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

Employment Insurance Act
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-280, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (qualification for and entitlement to benefits).

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague from Acadie—Bathurst for seconding the bills I am tabling today.

My first bill that I would like to introduce would be to lower the threshold for becoming a major attachment claimant to 360 hours, make special benefits available to those with that level of insurable employment, set the weekly benefit payable to 55% of the average weekly insurable earnings during the highest paid 12 weeks in the 12 month period preceding the interruption of earnings, reduce the qualifying period before receiving benefits, and remove the distinction made in the qualifying period on the basis of the regional unemployment rate.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Employment Insurance Act
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-281, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (benefit period increase).

Mr. Speaker, again, I thank my hon. colleague from Acadie—Bathurst for seconding this bill, which amends the Employment Insurance Act to increase the benefit period for claimants 45 years of age or over who are laid off permanently after 10 years or more in the labour force.

This would help my constituents greatly. I hope that we will move forward with this bill.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Interprovincial Bridge
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to present a petition on behalf of fellow citizens from the national capital region. It deals with the issue of heavy-truck traffic in the downtown core of the nation's capital.

For a number of reasons, these petitioners call upon the government to instruct the National Capital Commission to proceed with a detailed assessment of option 7, that is, an interprovincial bridge linking the Canoteck industrial park to the Gatineau airport, as part of the second phase of an assessment regarding an interprovincial crossing in the national capital region.

I have the honour of tabling this petition asking that the government take appropriate action.

Opposition Coalition
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to present a petition on behalf of constituents wherein they note that during the October election Canadians gave the Conservative Party a clear and strengthened mandate to lead Canada through the global economic crisis. They note that the opposition parties are looking to impose an unstable, unelected Liberal-NDP-separatist coalition that would destabilize our country. The petitioners further note that Canadians have a democratic right to choose who will govern them and not have a surprise prime minister chosen through an unseemly undemocratic backroom deal.

They call on Parliament to oppose any political arrangement that would replace a democratically elected government without first consulting Canadians through an election.

Age of Consent
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, a number of the constituents of Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo are very concerned about the sexual exploitation of children. Therefore, the petitioners are calling upon Parliament to protect our children by taking all necessary steps to raise the age of consent from 14 years to 18 years of age.

Natural Health Products
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

John Cummins Delta—Richmond East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to present a petition signed by some of my constituents regarding what was Bill C-51, the natural health products bill. They express concern that if the bill goes ahead, 60% to 70% of natural health products may be taken from Canadian stores. They call on the government to stop the bill.

Darfur
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition drawing the attention of the House to the situation in Darfur.

The petitioners call on Parliament to pressure the Sudanese government to allow the full 26,000 UN peacekeeping force into the region; to pressure the Sudanese government to begin peace talks with the Janjaweed and various other liberation movements; to increase the land based humanitarian relief efforts; to pressure the U.S. and Canadian governments and other world leaders to increase land based humanitarian relief efforts; and to encourage surrounding governments to allow refugee sanctuaries.

Employment Insurance
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to present a petition from my constituency of Langley. It says that there are a number of life threatening conditions which do not qualify for disability programs and that current medical employment insurance benefits of 15 weeks do not adequately address the problem.

The petitioners are asking that the House of Commons enact legislation to provide additional medical EI benefits to at least equal medical maternity EI benefits.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

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

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

When debate was interrupted prior to question period, the hon. member for Berthier—Maskinongé had the floor. He has 15 minutes to complete his remarks.

The member for Berthier—Maskinongé.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for allowing me to continue my remarks. I will repeat part of my speech on Bill C-2 An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the States of the European Free Trade Association. Earlier, I examined the advantages and disadvantages of this agreement. There are, of course, more advantages than disadvantages and this is why we are supporting this free trade agreement.

One major disadvantage, however, involves the shipbuilding industry. We in fact tabled a motion with the Standing Committee on International Trade to have government support the shipbuilding industry in the coming years. When this agreement comes into effect, Norway's significant investment in its industry could pose a threat to the economic viability of some Quebec and Canadian businesses.

