House of Commons Hansard #8 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was lanka.

Topics

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Tony Martin Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I commend the hon. member on her speech. She certainly speaks to something about which we all have concerns, and that is how we protect the traditional industries of this country and the jobs that they provide to our communities.

I remember being in New Brunswick in 1987 and visiting the shipyards in Saint John. I remember seeing the Algoma Steel stamp on big sheets of steel that had come from my own city. In seeing that I understood the interconnectedness between these industries.

When we build ships in Nova Scotia, we provide an opportunity for a steel mill in Sault Ste. Marie or Hamilton to sell its product and that provides jobs in those communities. Shipbuilding in Nova Scotia, British Columbia, or wherever it happens in this country has a major ripple effect on other parts of the country that we cannot ignore or deny.

I wonder if the member would comment on that.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, the member's comment is a very good one. This is something I was alluding to earlier. People who are working on the ground understand the connection. They know exactly what is going on. I could cite the statistic that one shipbuilding job creates four spinoff jobs, but what does that mean?

I find it quite remarkable that a dairy farmer from Antigonish county, which is nowhere near the shipyards in Halifax, would say to me, “Gee, I hope things work out for those shipbuilders because that could really help my industry”. I can only imagine the pride of seeing the stamp that something was made in Sault Ste. Marie when one is in Halifax.

This is not just about using steel from mills in Sault Ste. Marie or Hamilton, it is about local economies everywhere. It means that workers have good-paying jobs. They will be able to weather this recession. They will be able to purchase goods, which means that we have to create more goods. It is a win-win situation for local economies and communities, but also for the federal economy. That is why we are calling for investment in infrastructure through shipbuilding and to have a dedicated industrial plan that includes shipbuilding.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I, too, would like to congratulate the member for Halifax for doing such a fine job in representing Halifax. I am sure she is going to win the riding again next time, not only because she is doing such a fine job but because the Liberals are supporting the Conservatives.

In her statement, she said that for every shipbuilding job that is created, four other jobs are created in the offset industries.

In the budget the Conservatives added five weeks to EI at the end of the period. I would like the hon. member for Halifax to tell me what kind of a difference it would have made if the government had added two weeks at the start of EI and then three weeks at the end. Would this have helped the shipbuilders who are currently unemployed?

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, that is a very good question. That two weeks at the beginning would have made all the difference in the world. Two weeks is a very long time to wait before one evens apply.

The one thing that we often forget is that a person applies and then the person continues to wait. It is quite a bit more time before the person sees any money coming in. Despite what the minister has said in the House that two weeks is plenty of time to find a new job, two weeks is not sufficient. People need that support at the front end, and it is something we would like to have changed in the EI regulations.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to join with my colleagues in denouncing this bill which will have long-term implications for the workers of this country. It is a bill which further commits Canada to a free trade agenda when what we should really be pursuing is a fair trade agenda.

I find it interesting that we are continuing to negotiate these types of trade deals given the difficulty we have had recently with the rise in protectionism, particularly from the U.S., our biggest trading partner and close signatory in the North American free trade agreement. It can be argued that we are the poor cousin in that arrangement, bringing only concessions to the table and having to live with the whims of our partners. We are seeing this with respect to iron and steel procurement in the U.S. stimulus package.

We have also witnessed the long struggle to get an acceptable softwood lumber agreement with our American partners. In northern Ontario we are particularly aware of the failure of successive governments, both Liberal and Conservative, to protect an industry that goes to the heart of our economy. In northern Ontario we have watched the trend in the softwood industry as workers are being asked for concessions, mills are shutting down and those lucky enough to still have jobs in the forestry sector are not confident those jobs will be there in the future.

It is not because of a crisis in confidence of our products, work ethics or the future of the resource. It is because these people recognize that they are working within the confines of a flawed agreement that does little to protect jobs here in Canada.

