House of Commons Hansard #84 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was unemployed.

Topics

Made in Canada Act
Private Members' Business

September 18th, 2009 / 1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleagues for that unanimous consent.

The bill is another attempt by a member of the House to use the economic crisis for political purposes rather than helping Canadian families and businesses.

Bill C-392 would require that the government, including crown corporations and any foundation or trust with 75% of its income from the government, give absolute preference to Canadian goods and services in its procurement policies. This would also apply to transfers to the provinces, municipalities and private parties. This is the plan from the opposite side for economic development and employment, and I call it a recipe for disaster.

As members know, the economic crisis has been a synchronized global economic meltdown. No industrialized nation has been untouched by its impact. As a result, the nations of the world came together to fight the global recession with measures to stimulate our economies, and Canada was among them. We in this country are coming back.

Earlier this month, Statistics Canada reported an increase in employment during the month of August, a sign the economy is moving in the right direction. A recent report from the CIBC says that Canada's economy is to grow 2% in 2010, half a percentage point stronger than in the United States and more than double the growth expected in the eurozone economies. This is good news, but to keep the recovery on track, trade is essential.

Everyone knows a recession cannot be fought by using protectionist measures to close the markets in a shortsighted and ill-conceived attempt to save domestic companies and jobs. The last time that was tried it was followed by the Great Depression. That is the lesson of this economic crisis and of history.

In the global marketplace no country is an island. Our government knows the importance of engagement with the world. That is why the Prime Minister has publicly stated he is against protectionism. That is why Canada's policy is to counter buy American provisions in the U.S. and economic stimulus package. Has the hon. member who proposed Bill C-392 understood the lessons of history? I do not think so. Her bill would turn an economy and a nation, built on trading with the world, away from the world.

We cannot fight a recession by choking off one of the key drivers of economic growth. That is what the bill would do. It would slow down stimulus spending by limiting it to those companies that are be acceptable to its narrow criteria. It would penalize small Canadian suppliers that are distributors of foreign made goods in terms of winning contracts. It would increase administrative costs for those companies to demonstrate the origin of their goods and services. In addition, it would increase administrative costs for recipients of federal government transfers, like provincial and municipal governments, charities and individuals.

The government has worked hard to do exactly the opposite, to cut the red tape for organizations doing business with the government. We know the cost of government is an important factor contributing to the competitiveness of our economy. Why on earth would we act to increase our costs at a time like this?

Our government is offering the right kind of leadership at the right time. We are acting to get the economy growing again and to make it stronger than ever. Our economic action plan is working. We are continuing to inject stimulus spending into the economy. We are making government more efficient and effective. We are ensuring that continued and expanded engagement with our trading partners lifts our economy out of crisis.

This is a real plan for economic recovery and Canada will emerge from this crisis stronger because of it. We cannot and will not hide behind protectionist trade policies. That is not the 21st century way. It is not the government's way and it is not the Canadian way.

We have to make a choice: turn inward, lock our doors and watch our economy shrivel, or continue to look outward, build our competitive advantages and secure our prosperity through global economic engagement. When faced with those choices, our duty is clear.

I call upon my colleagues to join me in opposing this bill.

Made in Canada Act
Private Members' Business

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the House for its consent to speak today.

The bill is yet another protectionist measure emanating from the benches opposite. It would require that every department and agent of the Government of Canada give preference to Canadian products when purchasing goods and services. It would apply not only to every department and agent of the Government of Canada, but to any crown corporation and any foundation with 75% of its income or funding coming from the government.

The best way to promote jobs and growth in our country is not by protecting Canadians from foreign competition, but by preparing for it. The best defence is a good offence. The best way to create jobs and growth is to guarantee that our products and services have access to worldwide markets. The best way to do that is to ensure that the world markets, including our own, stay open to competition.

The bill runs completely counter to the work of the last 20 years to guarantee access to international markets. Beginning with the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement signed in 1988, the Government of Canada has entered into many free trade agreements to ensure this access. These include agreements with Mexico, as part of the North American Free Trade Agreement; with Chile, Israel, Peru, Colombia, Costa Rica; and Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland as part of the agreement with the European Free Trade Association.

As we look forward, we know that as small market economy Canada's future growth depends on our ability to reach markets beyond our own borders. That is why, at the Canada-European Union Summit in Prague earlier this year, the Prime Minister announced the historic launch of negotiations toward an economic partnership between Canada and the 27 member states of the EU.

