House of Commons Hansard #6 of the 40th 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

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to this extremely important bill, the Canada-EFTA free trade agreement, an agreement that Canada would have with Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

This is part of a trend, of which most of us in the House have been supportive, to increase bilateral trade, to reduce tariff and non-tariff barriers and to improve labour mobility. We have found historically that the removal of these barriers has a pronounced improvement in the productivity and health and welfare of our own people. More people have jobs in our country. The standard of living has risen. More money is in people's pockets as a result of removing these barriers.

Our country is a trading nation. The number of people in our country is simply not sufficient for us to produce at a reasonable cost the types of things that all our citizens want and need.

If we were to turn the tables on that and say why not increase protectionism, why not raise barriers around our nation, we have found historically that it would be worse for our country. Sometimes this might be a little counterintuitive. The erection of barriers actually increases the cost of products here at home and reduces the number of people who are employed. It increases unemployment.

What we all want to make sure, though, is that any trade agreement that we have with other countries enables us to have fair trade and that tariff and non-tariff barriers cannot be surreptitiously introduced under the table.

The Liberal Party will support sending this bill to committee so that we can work with our colleagues across party lines to ensure that this agreement that would enable us to improve trade with those four European countries will be fair for the Canadian consumer and for the Canadian worker. That is our end goal.

We have a remarkable opportunity to be the conduit between the two major largest trading blocs in the world, the European Union and North America. If Canada could be in that place, and this agreement enables us to do that, imagine what it would do for our country. It would increase employment, increase the amount of money in Canadians' pockets, reduce unemployment and ultimately improve the health and welfare of our citizens.

We also have an opportunity at this moment, in our unique place, to add different elements to the trade agreement that have sometimes been neglected. I refer to things such as workers' safety, workers' benefits, working conditions and environmental protection. All of those things can sometimes be fudged in these agreements. Some countries, as part of the agreements, can have an unfair trade advantage by not providing their workers with a safe working environment or a fair wage, or by not having the environmental protection that all of us know is needed.

In fact, the absence of that could not only hurt the workers but it could have transborder effects. Imagine the effects caused by some countries that engage in behaviours that damage the environment. Environmental damage crosses borders and other countries, including our own, can be affected. For example, in those countries that made up the former Soviet Union, there was production of nuclear materials. In Siberia, in Russia, those nuclear materials were simply dumped on the ground. The result is that those radioactive materials, which have long lives, have ended up in the food chain, which knows no borders. Those radioactive materials have actually ended up in the food chain in the Arctic and are actually being consumed by the Inuit in the north. As a result, people living in the north have very high concentrations of cancer-causing, long-acting toxic materials in their bodies.

In fact, with regard to some of the flora and fauna in those areas and in particular the large mammal species, a whale that washes up on shore would be considered a toxic material. The whales have been consuming animal products that have themselves consumed products further down the food chain, through which there is a bioaccumulation of toxic materials.

My point is that it behooves all of us to ensure that we have proper protection for workers and the environment in the trade agreements we sign. This is an opportunity for us to do so.

As an overview, trade has actually increased over the last 10 to 15 years by a factor of 6% per year. This is double the rate of the increase in global output, which is actually having quite a significant impact upon the global financial architecture of what we see here today. We also know that tariffs have come down. In the 1980s the rate was about 25%. Today tariff barriers are about 10%, and that is a good thing.

The World Trade Organization has had a role to play in that. However, one of the central points I want to make is that while we have come a long way, there is a significant failure in our ability to enforce the agreements that are already there. The rules that bind us in part are based on mutual trust. Countries mutually trust each other. There are rules.

Part of the problem, as is the case in most international agreements, is that there is not an adequate enforcement mechanism. In other words, there is protection without enforcement. In fact, the enforcement mechanism enables some countries to abuse their positions in a way that actually harms those of us who are playing by the rules.

I will give a few examples. Let us take a look at some of the urgent situations we have in the world today.

In terms of food insecurity, we see a rising cost of food products. For various reasons, huge swaths of our world actually have food insecurity. Some of those areas have chronic food insecurity, while some of the areas of insecurity occur from time to time.

The issue, though, is that we have the capabilities and technology to prevent a lot of that food insecurity. Part of this food insecurity exists simply because the trade agreements that we have right now enable things to occur that should not.

