could reap all the necessary benefits.

Let us go back to the possibility of a free trade agreement with Europe. With the rise of the petrodollar, European companies have tended to open subsidiaries in the United States and leave out Canada. That is another reason why it would be a good idea to sign a free trade agreement with all of Europe.

Canada's share of direct European investments in North America dropped from 3% in 1992 to 1% in 2004. The alarm bells are ringing. We need to change our attitude, we need to change the way we do things, and we need to come to an agreement with all of Europe, like the one we are debating today, as quickly as possible. It would be to Quebec's and Canada's advantage to sign and implement an agreement as soon as possible.

I should also point out that the European Union and Mexico have had a free trade agreement in place since 2000. As such, if a Canadian company is doing business in Mexico, it is in that company's best interest to relocate more of its production to Mexico because it can access both the European and U.S. markets, which it cannot do if it keeps its production in Quebec. It is important to both companies and workers for the federal government to change its attitude and speed things up in terms of opening up markets. Being open to globalization when the conditions are right means that our companies have to be in a competitive position. We have to give them the fiscal tools they need, and we have to give them the tools they need to access the market.

The example I just gave is the best one. A Quebec company does not have the same access to the European market as a Mexican company, and companies in Mexico have access to both North American and European markets. This is an aberration that should be rectified as soon as possible.

Quebec would be the first to benefit from a free trade agreement with Europe. The Bloc Québécois has been promoting this for some time now. We proposed it as part of our election platform and our political agenda. We believe that if we persevere in this file as we have in others, we will eventually get a free trade agreement with Europe.

For example, 70% of the people who work for French companies in Canada are from Quebec, as are 37% of those who work for U.K. companies here and 35% of those who work for German companies here. In contrast, just 20% of people working for U.S. companies in Canada are Quebeckers. The Government of Quebec has been working with companies since the Quiet Revolution, and that is a major advantage when it comes time to seek out European investment. We have everything we need to become the bridgehead for European investment in America.

Thus, we see what the prevailing spirit was when the free trade agreement was signed with the United States, the agreement that later became NAFTA. Thanks to that spirit, Quebeckers rallied behind their leaders who wanted to implement free trade. Quebec has benefited from this free trade. Unfortunately, market conditions have changed considerably. Since the markets have opened up to China and other countries around the world, we are now facing a new reality. This reality calls for new tools for international trade. Free trade agreements are the best example.

Today, the Bloc Québécois is very pleased to support Bill C-55, which would implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the EFTA, that is, the European Free Trade Association, consisting of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

We believe this is a step towards adopting such an agreement with Europe as a whole. Quebec is open to this position and hopes to see it come to fruition. Quebec as a whole shares this desire to move forward on such agreements. We hope the federal government will pick up the pace and conclude an agreement with the European Union. That would be the best way to diversify our economy, which really needs a boost, due to the slowdown in the American economy and the emergence of new competition from China.

I am pleased to confirm once again that the Bloc Québécois supports this free trade agreement and hopes to see it implemented as soon as possible. It will be beneficial for businesses and workers in Quebec.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

Before I go to questions and comments, I would like to thank the hon. member for Vancouver Quadra for maintaining order and decorum in the House over the last several minutes. Questions and comments.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Halifax.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased this afternoon to have an opportunity to speak to Bill C-55.

I was in the House earlier today when the minister of trade made his very enthusiastic uncritical comments in support of the bill that is before us. I listened very carefully to what the minister of trade had to say about what the impact of Bill C-55 if implemented in its current form would be on the shipbuilding industry of this country.

I expected that he would speak in an informed way about what are some very serious concerns which are widely shared not just by a small corner of this House, not just by 30 New Democrat members of Parliament, but by a great many people across this country, particularly on both coasts, in terms of the very worrisome impact this free trade deal will have on the shipbuilding industry. Far from hearing him give appropriate attention to the very legitimate concerns that are widely shared and widely expressed, he more or less dismissed those concerns. I do not want to misrepresent him in any way, but I think he referred to them as certain sensitivities. He said there were certain sensitivities that had arisen in regard to shipbuilding.

I do not know the minister of trade personally, but I have to say that is one of the world's greatest understatements. Perhaps he is prone to understatement, I do not know, but it certainly does not do justice and it does not deal fairly with what are very deeply rooted concerns. From my point of view and that of the New Democratic caucus, these are well-founded concerns about what the impact of this deal, if it goes ahead unamended, will be on thousands of jobs in this country.

Having said that, there is a very unhappy history, one that is very much shared by and is the joint responsibility of a succession of Conservative, Liberal and Conservative governments. There has been a complete failure by any of those governments over the decades to put in place the kind of comprehensive, coherent, national shipbuilding policy that would have served this country so much better than the kind of fits and starts, piecemeal approach to shipbuilding. It has often been an approach that has been based more on short term electoral considerations than on the very fundamental issues that underlie the need for a comprehensive national shipbuilding policy.

My own experience and exposure to the inadequate responses of the succession of governments began when I was leader of the New Democratic Party in Nova Scotia. There were very real, well-founded concerns about the impact of that lack of a national shipbuilding policy in my own riding in Halifax. At that time I was proud to represent the riding of Halifax Fairview, and before that, Halifax Chebucto. Both of those provincial ridings were very much impacted by the policy, or more accurately, the absence of a national shipbuilding policy. That had an impact on the Halifax shipyards. We have systematically allowed that to happen in this country. Other countries, and one most notable in the context of this debate is Norway, have understood that there cannot be a sound, competitive shipbuilding industry if there is not a net comprehensive national policy.

I recall attending federal NDP conventions in the early 1990s. I think 1991 was one of the occasions when I was part of crafting and piloting through a very comprehensive policy that was adopted by the New Democratic Party. We called for that national shipbuilding policy. Before I ever came to Ottawa and continuing since I entered this chamber in 1997, the New Democratic Party has been very consistent and very persistent in continuing to press for that national shipbuilding policy.

We still do not have it. When the Minister of International Trade refers to “certain sensitivities”, his words, with respect to the disastrous impact that this trade deal, unamended, could have on our shipbuilding industry, he is being extremely insensitive to both that pathetic history of governments of his party's stripe and of the Liberals in not securing a sound base for a robust shipbuilding industry that can continue to compete in today's world.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with our current shipbuilders and our current shipyard workers in terms of their ability to compete, but we have had such a fits and starts approach to this industry that what has effectively happened is that Norway foremost, but other countries as well, has invested in a smart, orderly and far-sighted way in its shipbuilding industry. It has in the process established itself as a competitor that will be a huge winner from the trade deal that is before us. I say good for it.