Canada is, and always will be, a trading nation. One in five jobs in Canada is linked to international trade and 70% of our GDP is dependent on it. Consider, for example, the significance of our trade with the United States. Canada and the United States are each other's most important partner in economic growth. Since the Canada-U.S. free trade agreement was signed in 1988 and then NAFTA in 1992, there is no doubt our bilateral trade has been one of the major components of economic growth.

During these two decades, Canada and U.S. trade has tripled. Investment flows have also increased substantially. Two-way trade across the Canada-U.S. border at the rate of $1.7 billion a day, over $1 million a minute. An estimated three million jobs in Canada depend on our trade with the United States.

Given this scale of success it is clear that protectionism is our mutual enemy. In fact, it is a threat to our economic recovery. Indeed, it places restrictions on free trade and real growth prospects in both the developed and developing world alike.

Protectionist policies might look like an effective way of supporting economic growth, but our companies cannot compete if they are coddled. In fact, such actions prepare Canadian business not to compete on the world stage at all, but to fall behind under protectionist measures.

In addition, we are committed to respecting and upholding our trade commitments with our partners and we expect our partners will do the same. To come out of this global recession, we need to continue to trade free of barriers. The Great Depression taught us that the downward spiral of protectionism only leads to a more dire situation. That is why our economic action plan protects Canadians during the global recession, not by restricting trade, but by promoting it.

Our Budget Implementation Act revoked additional tariffs to increase international trade. This plan works to create good jobs for the future to equip our country for success in the years ahead.

We are acting through the most appropriate means to protect our economy and Canada is affected by the downturn. That includes the tax system, the employment insurance program and by direct spending by federal and provincial governments. It includes lending by crown corporations and partnerships in the private sector. What it leaves behind is protectionism, in the dustbin of history where it belongs. Canada knows we cannot build a fortress and lock ourselves inside it.

I believe the evidence before us can only lead to one conclusion. Therefore, I call on my colleagues in the House to oppose the bill.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Private Members' Business

2 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, during question period on June 10, at approximately 2:40 p.m., I used an expression in asking a question, to which the government took exception. It claimed at that time it was unparliamentary. Now I disagree with that interpretation, but that is entirely beside the point.

I do not want a dispute about language to obscure my main argument and I certainly do not want to put the Chair in a difficult position.

Therefore, I am happy to withdraw any specific word on that occasion that turns out to be unparliamentary.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-392, An Act respecting the use of government procurements and transfers to promote economic development, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Made in Canada Act
Private Members' Business

2 p.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am rising today in response to the proposed Bill C-392, An Act respecting the use of government procurements and transfers to promote economic development.

I appreciate the efforts of my colleague from the NDP and I will acknowledge good intentions. I believe firmly that credit is due when it is appropriate, and I do appreciate good intentions.

However, this proposal, in effect, is a vague, protectionist and retaliatory response. It is an attempt at a response to the buy American provisions in the United States which we, as a group of parliamentarians, have vehemently opposed for some time now.

I wish to stand here today to show our lack of support for this particular bill. Let me add a little bit of context to our position on this. The buy American provisions were announced some time ago and are clearly creating significant challenges for Canadian businesses and therefore for Canadian jobs.

As much as I might have some agreement with some of the interventions from my colleagues across the way, I hate to inform them that I am not in fact part of their current coalition and I will take significant exception to some of what they said.

The challenge that we are facing now requires results. It does not require letters and words. So far, from the Conservative government that we have at the moment and since the buy American provisions were announced, we have seen nothing but letters, some of which have gone unanswered and words. This past week alone we have seen another photo op with the President of the United States, who once again acknowledged, in certain words, that the buy American provisions were not something that he felt were that important from a Canadian perspective, and that we really ought to focus on things of a more significant nature. From a Canadian perspective, these buy American provisions are in fact very important and very damaging. We need far more than a photo op and words and letters.

What we needed, and still need because we continue to not see any results, was a recognition of the impacts of the buy American provisions. Although the federal government is subject to NAFTA, the individual states of the United States and the many municipalities are not. The effect of the buy American policy, and not even just the provisions but the sentiment, has created significant efforts on the part of many states and municipalities in the United States to source specifically from the United States, which, as I have said, has created a real challenge for many Canadian businesses and therefore Canadian jobs.

The answer is not, at the top, to make noise and to protest weakly. The answer should have been and continues to be to have people on the ground in the United States, not just in Washington but at the various state levels and the municipalities, working with those people to ensure that Canadian businesses and Canadian jobs were not going to be sacrificed and put at risk because of the buy American provisions.