One example is biofuels. There has been a headlong rush to produce biofuels. That rush to biofuels has changed land that normally produces things like sour gum, wheat and other pulse products. Producers have taken away the products that people consume. What are they doing? They are growing corn, and it is not corn for consumption, but corn for the production of biofuels.

That change has not only raised the price of foodstuffs because there has been a diminishment of land available for food production, but it has also done something rather perverse: when corn is used for biofuel production, the actual energy output we get is smaller than the energy inputs. On the surface it may seem fine to want to produce biofuels because we are reducing our consumption of fossil fuels, but in fact it is actually environmentally hazardous, because the fossil fuel inputs--and we do require them to produce the corn--are greater than the energy savings that we get at the other end. Also, corn as a source of biofuels is not a very efficient organic product to use for energy.

As well, we are changing to biofuel production on land that would normally be used for food products, resulting in a decrease in food availability.

The situation becomes even worse. In one of the lungs of the planet, Amazonia, pristine rain forests are being destroyed as a result of land now being used for the production of corn to produce biofuels. As a result we have a carbon sink that is actually being damaged and destroyed. That carbon sink, which would normally take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, is reduced, which is making global warming worse.

Clearly many factors are involved, so one of the things we have to do in our trade agreements is make sure there are no perversions or distortions that can be used to make our environment and economy worse and our energy situation more insecure.

Along those lines, one of our great challenges is to link up trade with energy policy. No one has been able to do that. I believe that because we are a net exporter of fossil fuels, we have an extraordinary and very important opportunity to be able to link up energy policy with trade policy. If we are able to link energy policy with trade policy, we will be able to grapple with one of the central challenges of our time, global warming.

This is particularly important, now more than ever, because we are getting into a very dangerous period.

We have feedback loops in our planet. As carbon dioxide is produced, carbon sinks in nature--oceans, wetlands and forests--normally absorb the carbon dioxide. The challenge is that when we destroy the wetlands and forests, the absorptive capacity of that carbon dioxide decreases, and temperature goes up. When the temperature goes up, the absorptive capacity of the oceans, one of the major carbon sinks, diminishes, resulting in more carbon dioxide.

This has a huge impact for us in the north, where we have permafrost. A lot of methane is currently underground and is not doing too much, but when the permafrost melts, it releases the methane. The methane has a capacity 25 times greater than that of carbon dioxide to increase the temperature of our planet. Members can imagine what that means: the temperature increases, the permafrost melts, and methane is released in massive amounts into the environment. There is a geometric increase in greenhouse gas emissions, the products that cause global warming. Now we have this vicious feedback, as can be seen.

That absolutely has to be dealt with. One can see the connection between deforestation, rising temperatures and the destruction of wetlands.

Here is an idea our government may wish to pursue. We pay people to plant trees. It takes about 25 to 50 years for a tree to become sizable. The larger it is, the greater its capacity to absorb greenhouse gases.

Now let us imagine we actually paid people not to cut down trees. Why on earth are we paying people to grow little trees instead of enabling the preservation of our forests and wetlands? The current size of the forests and wetlands will have a larger absorptive capacity than these small saplings that will take 25 to 50 years to grow.

The Copenhagen conference is going to take place later on this year. We have an opportunity to think differently about dealing with global warming and to preserve our wetlands and our large forest tracts, which are major sinks for carbon dioxide. We cannot wait a generation to address this question. We have it within our hands now. I would implore our government to look at things differently at the Copenhagen conference and find ways that we can pay for preservation, particularly of critical habitats.

Cameroon made this proposal about a year ago. They have an important tract in west Africa between two contiguous areas of important reserves. The area in between is a pristine habitat and a major carbon sink. They came up with the idea of leasing this land for a dollar an acre. The Cameroonian government was willing to do that.

That kind of innovative thinking enables the world to invest money into areas that will benefit people. It also enables us to prevent these tracts of land from being cut and knocked down, which has a deleterious effect on our environment.

I also want to talk about the need for Bretton Woods 2.

As I mentioned before, one of the major reasons for today's financial crisis is a failure of the global financial architecture. While there are certain rules in the global financial architecture, those rules have not changed or modernized to deal with the rapidly changing international economies and the interdependence that we now have. In fact, that is the basis of the bill we are talking about today.

Because we are a country that stands on the cusp of the two greatest trading blocs in the entire world, we have an opportunity to present a proposal for a Bretton Woods 2 that would enable the International Monetary Fund, for example, to be able to have the teeth and the enforcement mechanism that are necessary for us to have a free and fair trading system.