Some people ask, what is wrong with New Democrats? After all Norway has had a proud tradition of being a social democratic country committed to high wages, committed to practically the whole range of policy objectives that the current government and the Liberal government before it completely pushed aside as not the domain of government intervention. In fact in Norway the government has intervened in a very smart way to build up its shipbuilding capacity, to train, to invest in the hardware, software and infrastructure needed, in the tax policies and so on.

It is not some kind of unexpected development that Canada finds itself at such a disadvantage in relation to competing with a country like Norway. What is unexpected, but I suppose we should come to expect it, what is absolutely unacceptable and impossible to understand for a lot of people whose jobs are at stake is what on earth Canada has been doing in the meantime that has allowed us to be so vulnerable.

It is not just New Democrats who are speaking out on this, although before I go to some of the other voices and some of the other interests very much concerned about the devastation in the shipbuilding industry that can result from this trade deal, I want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to my colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore, who is not able to be here today. I have to say that if he had been in the House to hear the minister talk about certain sensitivities, I think he probably would have had a heart attack. In fact, he had an accident and because of his injury was in hospital yesterday being operated on, and therefore, he was not able to be here today. He has never failed to take a stand on behalf of the shipbuilders and the shipyard workers in this country from the day he entered public life.

It is not just the Nova Scotian members of Parliament in the New Democratic caucus who have been very vocal, knowledgeable and persistent in putting forward their concerns. There are several members from British Columbia. For example, there is the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan. The Nanaimo shipyards are very important to the local economy and obviously for local jobs. There is the member for Victoria. In Victoria the Esquimalt dry dock is very important. The Lower Mainland and the Vancouver members all have expressed their concerns articulately. However, it is not just New Democrats who have spoken out.

I would like to read briefly from some of the testimony before the parliamentary committee when Karl Risser, president of Local 1, which was originally the Marine Workers' Federation but is now affiliated with the Canadian Auto Workers Shipbuilding, appeared before the committee. He did so not just on behalf of the proud members who have a long history with the Marine Workers' Federation and today are affiliated with CAW, but also on behalf of the Shipbuilding, Waterways and Marine Workers Council that has done a lot of collaboration and coordination around its concerns about this impending devastation to the shipbuilding industry. He stated in committee:

I am here on behalf of the workers in the marine sector...to express our opposition to this agreement. Canadian shipbuilders find themselves competing for work in domestic and international markets on far from a level ground. Other governments, Norway for one, have supported the shipbuilding industries for years and have built them into powers, while Canada has not. We have had little protection, and what little protection we have left is a 25% tariff on imported vessels into Canada, which is being washed away by government daily through agreements such as this and the exemptions being negotiated with companies.

I will not go on at length, but he makes the important point that ministers of defence over the years have acknowledged how important shipbuilding is to our defence. I know there are some members who will rush forward in this context and ask what my concern is now because we have some important new shipbuilding activity happening with respect to the submarine refits and to the frigates. That is absolutely true and it is very welcome, and I acknowledge that, but with respect to defence and shipbuilding, there has never been a comprehensive approach taken to this and, therefore, we have not had orderly procurement nor long term planning and investments. We have had major investments into important contracts from time to time but then just a drought for very long periods.

Someone who is not familiar with the shipbuilding industry may say that it is not the government's problem. Do we want the government investing and awarding contracts to shipyards to build naval vessels that we do not need? No, but that is not the point. The reason we need a comprehensive national shipbuilding policy is because of the very heavy investment of public dollars into contracts that are awarded for naval vessels and, most recently, major contracts with respect to frigates and subs. Without a comprehensive national shipbuilding policy, all that investment would fall idle if we did not have a commitment to Canadian shipbuilding of non-defence vessels.

It is not surprising that a lot of concern has been expressed. Unwisely, the government felt that, because of opposition from the existing shipyards and in the absence of a national shipbuilding policy, which, understandably, marine and shipyard workers across the country will be very opposed to, it could award the major contracts for both the frigate and the submarine refits and that would shut them up. It felt that would keep them busy in the short term and that they would not dare speak out because they would be so grateful.

However, what they understand, what they committed to and what they lobbied a long time for was not just the immediate investment in contracts that would benefit them individually as workers or their families, but they had pleaded the case and put forward comprehensive proposals for what a national shipbuilding policy should look like and they still do not have it.

Therefore, there are major concerns about what will happen to our shipyards and to the jobs of our shipyard workers over time.

The point was made that Norway should be the kind of country with which we would welcome entering into trade deals, and that is true, but that does not mean we can turn our backs on the legitimate problems that have arisen, not because of what it is looking for but because of what we have failed to do in terms or appropriate investments.

As I indicated, many other people have expressed concerns about the impact of this. Some may suggest that it only affects the shipyard workers. However, in his testimony before the committee, the president of the Shipyard General Workers' Federation in British Columbia stated:

The Canadian shipbuilding industry is already operating at about one-third of its capacity. Canadian demand for ships over the next 15 years is estimated to be worth $9 billion in Canadian jobs. Under the FTAs with Norway, Iceland, and now planned with Korea and then Japan, these Canadian shipbuilding jobs are in serious jeopardy. In these terms, this government's plan is sheer folly and an outrage.

Is it only the workers who have spoken out? No it is not.

In his testimony before committee, Andrew McArthur, speaking on behalf of the Shipbuilding Association of Canada but long-associated with Irving Shipbuilding Inc. and now in retirement, said:

So our position from day one has been that shipbuilding should be carved out from the trade agreement. We butted our heads against a brick wall for quite a number of years on that and we were told there is no carve-out. If the Americans, under the Jones Act, can carve out shipbuilding from NAFTA and other free trade agreements, as I believe the Americans are doing today with Korea, or have done, why can Canada not do the same? ...We have to do something to ensure shipbuilding continues. The easiest thing is to carve it out from EFTA. And if you do one thing, convince your colleagues in government to extend the ship financing facility, make it available to Canadian owners in combination with the accelerated capital cost allowance, and you will have as vibrant an industry as exists

However, what has not happened is the kind of response to the expert advice given by those involved in the shipbuilding industry and by the concerns put forward by the shipyard workers themselves.

I want to come back to where the Liberals stand on this. I could not help but think how consistent they have been, and they are consistent if nothing else, on the budget, on the extension of the Afghan counter-insurgency mission and with regard to climate change. They have railed against them, have talked about the problems with them and then have voted for them or did not vote at all.