I feel very strongly in representing the Liberal Party saying that we stand for free trade. We stand against protectionism. We stand for the long-term economic benefits of free trade and against protectionism, and that one cannot do a knee-jerk reaction at the expense of long-term economic benefits.

We are critical of the buy American provisions, very much so. I, as a Liberal on this side of the House in opposition, am also very critical of the complete lack of results that we have seen from the Conservative government.

It is my distinct recollection that the other opposition parties have also been critical of the buy American provisions and have also been very critical of the lack of results seen from the current government.

How on earth does this response sound: “We do not like buy American. We want you to stop the buy American provisions or we are just going to do the same thing”? It sounds frightfully like children in a sandbox saying, “You have now thrown sand me, so I am going to throw sand at you”.

Retaliation does not good policy make. Simply recognizing the circumstances that we are now in, even if there were value to this, which I question, the appearance of having us as Canadians who as parliamentarians appear to have been unanimous in our critique and our criticism of the buy American provisions to simply even be seen to be promoting buy Canadian as a retaliatory measure would make absolutely no sense, and in fact would be somewhat embarrassing, frankly, for us as Canadian parliamentarians.

I would recommend that my hon. colleague think very seriously about moving this forward. I invite her to engage in a discussion on how we can achieve solid results collectively and ensure that the government finally works to achieve some results in challenging the buy American provisions.

However, this particular bill does absolutely nothing of the kind. On the contrary, it really diminishes our ability, when we are engaging with the Americans, to encourage them to reduce their buy American provisions.

Made in Canada Act
Private Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, today we are voting on Bill C-392. I will read the summary because there are two aspects to this bill that promote employment and economic development in Canada by ensuring that the Government of Canada, while complying with its international obligations, gives preference to Canadian products or services in transfers to provinces, municipalities and private parties and in the procurement of its goods and services.

Let me say from the outset that the bill before us imposes conditions on cash transfers from the federal government to Quebec and the provinces. Once again, that is the sadly centralized and paternalistic vision of federalism rejected by Quebec. It is an insult to the Quebec nation and under no circumstances will the Bloc Québécois support a motion, bill or any other parliamentary initiative that seeks to undermine Quebec's autonomy by imposing conditions.

Furthermore, the members of the National Assembly have unanimously called for unconditional transfers. I see that my colleagues are paying close attention. I say to them that what we have here are the two visions of what Quebec should be. A sovereign Quebec would make it own decisions and would not let transfers or transfer conditions be imposed on it. But the bill before us is a federalist bill that says that when the Government of Canada makes transfer payments to the provinces and municipalities, it has to impose its vision. I would remind you that, in Quebec, the municipalities are creatures of Quebec, of the National Assembly. We have our own legislation in Quebec. We are not happy with this part of the bill.

The NDP bill also runs counter to Quebec's long battle to correct the fiscal imbalance. Quebec is calling for the right to opt out of federal spending programs in areas of shared and exclusive jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces, with full compensation and with no strings attached. Unfortunately, the NDP has introduced a bill that interferes in Quebec's areas of jurisdiction.

We will oppose this bill for that reason, but also for another reason: the Bloc Québécois has already introduced Bill C-306, which would enable the government to use government contracts to promote economic development, while respecting the jurisdictions of all governments and complying with trade agreements. In Bill C-306, which is quite similar to the bill before us today, the Bloc Québécois ensures that, within international agreements, the federal government uses its procurement as an economic lever to promote the growth and prosperity of businesses here. This bill would enable Canada to purchase up to $600 million annually, which is the equivalent of 21,000 jobs a year. In a way, it is also a response to the Buy American Act, and it would add to the pressure on the U.S. government to drop this sort of measure. This bill we have introduced focuses specifically on purchases not subject to NAFTA. In other words, it complies with the rules and the spirit of NAFTA, which would address the concern my Liberal colleague expressed earlier.

However, this bill is much narrower in scope because it would affect Government of Canada goods and services procurement only. It would target purchases whose value falls under the threshold requiring the government to issue public tenders under NAFTA. It would target only small federal government expenditures under $25,000 U.S.

We know that the Government of Canada is the largest buyer of goods and services in Canada, that it makes about 3% of its purchases abroad, and that passing a buy Canadian bill like the one the Bloc Québécois is proposing, as opposed to the one before us today, would halt the flow of some $600 million to other countries. If only half of those purchases had been made in Canada, we would have created an estimated 21,000 jobs per year.

If the Bloc Québécois bill were passed instead of the one before us today, that would mean over $60 billion spent in Canada, perfectly legally, without having to deal with NAFTA legal negotiations.