I know our friends in the NDP rightly talk about the need for fair trade. Here is an opportunity for us to be able to do that and to deal, as I said before, with how workers are treated, with their health and working conditions, and to have the ability to factor environment into the agreements we sign. Those are the kinds of things we need to deal with. In fact those are the things that a Bretton Woods 2 institutional complex has to address.

One of the big challenges, of course, is an enforcement mechanism. Right now certain countries do various things that, to put a kind comment on it, are underhanded, and I could say other things.

Let me give an example. In China, the yuan is undervalued between 20% and 60%. The ability of China to be keep its currency at a level that is 20% to 60% below our currency gives China an unfair advantage in its ability to export. Our products become relatively non-competitive because of that huge advantage China has through artificially keeping its currency below what it ought to be.

What is needed is a mechanism to prevent countries from engaging in those non-tariff barriers that slide underneath the financial architecture but give a very clear advantage to their own producers. That cannot happen. Our producers, our workers, our companies and our economy suffer as a direct result of that kind of behaviour.

Right now there is no effective mechanism to do that. We also know that when complaints happen, they do not happen in a timely fashion. They can take two or three years or more. We have had that experience in our lumber disputes with the United States.

The government has a real opportunity here to work with the rest of us to have a concerted effort internationally to change and reframe the international architecture and make sure that the financial architecture of today reflects the integrated economies that we see today, economies that were not envisioned at the time Bretton Woods was actually put together after World War II. It is important to understand that after World War II, the financial architecture we have today had not been envisioned. It is very important for that to take place.

I also want to talk about an issue that is very much at the forefront of our newspapers today, the issue of Canada-U.S. trade and President Obama's protectionist inclinations.

We have to make it crystal clear that those kinds of behaviours and barriers contributed in part to the Great Depression in the 1930s. If we fail to do that, they are going to hurt their country and they are going to hurt our country. Everybody is going to get hurt. That kind of behaviour sets up a vicious cycle, and nobody wins.

The Liberal Party will support sending the bill to committee. We want to make it better. We have some great people on our side with great ideas. They will work in committee to ensure the bill will benefit Canadian workers, the Canadian economy and the Canadian environment to ensure Canada can be as competitive as we know our great workers can be in the changing international architecture of 2009.

Canada–EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for talking about Bretton Woods 2. He is absolutely correct. It is the time to discuss that concern. I want to also mention the Pugwash talks.

If we are getting off topic for a second regarding the trade deals, why not reintroduce the motion that was passed here in 1999, the James R. Tobin tax of .001% of financial speculation, which would provide the seed money to help those serious nations around the world that are in desperate straits. That money would be there in continuity to help them.

In 2003, the finance minister at the time, Mr. Manly, said that the shipbuilding industry in our country was a sunset industry. When he said that, the hearts of many people in the industry sank. The Finance Minister of Canada was saying, in essence, that the shipbuilding industry had no future in our country.

His party is about to support a deal to get the bill to committee. I can understand that, because the hope is that in committee, we try to fix it. The member represents one of the more beautiful areas in the country, Vancouver Island. However, the Victoria yards are not that far away and many people on the island work in the Washington yards.

We know the United States, since 1924, has asked for carve outs of the shipbuilding and marine industry in every FTA it has signed. Why then would he and his party not support a carve out of the same industry? Our largest trading partner does it, so we should be able to do the same to protect and enhance this very vital industry.

Canada–EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague is from the other coast of the country, another beautiful part. We share two of the most beautiful parts on either side of our great country.

On the issue of shipbuilding, we in the opposition have the largest number of people on committee and the member knows we have an opportunity to change government policy.

This is an opportunity. We both share a passion for supporting the shipbuilding industry. This is a solution that some of us have put forward. An import tax currently exists when Canadian companies purchase a ship abroad. The tax, unfortunately, goes into general revenue. The solution is to put that tax into a fund. The private sector contributes the same amount of money to the fund and those moneys can be used for the refurbishment of our shipbuilding and construction. That would allow us to be competitive, particularly for the production of mid-sized vessels.

In speaking with the Washington shipyards and our Department of National Defence, for the next 20 years we have the ability to build and make ships here at home with the proper leadership from the government. I only ask that the government take it upon itself to work with us to make that happen.