In my riding, there was the loss of 120 jobs at the Haavalsrud mill in Hornepayne, the closing for four weeks of the Tembec mill in Kapuskasing and its announcement yesterday of lay-offs in Hearst, not to mention the concessions that Columbia Forest Products in Hearst tried to obtain from its workers. All these events have an immediate impact on our small towns.

Forgive me if I fail to see the silver lining in this latest free trade agreement with the European Free Trade Association, comprised of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. Although we are the larger partner in this agreement, at least in terms of population, once again we are conceding ground and making it difficult to ensure the future survival of important national industries.

I am talking about our shipbuilding industry now. We are entering into an agreement that will all but guarantee that our shipbuilding industry continues to contract and loses ground to foreign producers. This trade agreement will reduce tariffs on ships from 25% to zero in a period of 10 to 15 years, depending on the type of ship.

The main source of competition for shipbuilding will be Norway. Norway has pursued a long-term industrial strategy for shipbuilding. It has a state-of-the-art yard that has been subsidized and is well established. Canada does not. We do not have an industrial policy for shipbuilding and the infrastructure in the yards we do have is not state-of-the-art. Canadian yards are not on a level playing field as we set them loose to compete under the terms of this agreement.

I would be remiss to go on any further without mentioning the good work of my colleague, the hon. member for Sackville—Eastern Shore. Had governments listened to his call for improvements in Canadian shipbuilding capacity, we would not be voicing many of our concerns today. We would be entering into this agreement on a level playing field and be able to compete not only with Norway but Japan, Korea and any of the best shipbuilding yards in the world. Sadly, his repeated call for a shipbuilding industrial strategy has been ignored, and we in the NDP are forced to fight on behalf of the remnants of this once proud industry to ensure it does not simply vanish.

I would also like to echo the sentiments of my colleague from Thunder Bay—Rainy River. I too am appalled that not one ship is being built in the Thunder Bay shipyard, not now or even in the past year, yet at the same time we are moving ahead with an agreement that will forever hamstring this industry. It is inconceivable that we would like to merely walk away from these good jobs in a time when we are meant to be moving heaven and earth to protect jobs in Canada.

It does not end with shipbuilding though. Our concerns go beyond that. There are serious implications for our agricultural sector in this agreement as well. The provisions within the agreement concerning agriculture defer to the World Trade Organization principles and dispute mechanisms, which will have a very negative impact on supply management by weakening Canada's position. The NDP opposes these WTO mechanisms and has strong concerns about their effect on our domestic agriculture capacity.

Terry Pugh, the executive secretary of the National Farmers Union, told the Standing Committee on International Trade in April of 2008:

--the most critical and highly negative aspect of this deal...is its impact on supply management, for example, in the dairy industry. It's true that our access commitments remain in place for imports of certain commodities, as specified under the WTO agreement, but the tariff rates on some of those imports have been dramatically lowered, some of them to the point of elimination entirely.

He points out that butter coming into Canada in shipments of under 4,000 tonnes has a 7% tariff. Under this deal, that 7% goes down to 0%. The amount that is coming in stays the same but the tariff rate is actually reduced. That just opens up Canadian markets to offshore products, and every time we do that, we shut Canadian producers out of their own domestic market. Is that not a shame? It might be free trade but it certainly is not fair trade.

We have standards in Canada and our dairy farmers are demanding. They work hard and they deliver a safe product through reliable supply routes, operating under a supply management system that ensures as much.

They operate under the basic tenets of fair trade. These are commitments to health and safety, respect for human rights, worker rights and right to assembly. They operate in good faith. That is more than can be said about a government that rushes through trade agreements just to be seen to be doing something, a government that has made promises on icebreakers, the Arctic patrol vessel and the joint support ship project, none of which are moving ahead despite the fact that they could all be done in Canada.

I would like to quote Andrew McArthur of the Shipbuilding Association of Canada and Irving Shipbuilding who appeared before the Standing Committee on International Trade on April 2, 2008. I know it has been mentioned a few times in the House already, but I think it is important that we keep hammering away at it. 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.