I continue in this regard. We might well expect that Swiss pharmaceutical companies might consider manufacturing their products in Quebec in an effort to penetrate the American market more easily. This would be an advantage for Quebec and would mean more investment there. This is one reason we support the agreement.

Let us take a look at the case of Norway. Nickel represents over 80% of Canada's exports to Norway. This is another advantage. The largest mine in Canada, which belongs to a Swiss company and is third largest in the world, is located in Quebec, in Ungava. So the agreement could significantly benefit Quebec and its mining industry.

I could list other benefits, but, overall, we support this agreement because it offers sizeable trading possibilities for Quebeckers. It has the added benefit of not incorporating the failings of previous agreements. For example, as we all know, the North American Free Trade Agreement and the agreements with Costa Rica and Chile contain an unfortunate chapter on investment. There is the agreement the Conservatives have just signed with Colombia, a country with a poor human rights, labour and environmental record, which is not the case in this agreement. The chapter in question allows businesses to sue a government adopting measures that limit their profits.

This sort of provision is not contained in the free trade agreement with Europe, which pleases the Bloc Québécois. In short, these four European countries respect human rights and, of course, workers' rights.

I should also say that the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the States of the European Free Trade Association covers only goods and not services. This provision ensures that services to the public will not be opened to competition, whether they are provided by the government or not, because they are simply not included. The same is true of financial services. Bankers will therefore not be exposed to competition from the famously efficient Swiss banking system.

This is also true of government procurement. The federal government will be able to give preference to Canadian suppliers, except as provided in the WTO agreement on public procurement. This is very important because the federal government is the largest purchaser of goods and services in Canada.

I would also like to mention agriculture and especially supply management. My colleague from Richmond—Arthabaska tabled a motion protecting supply management in Quebec and Canada. This is also very important in my riding of Berthier—Maskinongé. The Bloc Québécois and our colleague, who had this motion passed, will continue to defend supply management and insist on preserving it in its entirety.

We do not think that this agreement poses any threat to the integrity of the supply management system. We are very proud of how we protect supply management, hence the importance of the Bloc Québécois, which made sure that this motion was passed. We believe that our farmers and consumers are best served by this system.

It is hardly surprising that the Bloc Québécois would continue to insist on preserving the supply management system under this agreement. We are satisfied with the bilateral agricultural accords in it because goods produced under supply management are still protected, and that is the important thing.

The agricultural agreement with Switzerland provides for the elimination of the within-quota tariff, but this applies only to the market segment already covered by imports. The elimination of this tariff will therefore have only a marginal impact on our dairy farmers because the tariff quotas and the over-quota tariffs stay the same. We should also not forget that milk proteins are excluded from the agreement. On the other hand—and this is very important—the elimination of the 7% tariff under this agreement makes it even more imperative for the federal government to maintain a firm position at the WTO, that is to say, supply management is simply non-negotiable and the Bloc Québécois will continue to insist that the supply management system be defended in its entirety at the WTO. I hope that the Conservatives and their Liberal friends—who sometimes surprise us, as with the passage of this budget—have fully understood this message.

However, we are worried about the future of our shipyards. I spoke about this a little bit before question period, but I want to come back to this very important point within this agreement. At present, imported vessels are subject to a 25% tariff. Under the agreement, these tariffs will gradually decrease and will be completely phased out in 15 years. Obviously the planned adjustment period will not be useful unless it is coupled with a vigorous adjustment and modernization program for shipyards.

Norway has grasped this quite well. In recent years, the Norwegian government has invested heavily in modernizing its shipyards. Because it receives support from its government, the industry in Norway is now productive and highly competitive in foreign markets. In Canada, the federal government, be it Liberal or Conservative, has done nothing to support our shipbuilding industry. It has not supported shipbuilding since 1988. The Liberals and Conservatives have totally neglected, if not abandoned, our shipyards to the point where today they are less modern, less productive and thus less and less competitive in international markets.