Today we heard the trade critic for the Liberals say that they really had concerns about shipbuilding. He knows the problems and spoke a bit about them but then said that they would monitor the effect of this on the shipbuilding industry.

In conclusion, I want to indicate that the New Democratic Party cannot support this bill without a carve out for the shipbuilding industry and without any indication that some of the agricultural implications have been adequately addressed.

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12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the hon. member as she spoke about her objection to this great free trade agreement that we are debating now and which looks as though it will come to fruition.

I listened with interest to her criticism of the shipbuilding aspect of it but I also listened when the minister spoke about the agreement and the protection put in it to protect, for many years, our shipbuilding industry.

However, I find it rather curious that here we are creating hundreds of thousands of jobs and perhaps millions of man-hours for people who work in an industry that we all know was at risk, and, in one particular case, the Davie Yards, which was in financial distress and has been for some time, how this bodes well for the health of that particular industry.

I do not know how the member can construe the tremendous investment by the Minister of National Defence and the procurement by the Canadian government with regard to defence contracts, in particular, the refurbishing of our fleet, to be a negative. My goodness, I do not know how this could be a negative. It actually bodes well for employment and the long term viability of our shipbuilding industry.

Why does the hon. member and her party, time and time again, vote against the very thing that creates employment and brings back vitality to that industry?

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12:50 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I do not want to be argumentative. I do not know whether the member was in the chamber when I spoke but if he was, he either did not listen to what I said, which is his prerogative, or he did listen and knows that he has completely misrepresented what I said.

I said, in no uncertain terms, that it does bode well in the short term for jobs in shipbuilding. I made that very clear. I complimented the government on that and acknowledged that was so.

What I went on to say, however, which he chose to either disregard or misrepresent, which is not quite within the rules, is not what he said. He said that I had suggested that this was a negative thing and that I did not acknowledge that the implications for shipbuilding in the short term were positive. I do acknowledge that, but the present government, like the Liberals before it, has only a short term view of these things.

If he wants to know why we cannot support this bill unamended, it is because a carve out of the shipbuilding industry would have done nothing to damage the prospects for the jobs that are now going to be generated by the new refurbishing of our fleets. Therefore, a very simple carve out would have made a great deal of difference. We will continue to fight for that. We believe that was what was needed and without it we will not be able to vote for it.

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12:50 p.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I was listening to the discussion of the hon. member for Halifax on what was said, or what was not said, or what might have been said, and quite frankly I am a bit confused.

However, what I am not confused about is the fact that this is a good treaty. It is a good FTA for Canada. It is a good FTA for the European nations. It opens up prospects for a wider market for goods. Anytime we can sell our goods in Canada, because we are an exporting nation, that means jobs and opportunities for Canadians, for workers, whether they are unionized or non-unionized. It is a good thing for Canada.

For the shipbuilding industry in particular, there are 15 years of protection in this treaty. That is the most protection of any FTA we have signed. For three of those years, the protection is at its current level. That is the most effort any government has ever made to protect any particular industry under a free trade agreement.

I would go a step further than that. The Norwegians have just purchased the Davie yard in Quebec. It looks now as if that yard will be profitable, with a lot of jobs and a lot of opportunity for the workforce in Quebec. I am not sure, without a foreign buyer, if this would have happened. I am not sure if that yard would have remained viable.

It is worth discussing. Would the NDP rather see our shipbuilding industry die a slow and painful death and see us lose those high paying, well qualified jobs in this country? That is the direction in which the shipbuilding industry was headed.

This government has done more than any previous government to support shipbuilding, first of all under this agreement, and second, with our frigate program. The Minister of National Defence and the Minister of Public Works recently announced $549 million for the Halifax shipyards and $351 million for the Victoria shipyards, respectively, for a refit of Canada's frigate fleet. This is part of $3.2 billion that is going to be spent on refurbishing our fleet in Canada.

At the end of the day, this is a good agreement for shipbuilding. That is the area she wants to talk about. In that area alone, this is a good agreement.

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12:55 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, we will just respectfully have to agree to disagree. A great many people in this country, from Newfoundland through to British Columbia, who have decades of experience and an in-depth knowledge of the shipbuilding industry, happen not to agree with the government on this and we happen to agree with them.

One of the reasons, if he wants to know why there is such concern, is that when there were a lot of concerns about the Jones act in the U.S. being exempted from NAFTA and a lot of people in the shipbuilding industry were saying that it was really going to be a blow to the industry, the Conservatives said, “No, this is a great deal”. The Liberals said they were opposed to it, but then they signed it anyway when they got into government. The Conservatives said it was a great deal and there was no problem, but of course we know that is not true.

Let me again quote Andrew McArthur, one of the foremost authorities. I do not have time to quote him at length, but he made it absolutely clear that NAFTA had been a disaster when he said:

Looking at NAFTA, we feel we were sold down the river. We cannot build for American shipowners, but American shipbuilders can build for Canadian shipowners....

They are suspicious. In the short term, they understand, as I have acknowledged, that the refurbishing of the fleet is a very positive thing for the existing shipbuilding industry, but it does not provide what they said was essential: if not a carve-out, then a clear, comprehensive, national shipbuilding policy. We still do not have it. On that basis, they and we cannot support this flawed agreement.

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12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on Bill C-55, which would implement the free trade agreement that Canada has negotiated with the European Free Trade Association, which is composed of Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

It marks the successful end of nine years of negotiations. This process began under the leadership of the former Liberal government and represents a significant achievement for Canada as a trading nation. It secures free trade with our fifth largest merchandise export destination.

Canada has always been a trading nation. From the early days of fur and fish to the present, when a remarkable 90% of our gross national product is attributable to exports and imports, Canadians have relied on international trade to bolster our economy.

Trade is the way of the future. The ratio of world exports to GDP has more than doubled since 1950.

This agreement is a proud achievement for our trading nation.

That being said, I share the legitimate concerns of our country's shipbuilding industry, and I have been careful to examine the provisions affecting that industry before offering my support.

The EFTA agreement strikes a balanced approach by providing new and important market access for Canada's exporters, while also ensuring that an important domestic industry is protected against unfair competition from Norway. Norway subsidized its shipbuilders and built up a tremendous shipbuilding infrastructure, growing the industry into a world leader. However, Norway eliminated its subsidies in 2005 and has no plans to reintroduce them in the future.

Nonetheless, the effect of this buildup still gives the Norwegian industry an advantage. As responsible legislators, we must be careful to ensure that this advantage does not allow it to compete unfairly against our own shipbuilders.