The bill before us today contains conditions that are unacceptable to Quebec, conditions governing cash transfers from the federal government to Quebec and the provinces. We do not like that idea. We want our independence, and we will never accept such a federalist, paternalistic vision. Furthermore, the Bloc Québécois has already introduced Bill C-306, which would use procurement to promote the kind of economic development that does not impose conditions on Quebec and the provinces and that complies with international agreements.

That is why, unfortunately, we cannot vote for Bill C-392 even though it is well-intentioned.

Made in Canada Act
Private Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

NDP

Bruce Hyer Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, before I begin commenting on this bill, I would just like to take a minute to express my sincere condolences on my own behalf and that of the New Democratic caucus to the family and friends of the former member of Parliament for Port Arthur, Doug Fisher, who passed away earlier today. He was just one day short of his 90th birthday.

Doug Fisher led an incredibly accomplished life that included many careers. He was in the armed forces. He was a miner, a teacher, a fire ranger, a construction worker, and he was considered the dean of the parliamentary press gallery when he joined the press after his parliamentary career.

He was a very active and sometimes very outspoken member of Parliament who was always dedicated to his constituents. He was greatly appreciated for his integrity and his commitment, and he will be deeply missed. Our thoughts are with his five sons: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Tobias, and with their families.

His legacy in the CCF, in the NDP and in Parliament will not be forgotten.

It is my pleasure to support my colleague in urging the passage of Bill C-392 introduced by our hard-working member for London—Fanshawe. She has been long committed to helping Canadian workers. This bill continues that dedication.

Others who might not share that dedication might say, and have said here today, that this bill is protectionist at a time when they want more trade openness. I was disappointed in the previous speakers from the Conservatives and especially from the Liberals today. Did they read the bill? I thought they were discussing a different bill here today. If they read it, they do not seem to have understood it, especially the Liberals who said they were going to vote against NAFTA and repeal it, and vote against the GST, and who are now coming onto this bandwagon.

They gloss over the fact that all of our major trading partners have had the same or more stringent measures in place, most of them for decades. This is not protectionist. It is smart and it is fair.

Governments here have left Canadian companies and workers at the mercy of foreign competitors on government contracts and infrastructure projects, while the same Canadian companies are blocked from bidding on foreign government contracts abroad. That was not fair and that was not smart.

This bill levels the playing field for Canadian products and services. It does nothing more and nothing less. A made in Canada procurement policy has been a long time coming. Canada is the last in the G7 to play catch-up and implement even minimal domestic procurement requirements. Canada is the last within NAFTA to do it as well.

Successive Conservative and Liberal governments in Canada have lost a lot at the negotiating table. There has been a chronic failure of our governments to show courage and strategy in trade negotiations and disputes. Why have all of our trading partners done otherwise? There are many reasons. Here are a few.

First, they have seen the wisdom of supporting their local industries. Mandating a minimum level of domestic content in public procurements is the smart way to use public tax dollars to stimulate our domestic economies. In other words, it will be our government buying our goods and services. That has nothing to do with free trade in the private sector. It is about our government buying our goods and services with our tax dollars.

Spinoff benefits such as local jobs, an increased tax base, increased industrial capacity and the sparking of innovation are sent abroad when projects are outsourced to foreign competitors.

One glaring omission in the stimulus package in this year's budget, whether that stimulus is actually flowing or not, is that there is no preference for products or services that are made in Canada, even when that planned spending involves billions of dollars. Canadian taxpayer dollars should not be going to stimulate the economies of China or the United States.

Second, in other countries, they know they have a fiduciary duty to their taxpayers to get value for those taxpayer dollars. The fact that the government failed to include any domestic procurement requirements regarding the billions in spending it announced is a major disservice to Canadian taxpayers.

When passed, the made in Canada bill will mandate domestic source requirements for federal rail, transit and shipping contracts, such that infrastructure projects supported by our federal government will use, at a minimum, 50% Canadian products and services.

That is getting more stimulus bang for our taxpayer bucks. Some of that stimulus will come back to the government in new revenues.

Third, it is important leverage in trade negotiations. Exercising this legislative muscle is crucial if Canada wants to be taken seriously when we assert our interests to export markets. For Canada to have any leverage in trade negotiations, we must implement our own domestic buying by our own governments. Only then would we be in a position to pursue a managed trade agenda that would optimize and fairly allocate the beneficial impacts of public procurement.

The current government practice of again and again allowing the free market to make key decisions makes no more sense for the industrial sector than it did for banking or financial services.