With this free trade agreement, the federal government cannot drag its heels any longer. We have 15 years—a decent amount of time—to prepare ourselves before the tariffs on imported vessels are phased out completely, hence the importance of implementing a real maritime policy. This is the only recommendation that was included in the report from the Standing Committee on International Trade and it was part of a Bloc Québécois motion moved at this committee.

This is the motion, and I hope that the government will take action to this effect:

—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 was to urge the government to take action and introduce a comprehensive support strategy for the shipbuilding industry, a strategy to facilitate the industry's access to capital, stimulate investment, give preference to local suppliers in public procurement and, of course, encourage shipowners to buy their ships here at home.

After so many years of government inaction and apathy with respect to the many challenges facing our shipbuilding industry, the federal government must bring forward, without delay, an effective, comprehensive policy to support and develop the shipbuilding sector in Quebec and Canada.

When it comes to supporting industrial sectors that are experiencing problems, the Conservative government practises a laissez-faire approach. For shipyards, as for the manufacturing sector—a major presence in my riding, Berthier—Maskinongé—in which Quebec has lost thousands of jobs, we believe that this laissez-faire policy is totally irresponsible and must stop.

I have to say that, in light of the Conservatives' most recent budget, which received Liberal support, we will have to devote a lot of energy to making sure that the federal government does not abandon Quebec's shipbuilding industry. In the latest budget, the Conservative leader chose to respond to the demands of Ontario and its automotive industry by offering some $4 billion in assistance, while Quebec's manufacturing sector will be getting just a few million dollars.

These measures, which are unfair to Quebec and were supported by the leader of the Liberal Party, are further proof that we must be vigilant. Let me make it very clear that we still believe this free trade agreement is a good thing, and we support it. But we have to insist that the federal government bring forward an effective plan to help the shipbuilding industry. Promises are not enough when it comes to this.

I would like to close by emphasizing that I think this free trade agreement is a step in the right direction. As I said earlier before question period, I think it is important to diversify our markets and reduce our dependency on U.S. markets. This agreement with the European Free Trade Association is a good one, but it is limited. What we really want is the power to sign a free trade agreement with the European Union that will produce meaningful, productive results in all of our trade with European countries.

Although the four countries that make up this association represent only 1% of Canadian imports, the European Union has 495 million inhabitants who generate nearly 31% of global gross domestic product. 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. It is important to note, for example, that Mexico has had a free trade agreement with the European Union since 2000. Thus, a company that does business in Mexico would definitely have a greater interest in moving part of its production there, since that would open up access to the European market, while maintaining its access to the American market through NAFTA. This situation must be corrected.

We support the agreement we are discussing here today, but negotiations must be ramped up, so that a free trade agreement between Canada and the European Union can finally be reached. Furthermore, a free trade agreement with the European Union would also prove beneficial in terms of investments. Indeed, together with NAFTA, the agreement would make it attractive for European companies to use Quebec and Canada as their gateway to the North American market and consequently to move some of their production here.

As a final point, since nearly 40% of European investments in Canada are in Quebec, it would certainly be a desirable location for European companies that want to invest in North America. We hope this government will quickly reach an agreement with the European Union, because it would be the best way to diversify our economy.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I understand the premise of my colleague's comments that trade deals are not inherently a bad thing. If they can assist our economy, our workers and our material products, that is a good thing, but the reality is that in every trade deal one has to trade something away to get something back.

In an earlier intervention, my colleague indicated that this is possibly a very good deal for pharmaceutical companies, but as he has pointed out, it is not such a great deal for shipbuilding companies. In fact, in 2001, gentlemen he is probably aware of, Philippe Tremblay, Les Holloway, Peter Cairns and Peter Woodward, along with Brian Tobin, the industry minister at the time, came up with some recommendations. The document, “Breaking Through”, gave five recommendations for the shipbuilding industry. Unfortunately, it is eight years later and not one of those recommendations has been implemented.

If this bill ends up in committee and the government refuses to accept any amendments that would assist in aiding the shipbuilding industry, will he on behalf of his party continue to support this deal, if there are no improvements in the deal for the shipbuilding industry in this country and in Quebec?