Canada–EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for this thoughtful argument. The member mentioned that the procurement should be fair and should create jobs for Canada. What is the member's opinion regarding the recent contract for 1,300 military trucks to be filled by Navistar International in the United States? It seems the government has lost sight of the fact that it invested $30 million in Navistar Chatham in 2003.

Does the member feel that an opportunity to stimulate the economy has been missed at a time when manufacturing is at an all time low?

Canada–EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to bring up another example which sits on the government's shelf right now. The replacement for a Buffalo, the fixed-wing search and rescue aircraft, is currently out for contract. However, a Canadian company, Viking Air from Victoria, is not able to compete for that contract. That is a violation of our responsibility and our duty, not only to our Canadians Forces members but also to our workers.

The hon. member's fine question about the trucks is the same issue that relates to the replacement of the Buffalo.

All we demand of the government is that it allow our Canadian companies to compete on a level and fair playing field for products like the trucks and like the replacement for the Buffalo fixed-wing search and rescue aircraft.

This issue will not go away. Viking Air and other Canadian companies must have a chance to compete for the products and demands of the government, for DND and for other things it wants to purchase.

Canada–EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, that is surprising considering the government, as has been said many times this morning, has the ability to exempt those military purchases, so both the last question and response were very troubling.

Since the Bretton Woods agreement has fallen apart, if the member has any further suggestions about the new financial order, that would be good.

I want to compliment the member for bringing up the fact of the feedback cycle on global warming. I want to add that with frozen methane in big chunks in the oceans and the white ice going away, the darkness is attracting more heat, which is a very big concern for us. Climate change is worse in the north than anywhere else. Under those circumstances, where all sorts of potential is being opened up out there, the fact that the Conservatives have cancelled the Arctic ambassador and not replaced it has lowered our esteem in the world in Arctic affairs.

Canada–EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend from Yukon for his tireless work not only for the people of his constituency but also for the people of the north. He, more than just about anybody else in the House, knows full well the impact of global warming on the territory he represents. He sees it in his day to day life and he sees the impact it has upon individuals.

The point I was driving forward is that the government has a chance to think clearly and to innovate during this time of a changing financial architecture by adding energy policy and trade policy together. They can and must go together. That will require international co-operation on how we can change the WTO, how we can change the IMF and how we can ensure the WTO and the IMF work together to deal with the issues of labour rights, health care and the environment.

I want to expand upon what my friend said.

The issue of feedback loops is not something on which we can go back. These feedback loops, if they are set in motion, will cause a cascade of events that we cannot stop. The elimination of the carbon sinks, wetlands and forests and the increasing temperature, which causes the melting of the ice and the release of methane, which is 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, will result in these feedback loops and we cannot turn them off.

It also has an impact upon the very countries with which we are signing a trade agreement. That will result in a change in the currents in the North Atlantic which will result in cataclysmic changes for agriculture and for the economies in the region, most of all our country and our economy.

Canada–EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I will ask my hon. colleague this question once again.

Will his party support a carve-out of the shipbuilding and marine industry, similar to what the Americans have done, when it comes to the EFTA deal?

Canada–EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will respond again by saying let us work together to ensure Canadian workers are protected and the Canadian economy maximizes its potential and its capability.

On the shipbuilding industry, I ask him a reciprocal question. Will he support the proposal that I have in the House to ensure the import tax on ships goes into a special fund, which should be matched with the private sector, and used to modernize our shipbuilding capabilities in our country so we can compete with countries from around the world in this important industry?

Canada–EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, today it is my pleasure to speak to Bill C-2, an act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the States of the European Free Trade Association. The association is made up of four countries: Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.

As some of my colleagues mentioned this morning, this is the second time that Parliament is considering the bill to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the States of the European Free Trade Association. During the second session of the 39th Parliament, Bill C-55 was passed at second reading, but could not be finalized before the 39th Parliament ended on September 7, 2008.

Bill C-2, which is before us today, and Bill C-55 are identical. I want to reiterate that the Bloc Québécois will support this bill because we believe that it will provide good trade opportunities for Quebec. Nevertheless, it is important to point out that this economic initiative, while very positive for Quebec, raises some concerns that I will explore later in my remarks.

As we all know, many Quebec businesses depend on exports to ensure growth. However, 85% of our exports are to the United States. That means that we have to diversify free trade.