The EFTA agreement provides several protections against this historical advantage. First, it phases out tariffs on ship imports over 15 years, the second longest phase-out ever negotiated in a free trade agreement. This is also the longest tariff phase-out that Canada has ever negotiated. Our negotiators are to be commended for this achievement.

Furthermore, if imports from EFTA countries cause harm to our Canadian shipbuilders during that time, we can revert our tariffs to the pre-free trade tariff rate for up to three years.

This two-pronged approach provides important protection and a long transition period for our shipbuilders. This is the fairest, most balanced deal that can be achieved in the real world.

The only exception to these rules is for the largest type of ships, the post-panamax cargo ships, which is not a size of vessel that our shipyards can produce.

These provisions are critical. A carve-out option for these ships, as suggested by my hon. colleagues in the NDP, was a huge stumbling block to making this important agreement a reality.

All of this is not to say that shipbuilders will not see some benefits as well. Earlier, the NDP member for Halifax in fact said that the shipbuilding industry in British Columbia and Atlantic Canada will see some benefits from this agreement.

The buy Canada procurement policy for ships will not be threatened by this agreement, and shipbuilding is also being supported through a $50 million renewal of Industry Canada's structured financing facility.

The objective of the program is to stimulate demand for Canadian-built vessels and increase innovation in our shipyards. It has been able to attract foreign buyers to Canadian shipyards, and the $50 million reinvestment is an important part of continuing this trend.

We should also note that the EFTA agreement presents no threat to our agricultural supply management system. This system is specifically exempted in this agreement.

In my remaining time, I want to talk about the benefits of the trade agreement with EFTA.

The European Free Trade Association is a significant bloc of countries when it comes to their combined economic strength. They are our fifth largest export destination in the world and our twelfth largest destination for foreign direct investment.

Canadian exporters and producers will benefit considerably through the reduction and elimination of tariffs under this agreement. Benefits include the elimination of duties on all non-agricultural goods, the elimination or reduction of tariffs on selected agricultural products, and a level playing field with the European Union exporters in EFTA markets.

There are many farm owners and workers in my community who will be pleased to know that this agreement also eliminates the EFTA countries' agricultural export subsidies for products covered by the agreement. A significant number of agrifood products will receive tariff treatment no less favourable than the tariff treatment accorded to the European Union for the same goods. This is an important competitive gain for our farmers.

The agreement itself is a first generation agreement: it focuses on tariff elimination and trade in goods. Unlike NAFTA, the agreement does not include provisions on investment, services or intellectual property.

The focus on goods is justified. The activities of goods producers account for roughly one-third of total value-added of all industries in the Canadian economy. Between 1997 and 2004, the GDP growth for goods producers averaged 3% per year.

These exclusions have made it an easier deal to secure. However, these provisions should remain long term goals for Canada.

We need to secure provisions on services in the future. Services are the fastest growing part of the economy. Services are things that we cannot drop on our foot. Service producers account for two-thirds of industry-based GDP.

We also need to negotiate agreements on investment. Canadians need to be able to invest abroad with the full confidence that they will be treated equally to domestic producers. If they are not, they need the ability to seek legal solutions.

Finally, we will also need to secure an agreement on intellectual property. An intellectual property policy provides the foundation for investment and growth opportunities in the knowledge-based economy. When we look at our future generation, if we have to compete with giant markets like China and India, we will have to be a self-sustained knowledge-based economy here in Canada.

The free trade agreement with EFTA does not cover safeguards, anti-dumping and countervailing duties, which will continue to be addressed at the World Trade Organization. However, there are provisions that will allow these issues to be revisited after three years, leading to more negotiations and potential gains later on.

The EFTA agreement also has a strategic importance that cannot be discounted. It shows the European Union that we are a serious and important partner, which will help our hope to eventually secure free trade with the European Union.

Yet, the EFTA countries are important in their own right. There has been significant growth in our exports to them, with the past few years showing an amazing 27.6% annual increase in merchandise exports. They are an important market for Canadian natural resources, industrial products and forestry products.

The EFTA countries are also our seventh largest source of imports, including medical products, chemicals and machinery. My colleagues may not be surprised to know that Switzerland is also a key supplier of clocks and chocolate to Canada.

There is also strong foreign direct investment between both sides of this new agreement. Canadian direct investment abroad within these four countries totalled $8.4 billion in 2006. Similarly, Canada is an attractive place for foreign direct investment from EFTA. In 2006, the EFTA bloc invested a total of $15.6 billion in Canada, which was up an unbelievable $9.7 billion from 2004.

This agreement is also welcomed from the point of view of the relationship with Europe more widely. We have found common ground with four European countries. My daughter is currently studying medicine at a school in Europe.

As I go on with this case, I can see that we have a market that we should also be looking forward to because of the strength that the European Union brings to this agreement. We can have a marketplace to go to. This should also help us to find common ground with a much larger and more diverse European Union in the future. The EFTA agreement is an important stepping stone on the path to a Canada-European Union free trade agreement.

Other immediate advantages also include opportunities for trade diversification and enhanced industrial cooperation. We will also have a leg up on the U.S., which has yet to sign such an agreement with EFTA. It also keeps Canada ahead of China, which is already negotiating its own free trade agreement, and India, which is expected to begin negotiations this year.

The Liberal Party supports the broad, multilateral process of trade liberalization under the World Trade Organization. Securing equal access to all countries is ideal. It is especially important for countries where it would be difficult for Canada to get a deal with on the same terms, or even at all, due to our relative size.

Multilateral, non-discriminatory trade liberalization is the ideal. However, given what we are currently experiencing, the multilateral process is often cumbersome and slow. Regional trade agreements, like the one concluded between Canada and the EFTA, can be good and useful supplements to the multilateral process.

Finally, the agreement also has symbolic importance: it increases investor confidence, even without provisions on investment in the deal.

Culturally, Canada shares close ties with the EFTA countries. The largest Icelandic population outside Iceland is in Canada, estimated at more than 100,000 people. Large numbers of Canadians hail from the other member countries of the EFTA. Our countries share the values of democracy, freedom, human rights, freedom of expression and free market economies. We have so much in common with these countries.

Canada is a trading nation and the Liberal Party is the party of free trade. The EFTA agreement is an important agreement and it represents a launching pad to larger trade possibilities down the road. This is a trading relationship that every member in this House should rise to support. I thank the House for giving me the opportunity to share my views. I welcome questions from hon. members.

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1:15 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-55, the Canada-EFTA free trade agreement.