In closing, I would like to remind the government that this agreement threatens Canadian industry and agriculture. This agreement sets adrift, perhaps forever, our shipbuilding history and its industry. It could also have dire consequences on dairy producers and should be reviewed with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Business of the House
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions with all parties in the House and I believe that if you were to seek it, you would find that there is unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That during the debate pursuant to Standing Order 52, following the first intervention of each of the recognized parties, members rising to speak may indicate that the period of debate be divided in four.

Business of the House
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker Mr. Barry Devolin

Is it agreed?

Business of the House
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the House
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

(Motion agreed to)

Canada–EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to commend the hon. member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing for her fine speech today. As a neighbouring riding to Nickel Belt, the hon. member knows that many mines in Nickel Belt are affected by the shipbuilding industry. The more ships we build, the more steel we need. The more steel we need, the more nickel we need, especially for building from stainless steel. Also, the more ships we build, the more wood products we need, which affects the member's riding in particular. I would like the hon. member to tell me how shipbuilding in Canada would help these two industries?

Canada–EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Madam Speaker, when we are looking at shipbuilding, it does not just impact those people who are actually building the ships, but it does have a ripple effect into other industries, especially the mining and forestry industries. Everyone would benefit from that, not to mention some of our small business communities and the construction industry as well. Certainly, it would impact greatly. Given the fact that we have seen job loss after job loss in Canada, imagine that, we could start building up our manufacturing industry once again. Would that not be a great thing to put people back to work?

We have been seeing skill shortages over and over again. Again, by losing our shipbuilding capacities we will be losing skills. I want to reiterate that the ripple effect of job creation would certainly benefit Canada greatly.

Canada–EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen Welland, ON

Madam Speaker, I always find it somewhat amusing from time to time when people speak about six degrees of separation. I listened with great intent to the member for Halifax who spoke about her grandfather working in the shipyard in Collingwood. I could not help but reflect that my father actually came here as a new Canadian in 1963 and perhaps they worked side by side in that yard. What a legacy that would be indeed if the yards across this country were to be booming again like that yard that once was. I repeat, once was, in Collingwood.

However, to the hon. member who has just spoken so eloquently about shipbuilding and farming across this great land, we look at the trade agreements that have been signed by the last couple of governments, whether it be the North American Free Trade Agreement and now this one with Europe, and the one that was attempted with Korea and of course with Colombia. My question forms around what those do for us.

Let me first quote George MacPherson, who is president of the Shipyard General Workers' Federation of British Columbia. Really this is an industry that is across this land from coast to coast to coast. He 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.

My question for the hon. member is this. Who benefits from these types of agreements, which are called free trade rather than fair trade?

Canada–EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Madam Speaker, who does actually benefit from free trade? Basically what we have seen is that those at the top of the big industries almost ensure that the smaller entities will have difficulty surviving. There is no such thing as free trade. It just ensures that the biggest players dominate the industry.

It is just like big corporate tax cut credits. The big banks and the big oil companies get the big credits. Sixty dollars for every tax credit that goes to the big corporations only $1 goes into EI. I think that is a shame. The rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer.

When we are looking at the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, chapter 11 of NAFTA allows for corporations to usurp the democratic will of Parliament. Therefore, I think it is important that we keep track of what really has been going on because no matter what Parliament's will is, free trade agreements override that.

Canada–EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

Madam Speaker, my hon. colleague mentioned in her intervention the recent budget and its deficiencies. Despite the fact that there has been a great deal of concern expressed, the recent budget gives $60 in tax cuts to the most profitable corporations including banks and oil companies and fails those workers who have been unemployed by only returning $1 in a pitiful lack of reform to the employment insurance program. I am wondering if the member could comment about the effects of this lack of employment insurance reform on her community, on my community, and on your community, Madam Speaker.