International exports represent almost one-third of Quebec's GDP. 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 recession or a downturn in consumerism as is now happening with the Americans, coupled with the obvious aggression of emerging countries such as China, India and Brazil, we can see that it is getting more and more difficult to keep our place in the American market and to encourage growth in our manufacturing businesses. The results have been significant for Quebec. We have lost over 150,000 manufacturing jobs in the past five years, more than 80,00 of those since the Conservatives came to power.

The riding that I represent, Berthier—Maskinongé, has been severely affected by the loss of manufacturing jobs, particularly in the furniture and textile industries. If we were less dependent on the American market and our trading relationships were more diversified, I am convinced that our manufacturing sector would not be so hard hit.

And this is what makes the agreement that we are looking at today such an interesting initiative. It also offers new opportunities for Quebec business. For example, like Quebec, Switzerland has a large pharmaceutical industry, vigorous and innovative, especially with respect to brand name drugs. It is not surprising that Quebec is the Canadian leader in the field of brand name drugs because of its pool of skilled researchers and its favourable tax system. We could therefore easily imagine that in order to more easily break into the American market—

I think that I will stop there and continue after question period.

Canada–EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Berthier—Maskinongé will have 15 minutes remaining after question period.

It is now time to move to statements by members. The hon. member for Brandon—Souris.

Lee Clark
Statements by Members

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, it was with sadness this past summer that we heard of the passing of a learned scholar and federal politician who served Brandon--Souris.

Mr. Lee Clark passed away in August after a riding accident at his retirement home in Lake Metigosh where he spent many happy years during his retirement enjoying the outdoors. He has left to mourn his wife Barb, two daughters, and three grandchildren.

Lee earned his doctoral degree and served on the staff of Brandon University before becoming our member of Parliament from 1983 through 1993. He returned to Brandon University until his official retirement in 1998.

Lee Clark lived his life as a dedicated educator and politician, a tireless volunteer, and most important, a great husband, father and grandfather. Those who were fortunate to have known Lee Clark knew him as a talented man who quietly got things done. He asked for no praise or accolades, but enjoyed the satisfaction that he was able to help those in need.

Those of us who knew Mr. Lee Clark are much better off because of it. I ask the House to remember the life of one of our great Canadians, Mr. Lee Clark.

Frederick Gordon Bradley
Statements by Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, on December 10, 2008, the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and in particular, the historic town of Bonavista, was deeply saddened by the unexpected passing of Frederick Gordon Bradley.

Mr. Bradley was the son of the late Senator F. Gordon Bradley and Ethel Louise Bradley.

He was successful in business but devoted much of his life to community service. He was a longtime town councillor and mayor of Bonavista. He also formed the town's volunteer fire department in the 1960s. History and heritage consumed much of his interests. He was an avid storyteller, researcher and collector of information about the past.

Mr. Bradley was a longtime member of the executive of the Newfoundland Historical Society and served a term on the board of the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador. In 2006 Mr. Bradley received the distinguished Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage Award in recognition of his longstanding contribution to the preservation of the province's history and heritage.

With his untimely passing, the town of Bonavista and the province of Newfoundland and Labrador are left with a large void that will be difficult to fill.

East Africa
Statements by Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Johanne Deschamps Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, in this 19th International Development Week, it is important to recall that the FAO recently called on its member states for more investment in rural areas of East Africa with high potential for agricultural production to help them face the food crisis.

With most resources going into food aid, there is little investment in agriculture, and most of it is occurring in highly degraded areas. It is important that areas with higher potential for agricultural production receive greater financial support to produce surpluses that can feed the poor.

It would also be desirable to work together with these countries at establishing a supply management system in their jurisdictions. This would be a good way for their farmers to have more control over their production. This would be a sustainable solution to the food crisis in East Africa.

Holocaust
Statements by Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, the fight against holocaust denial is international in scope and Canada can be proud of the efforts that we have taken in fighting the extremist Ernst Zundel. Therefore, Canadian parliamentarians must speak out against Rome's decision to welcome Bishop Richard Williamson, a notorious supporter of the lies of Zundel.

Williamson has praised Zundel from the pulpit of a Canadian church. He has consorted with the Zundel defenders and he has continued to use the farcical testimony that no Jews died in the gas chambers. By rehabilitating Williamson, the church has shown a surprising indifference to the international fight against holocaust denial.

Last year, Williamson was just a Zundel fellow traveller. Thanks to the Vatican, he is now the most famous anti-Semite in the world. While the New Democratic Party welcomes the church's attempt to reassure the international Jewish community, nothing less than the full condemnation of this decision is acceptable in this day and age.