As other members in the House have pointed out, this agreement has been in discussions for a long time. In fact, the European Free Trade Association and Canada first started their negotiations under the Liberals in 1997 but, ironically, it stalled in the year 2000 over shipbuilding issues. Here we are once again, in 2008, talking about concerns over the shipbuilding issues.

There are a number of good reasons why New Democrats have raised concerns about this agreement. Part of it is about the track record of the current Conservative government. All we have to do is look to the softwood sellout and look at the impact of what is happening in ridings from coast to coast to coast around the softwood agreement and some of the subsequent impacts on forestry policy. What we do not have, of course, is any kind of national strategy around forestry.

In addition, in the House today the government was talking about 22,000 jobs being created but what it failed to say is that the jobless rate rose in April to 6.1% and, in fact, manufacturing continued to decline in April with losses in Ontario and British Columbia. The number of factory workers has decreased by 112,000 since April 2007, according to Statistics Canada.

I want to return to forestry for one second because it directly relates to what we are seeing in the shipbuilding sector. With the government's policies around softwood and raw log exports, because of course it has a federal role, what we have seen particularly in British Columbia and my riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan is one sawmill after another close. This has had an impact on the pulp and paper industry because it does not have access to fibre supply.

An article by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives in June 2007 stated:

Numerous opportunities to generate jobs from forest resources are routinely squandered. Absent much-needed provincial forest policy reforms, the situation is poised to get worse.

This short paper addresses two of the more troubling trends plaguing the coastal industry – rising log exports and mounting wood waste...The cost of not turning those logs into lumber and other wood products here in BC was the loss of an estimated 5,872 jobs in 2005 and 5,756 jobs in 2006.

I know we are talking about a free trade agreement and shipbuilding, so I want to turn my attention to shipbuilding. But I think the record in the forestry sector is an important one to note in the House because it directly relates to trade agreements.

The government is saying, “Trust us. We have built in a 15 year window to protect the shipbuilding industry. Just trust us that somehow or other our workers and communities will survive throughout this”. Because the softwood agreement is so fresh in people's memories, it is very difficult to believe that the government will put the measures in place that will actually protect the shipbuilding industry.

In the early 1980s, the shipbuilding industry was a robust industry in Canada and there were a number of shipyards from coast to coast that were very successful, but in the mid-1980s, 1986 or thereabouts, we started to see a rationalization in the shipbuilding industry.

I want to acknowledge the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore. We all know that any time a question comes up in the House with regard to industrial strategy in this country, the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore will remind members that we must put shipbuilding into that context. Although he has been tireless with his advocacy for this, the government and the former Liberal government simply failed to do that.

I also want to mention the member for Halifax who acknowledged the fact that some work has been done to shore up, so to speak, the shipbuilding industry over the last while. However, we do not have a long term sustainable plan. The government itself has acknowledged the critical role that shipbuilding plays in terms of our sovereignty. Yet, it simply has not put the effort into developing that plan.

When the NDP expressed its concerns about the lack of carve-out provisions in this particular agreement, this position was not developed in isolation. This position was developed in conjunction with the industry and the trade unions.

The board of directors from the Shipbuilding Association of Canada and the Canadian Auto Workers Union came before the committee and talked about some elements that they saw as being essential to be included.

We are not just opposing the agreement. We are proposing solutions in conjunction with people who are on the ground in this industry. They have asked for a carve out, saying that shipbuilding must be excluded from the agreement. They said that the federal government should immediately help put together a structured financing facility and an accelerated capital cost allowance for the industry.

Earlier when we heard the minister speak, I put a question to him about the Jones act and the minister said that it was domestic policy. Let me talk about the Jones act for one second.

The U.S. has always refused to repeal the Jones act. It is legislation that has been in place since 1920. It was legislation that was deliberately developed to protect U.S. capacity to produce commercial ships. The Jones act requires that commerce between U.S. ports on the inland and intercoastal waterways be reserved for vessels that are U.S. built, U.S. owned, registered under U.S. law and U.S. manned. In addition to that, and the minister said that this was domestic policy, the U.S. has also refused to include shipbuilding under NAFTA and has implemented in recent years a heavily subsidized naval reconstruction program.

If the United States, and many members of the House will tout it as the bastion of free enterprise, could see fit to work to protect its shipbuilding industry, surely Canada could do the same thing. This is even more critical in light of the sovereignty issue, but also we have the longest coastline in the world. We should have a vibrant and healthy shipbuilding industry, and it should be everything from small pleasure craft right the way up to the large vessels.

I talked earlier about some of the closures. I come from British Columbia and although this was a provincial government decision, we all know that many times provincial government decisions are influenced by policy at the federal government level.

I want to read from a press release of December 13, 2007, from the B.C. Federation of Labour. It said:

While B.C. Ferries holds a $60,000 party in Germany for 3,000 people on Friday, there will be no celebrating the launch of the first three German-built Super-C Class ferries that have cost the province 3,500 direct and indirect jobs and the loss of $542 million in investment.

That release was put out by the B.C. Shipyard General Workers' Federation.

About the B.C. Ferries' tendering, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives said:

Buying Canadian is no longer procurement policy—at least in British Columbia....If BC shipyards do not receive a significant portion of BC Ferries vessel refits and replacement work over the next five years it is doubtful that a single major shipyard will survive—a substantial de-industralization of the BC economy.

Why would the provincial government choose to forfeit a significant tool of industrial development and throw out its ability to use a major crown corporation to support local well-paying jobs?

Further on down in the article it talks about this being:

—simplistic bottom line economics—search the world for ferry bargains. This approach fails to recognize the spin-off benefits to the BC economy of local procurement. Assuming $175 million is spent in BC on ferry refits and a small new vessel over the next five years, these benefits include 1,500 person years of employment, a $78 million increase in household income, a $101 million increase in provincial GDP, and a $32 million return to government revenues.

Those were 2002 numbers so we can only imagine that those numbers would have substantially increased over the last few years.

What we see in British Columbia is a growing income gap. We have a province that is reeling not only from forestry, but from the lack of attention and investment in the shipbuilding sector. In July 2007 the B.C. shipyard workers put out another release. It said:

BC Shipyard Workers Federation says federal Conservative government betraying shipbuilding industry—free trade deal between Canada and European Free Trade Association expected today could throw away thousands of jobs and hundreds of million of investment in BC and Canada.

George MacPherson, president of the shipyard workers, said:

—a federal announcement today to add $50 million over three years to a Canadian shipbuilding financing program is money previously removed from the same program and won't do much to protect the industry.

Therefore, we have this shell game again, where money is taken away, then it is given back and another press release comes out from the government to talk about how wonderful it is.

MacPherson said:

British Columbia has already lost nearly $1 billion worth of shipbuilding work because BC Ferries is constructing several new ferries in Germany...

A national strategic policy development is required, which supports the shipbuilding industry. When the government talks about a 15 year window to do that, it needs to move on it now. In fact, the U.K. has a shipbuilding strategy. I want to read a couple of points from it because these are things that Canada could building on. Its Defence Industrial Strategy: Defence White Paper, of December 2005, stated:

—it is a high priority for the UK to retain the suite of capabilities required to design complex ships and submarines, from concept to point of build; and the complementary skills to manage the build, integration, assurance, test, acceptance, support and upgrade of maritime platforms through-life;...We also need to retain the ability to maintain and support the Navy....To sustain this requires a minimum ability to build as well as integrate complex ships in the UK, not least to develop the workforce, and to adjust first-of-class designs as they develop.

Surely Canada could learn from other nations that have really made efforts to protect their shipbuilding industry.

Again, earlier today people talked about the fact that Norway did not currently subsidize its industry. It does not subsidize its industry because the government of Norway, over a number of years, put subsidies in place, developed a long term industrial strategy and looked at training and support of the workforce.

We would expect to see that kind of initiative from the government. Because people keep talking about how long a time span 15 years is, what should be done is the carve out should happen so those plans can be put in place and our shipbuilding industry can build on its already considerable strength, because we are world class shipbuilders. However, we need to ensure we invigorate and support that industry.

I would argue it is even more important we carve it out and ensure that we put those supports in place.

The member for Halifax mentioned this, but I want to re-emphasize it. The president of the Shipyard General Workers' Federation of British Columbia said:

The Canadian shipbuilding industry is already operating at about one-third of its capacity. Canadian demand for ships over the next 15 years is estimated to be worth $9 billion in Canadian jobs. Under the FTAs with Norway, Iceland, and now planned with Korea and then Japan, these Canadian shipbuilding jobs are in serious jeopardy. In these terms, this government's plan is sheer folly and an outrage.

Again, that is the labour side of it.

Let us talk about the president of the Shipyard Association of Canada, who retired from Irving Shipbuilding Inc. He said:

So our position from day one has been that shipbuilding should be carved out from the trade agreement. We butted our heads against a brick wall for quite a number of years on that and we were told there is no carve-out. If the Americans, under the Jones Act, can carve out shipbuilding from NAFTA and other free trade agreements, as I believe the Americans are doing today with Korea, or have done, why can Canada not do the same?

We have to do something to ensure shipbuilding continues. The easiest thing is to carve it out from EFTA. And if you do one thing, convince your colleagues in government to extend the ship financing facility, make it available to Canadian owners in combination with the accelerated capital cost allowance, and you will have as vibrant an industry as exists.

It is very important that we continue to push for an amendment of this agreement which carves out shipbuilding to ensure our industry stays viable.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

It being 1:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

When we return to the study of Bill C-55, there will be six minutes left for the hon. member for Nanaimo—Cowichan as the time allotted for questions and comments.

Official Development Assistance Accountability Act
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

moved the second reading of, and concurrence in, amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-293, An Act respecting the provision of official development assistance abroad.

Mr. Speaker, thank you for this, I hope, final opportunity to speak to the bill. Just for the purposes of those who might be watching this debate, we are anticipating that the debate will collapse today, that it will go to a vote and that this will be the final debate on this bill. I am hoping for that and seeking the assurance of my colleagues in the House that we will work on that basis.

This has been a long journey. It started almost two years ago. There is a saying that “it takes a village to raise a child”. Well, it takes a caucus to raise a bill and it takes another caucus to raise a bill. I want to publicly thank my colleagues in the NDP caucus for their support and it takes the caucus of the Bloc Québécois to raise this bill. I want to thank the government, particularly the minister of international development assistance, for her assistance in finally bringing this bill to the stage that it is at today.

Most important, I want to thank the thousands of Canadians who supported this bill through visits to their MPs, telephone calls to senators, emails, letters, petitions, rallies outside on Parliament Hill and literally tens of thousands of names that were put forward on petitions supporting this bill. I am hoping today is the payoff day. I hope those thousands of Canadians who supported this bill over the last two years and have been very faithful in their support, will raise a glass to themselves tonight and say “job well done”, because today is, hopefully, the end of Bill C-293, that it will receive royal assent and then move from the position of being a bill to being law.

I am afraid that if I start thanking all the people I need to thank for this bill, I will defeat myself and run out the clock. I will try to be brief on the people who I need to thank because they have been very supportive. As I said, the Bloc and the NDP caucuses have been there from the beginning and I want to particularly acknowledge the work of the member for Halifax who has been steadfast in her support.

I also want to thank the leadership of the Liberal Party, both the interim leader, the hon. Bill Graham, and our current leadership, the House leadership and the Senate leadership who have been steadfast throughout, particularly the whip and our House leaders.

My special thanks go to the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, the member for Richmond Hill, the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, and the member for London North Centre, all of whom have personally encouraged me in many different ways and stepped into the breach when they needed to.

I also want to acknowledge my thanks to Senator Segal, Senator Smith and Senator Cowan who, in the other place, were very pivotal in moving this bill forward.

Indeed, I would be remiss if I did not thank the member for Mississauga South who navigated me and this bill through the increasingly complex labyrinth called private members' business.

It also would be remiss of me if I did not thank my friend, Gerry Barr, from the Canadian Council for International Co-operation, for his support throughout this two year period. His tenacity is incredible and we called upon all of his formidable organizational and intellectual skills to see that this bill would receive royal assent.

I also want to thank Professor Aaron Freeman for his invaluable legal assistance at particular points in drafting and when we had to renegotiate when a royal recommendation was needed.

Who can forget the Engineers without Borders who phoned me, literally out of the blue, and encouraged me and invited me to their conference and got behind this bill. It is so encouraging to see young, bright, vibrant, energetic people, our nation's future, get behind a bill such as this and give it their enthusiastic push.

Evangelical Fellowship of Canada has been stalwart, as have World Vision, Results Canada, Make Poverty History and literally hundreds of other NGOs who saw that this bill would be a good allocation of public resources.

I was greatly honoured to have General Roméo Dallaire, now Senator Roméo Dallaire, as my bill's Senate sponsor. He is a moral force for good in this nation and a hero to many of us. I am greatly honoured to have had him sponsor this bill in the Senate. He moved the bill forward with the moral authority that only General Dallaire has.

I do not want to get into all of the thanks, but I just have to thank my staff, Robyn Mogan, Trish Renaud, Kein Turner, Anna-Christina Gamillscheg and Janice Luke, and of course my family who has heard more about this bill than it ever cared to hear about it, my wife Carolyn Dartnell, my sons Ian and Nathan, and my daughters Caitlin, Rachel and Sarah. I would go home on a Thursday or Friday night and they would hear all the stories about Bill C-293. I want to thank them publicly.

We are all here to make a difference. We aspire to make a difference here. We leave our jobs, our families and our communities to come here to try to make a difference. This bill could actually make a difference in the lives of so many people who are impoverished in our world.

I call upon those who will be called to fulfill this law, to fulfill it not only in practice but also in spirit and to fulfill it with enthusiasm. We should not let the cynics get us down. This is a law that actually could make a difference in how Canada is perceived in the world and how we minister to those who are impoverished.

In January of last year I travelled to Kenya with Results Canada. One of our stops was at a hospital in western Kenya. We were visiting AIDS patients. The hospital is literally divided into two parts: on the one side were men and on the other side were women, all of whom were either sick or dying. There were 50 beds for men, 50 beds for women, and 70 patients on each side. As one can imagine, there was more than one patient in some of the beds. Some of these people were literally on their last legs, and the nurses told us that two or three would die that day.

Part of the hospital services was to make available job training in a workplace training centre, so we visited there. I can still see this woman who was sitting at a sewing machine making handbags. She had a huge smile. She was wearing a red dress. She can make about five handbags a day. She is paid the rough equivalent of 65¢ a day. She looked up at me and said, “I am HIV positive. I choose to live my life as HIV negative. I want to live long enough to see my child marry. I thank Jesus for every day he gives me”.

That had an impact on me. I know it had an impact on our delegation. That is why it is so important that Bill C-293 receive royal assent. Maybe that woman and thousands of others might well be positively affected by Bill C-293.

I want to conclude by thanking each and every member here for his or her support. I want to thank everyone for the support that we have received from literally thousands of Canadians around the country. I want to thank those in the NGO community in particular and my friend Gerry Barr for all of their persistence in seeing that today arrived.

Official Development Assistance Accountability Act
Private Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

Macleod
Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my hon. friend from Scarborough—Guildwood, first of all for his tenacity and for putting up with the hours that we spent together dealing with Bill C-293. I am not ashamed to say that there were concerns that I held with the original form of this piece of legislation, and I will refer to those later, but I do congratulate the hon. member for putting up with my arguments and my encouragement for him to accept amendments that I personally and some of my colleagues on this side of the House thought would make it a more effective bill.

I am encouraged to see that we are addressing this matter of very serious concern to all Canadians and to many people living in poor countries around the world. I am sure the thoughts of all members are with those in Burma specifically today, in light of the tragedy that is unfolding there.

Private member's Bill C-293, an act respecting the provision of official development assistance abroad, was introduced in the House of Commons on May 17, 2006. The intent of the bill is and always was consistent with the priorities of this government, especially the priorities of poverty reduction and the promotion of human rights.

The proposed amendments to Bill C-293 address most of the government's stated concerns regarding clarity of mandate, strengthened accountability and greater aid effectiveness. The proposed amendments address our main concerns and make the bill even better. They also provide consistency with the government's three point plan for aid effectiveness.

The result of these amendments will be legislation that strengthens the aid program and adds a useful tool to Canada's efforts to reduce poverty, as well as improve living standards for families and communities in the harshest regions of the world.

This government has made it clear that poverty reduction is the overarching purpose of our international development assistance in poor countries, places where Canada can and is able to make a difference in the lives of people who just need a helping hand. There should be no doubt that poverty reduction is central to all of our international development assistance efforts, and while Canadians are eager to help the poorest of the poor, they want reassurances that their tax dollars are making a real difference in the lives of the people that they are intended to help.

Canadians have told us that they want their government to lead by example in the area of international assistance by delivering on its promises, ensuring aid is effective, and implementing innovative approaches to development cooperation. In response, this government has been working to improve aid effectiveness through greater focus, efficiency, accountability and results.

The government has demonstrated this through a concrete three point plan for aid effectiveness, which is helping to transform how Canada delivers aid around the world and which represents a commitment to greater results and accountability.

Budgets 2007 and 2008 laid out details of this plan to meet Canadians' expectations by establishing a clear direction for Canada's international assistance. The plan concentrates on three important areas: strengthening focus, so that our development assistance to other countries is consistent with our foreign policy objectives; improving the efficiency of Canadian aid, to reduce administrative costs and improve overseas field presence to areas where we can get better mileage for our aid dollars; and most important, building in greater accountability.

For Canadian taxpayers to understand and support Canada's effective role in international development assistance, they need to be reassured that we are committed to using tools such as independent evaluations and objective assessments that help achieve results and communicate these results to Canadians.

In this way the government has begun to transform the way we deliver aid around the world. In doing so, the government has increased engagement in the Americas. It is doubling assistance to the Caribbean. It has increased presence and resources in fragile states like Afghanistan and Haiti.

In the last two years the government has made significant progress in reforming Canada's international assistance and shaping it to meet new priorities. We have undertaken long term commitments to Afghanistan and Haiti.

As our Prime Minister has announced previously, we are re-engaging Canada in the Americas and doubling our assistance to the Caribbean. In addition, we are ensuring that Canada is meeting its G-8 commitment to Africa.

The government's commitment to the most vulnerable was most recently demonstrated by our response to the current food crisis. We allocated substantial new funding for food aid to help those most in need. Canada has maximized the effectiveness of this contribution by untying restrictions on food aid procurement.

I want to pause for a moment to emphasize what an important step this is. From consultations with members across the aisle, and with the industry leaders in the agricultural community, this was a non-political, non-partisan measure. It will result in saved lives and it is the right thing to do. It is an example of this government making Parliament work and I am proud of it.

This has provided the World Food Programme and the Canadian Foodgrains Bank with the flexibility to procure food commodities from all countries, especially from developing countries. By removing these restrictions, Canada is promoting the growth of local and regional markets in developing countries. This will contribute to longer term solutions to the problem of world hunger.

In conclusion, I would like to emphasize that removing the restrictions is just one way whereby the Government of Canada is demonstrating that we are serious about working efficiently and effectively, while taking into account the needs and the perspectives of the poor.

After working a great deal on this file with colleagues, and especially with my friend from Scarborough—Guildwood, I recognize our discussions were not always as pleasant as one would like, and could have even been extremely frustrating if we had not moved forward with this process. However, I thank my friend for his hard work on this file and congratulate the Minister of International Cooperation, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of International Trade for their willingness to show leadership on this very important file.

Official Development Assistance Accountability Act
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, I too want to join with the hon. members who spoke before me in congratulating the hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood on his excellent work, perseverance and tenacity. He knows he can count on the Bloc Québécois to support the Senate amendments. This motion gives us an opportunity to debate them.

The Bloc Québécois has done serious and thorough work, as the hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood mentioned in his presentation shortly before I took the floor. We are in favour of this bill that is still quite useful even though some of the amendments we proposed in the process were rejected. The important thing is that the substance of the bill is still very relevant and it is a firm step in the right direction.

The Senate amendments under consideration today are minor; they clarify certain provisions of the legislation. Let us look at them together.

For example, the Senate is proposing that the principles of the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness be respected. It is also proposing that “competent minister” means:

The Minister of International Cooperation, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Finance or any other minister who is providing official development assistance.

The Senate also proposes that:

The competent minister shall consult with governments, international agencies and Canadian civil society organizations at least once every two years, and shall take their views and recommendations into consideration when forming an opinion.

The last Senate amendment reads:

Information shall not be reported under this section if its disclosure is prohibited by the policies of the Bretton Woods institutions.

In our eyes, these are truly minor amendments that, as I was saying earlier, clarify certain provisions of the legislation. We are intent on passing this bill and will therefore maintain our support for it.

I would like to remind those watching us on television of the content of this bill introduced by the hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood.

This bill would ensure official development assistance with the very specific goal of reducing poverty. It would also require that CIDA, when providing assistance, be respectful of the target environments. This is a very important element.

In fact, once this proposed bill is put into action, the government will have to consult civil society organizations, governments and international agencies to ensure that our proposals actually respond to the major needs of the people we want to help.

This bill is very interesting because it guarantees transparency in the activities of the department responsible for international cooperation. It requires that at the end of each fiscal year the minister produce a report containing a summary of the development assistance projects, advisory committee reports and CIDA's performance report. The minister is also required to issue a statistical report on the disbursement of development assistance.

As I said earlier, we had some reservations, but we support the main objective and the fundamental purpose of the bill, which is to reduce world poverty through development assistance. However, we must condemn the current lack of resources provided to CIDA. We hope that once this bill has been passed, the government will truly keep its promises and increase funding for this important agency.

Specifically, this bill sets out criteria respecting resource allocation to international development agencies and enhances transparency in development assistance. It states that poverty reduction is the central focus of development assistance, and it takes into account the perspectives of the poor.

Assistance must also be consistent with international human rights standards. The bill also states that the minister shall consult with governments, agencies and civil society organizations. What is interesting and important to note is that, at the end of each fiscal year, the minister must provide a summary of the development assistance projects, present a comprehensive report on CIDA's performance, and present a statistical report on the disbursement of development assistance.

It is easy to see the connection with the UN's millennium development goals. As a reminder, the eight objectives are to: eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; achieve universal primary education; promote gender equality and empower women; reduce female mortality; improve maternal health; combat HIV-AIDS, malaria and other diseases; ensure environmental sustainability; and develop a global partnership for development.

Bill C-293 covers two of these eight points, which we think is a step in the right direction.

One way or another, all of the millennium goals are related to poverty. We must not forget that poverty is often the result of social and economic inequality in a given country. As I said, this bill is a step in the right direction. It sets criteria for official development assistance and ensures that it targets poverty reduction. Because of that, we support the bill.

Moreover, as one of the richest countries in the world, Canada must do everything it can to help citizens of poor countries escape their poverty. Doing nothing would be both immoral and unacceptable.

In closing, I would like, once again, to congratulate the member for Scarborough—Guildwood on his work. I also appreciate his thanks to the opposition for having helped him achieve the goal of getting his bill passed so that it can come into force to reduce poverty and help other countries that really need help.

Official Development Assistance Accountability Act
Private Members' Business

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I very much welcome the opportunity to say a few words in support of what are the very final moments of something historic in terms of this Parliament adopting Bill C-293. I am almost inclined to say almost nothing and quit while I am ahead, because there has been a rare coming together here of a collaborative nature.

There have been a lot of disagreements and a lot of pushing and shoving. I want to be fair here and acknowledge the parliamentary secretary, the hon. member for Macleod, who set out some very severe reservations about some of the aspects of this bill. I think he is the only parliamentary secretary who ever did actually extend the courtesy of sitting down with me in my office to discuss something. We had some major disagreements and there have been some compromises made.

However, at a time when a lot of the public looks on this place these days with a good deal of consternation and sees the dysfunctionality, the division and the dissension, it has to be a good day for us to come together around what is truly a global commitment, about which I think we feel good as parliamentarians and about which Canadians I think very much feel that we need to work together. It is not always easy to do. We have had to make compromises along the way.

I want to congratulate the member for Scarborough—Guildwood, because he picked up the torch and carried it in a very determined way. He, like I, was very grateful for the persistent and consistent support not just from Gerry Barr, an individual who has put his heart and soul into this, but really from the entire NGO community across this country, including campus-based organizations and faith-based organizations that really pushed to make this happen.

We have a lot more work to do, but we will get on with it buoyed by a sense of responsibility and cohesion around this. Let us not forget that it is not just about the effectiveness of aid, but also about increasing our commitment to the level of aid, or we are not going to get the job done.

With those very brief words, uncharacteristically, I want to take my seat and give the last word to the member for Scarborough—Guildwood.

Official Development Assistance Accountability Act
Private Members' Business

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

There being no one rising on debate, I am going to yield the floor to the hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood for his right of reply. He knows, of course, that he has only five minutes.

Official Development Assistance Accountability Act
Private Members' Business

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

I will not use those five minutes, Mr. Speaker, other than to thank colleagues for their warm and generous remarks and to encourage those who are there to apply the law to apply it in an equally warm and generous fashion. We hope this bill makes a difference in people's lives.

If you seek it, Mr. Speaker, I think you would find that members are prepared to vote on this bill.

Official Development Assistance Accountability Act
Private Members' Business

2 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Official Development Assistance Accountability Act
Private Members' Business

2 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Official Development Assistance Accountability Act
Private Members' Business

2 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

Hearing no dissent, I therefore declare the motion carried unanimously.

(Motion agreed to, amendments read the second time and concurred in)

It being 2 p.m., the House stands adjourned until Monday next at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2 p.m.)