Critics have sometimes said that we cannot implement made in Canada because it would violate our trade agreements, like NAFTA. Baloney. This will not violate our trade agreements. I ask my colleagues to go back and read the bill. It is very simple and straightforward. Let us not confuse trade in goods commitments with rules for domestic procurement.

For example, restricting steel imports would contravene NAFTA and WTO rules and would be protectionist, but using public funds for state and local projects in order to favour U.S. suppliers to stimulate the U.S. domestic economy would not. In fact, Canadian steel imports have already seen litigation in U.S. courts under NAFTA and the tribunal in those cases rejected the Canadian companies' claims because public procurement is also exempt from NAFTA investment rules. The U.S. already does it and it has been cleared by NAFTA and the courts.

Direct federal procurements are constrained because of NAFTA and WTO agreements, but federal transfers to provinces, states or municipalities for infrastructure are not. This is how the American government requires 60% domestic content in infrastructure projects there while still complying with NAFTA.

The United States has had buy America requirements on its books since 1933. When are we going to get it? This is the reason that so many Canadian companies have opened up plants and shifted production and Canadian jobs just across the border to places like Plattsburg, New York, and Blaine, Washington.

The current buy America debate in the U.S. is about extending its policies yet further. Made in Canada offers flexibility on future trade deals when trading partners are fair. The government is currently negotiating a trade agreement with the European Union and its 27 members, all of whom are also party to the WTO's AGP.

I do say bravo to our Prime Minister for his efforts to diversify our international trade which is greatly needed. This can be profitable to all parties involved if agreements are crafted intelligently.

As I have already mentioned, direct federal procurements are already regulated under international agreements and preference cannot be made for domestic companies. It is therefore no surprise that a focus of ongoing negotiations for the Europeans is to ensure that provincial and other non-federal contracts are opened up.

The made in Canada act does not preclude any agreements with the Europeans or any other AGP country. That is flexible and it is fair, but what it will not do is let the government sell us down the river in the future.

In conclusion, Canada absolutely must pass an act mandating made in Canada requirements. Let us really stimulate the Canadian economy and not just the U.S. and Chinese economies.

Let us stand up for Canada. Let us stand up for Canadian companies and for Canadian workers. Let us get the most mileage from hard-earned Canadian taxpayer dollars.

Made in Canada Act
Private Members' Business

2:20 p.m.

NDP

John Rafferty Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate all the comments I have heard in this place today and certainly the comments from my colleague, the member for London—Fanshawe.

It is interesting. When I was listening to the Conservative members speak, I wrote a couple of things down while they were speaking. They were talking about Canadian businesses being ready to compete worldwide. I heard one of the members say that we need to go on the offence, not the defence. Another commenter said that we do not want to coddle Canadian business.

It is not about coddling Canadian business. It is about making life more affordable for Canadians. How do we make life more affordable for Canadians? We keep Canadians working. It is as simple as that. That is how we make life affordable for Canadians.

Speaking of affordable, I will digress for one second. I noticed that the Leader of the Opposition along with the government are now supporting Mr. McGuinty and his harmonized sales tax in Ontario.

Made in Canada Act
Private Members' Business

2:20 p.m.

An hon. member

Yikes.

Made in Canada Act
Private Members' Business

2:20 p.m.

NDP

John Rafferty Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Yikes is right. Mr. Speaker, if we want to make life less affordable for people in Ontario, such as the people in my riding, why not increase the cost of goods by 8%, and in some cases 13%, for things that have not been taxed before?

I have spoken to all sorts of small business owners who do not want to be coddled. All they want is a fair deal. They want to be able to sell a cup of coffee or one of the great products that comes out of Thunder Bay, Persians. People cannot afford another 8% on top of that. Small businesses cannot afford that. This is all about making life affordable for all Canadians and the people in my riding. Shame on them for the harmonized sales tax. We will have a lot more to say about that later.

Speaking of affordable, not only do we have to keep Canadians working to make it affordable, but there also has to be industry to make life affordable, so that people can be employed. If preference is not given to Canadian companies, those companies will wither and die. A good example is that just recently, the federal government refused to pay its fair share for the city of Toronto to help keep its environment clean and green by having streetcars built at the Bombardier plant in my riding.

Not only are the people in my riding disappointed with the actions of the federal government, but they are disappointed because the government does not seem to understand that if Canadian taxpayers are paying for something, it is a government's responsibility to do everything it possibly can to ensure that those things are built right here in Canada with Canadian taxpayers' money.

I will speak briefly about Bombardier. Bombardier is a state-of-the-art streetcar, train car and subway car manufacturer. It is the best in the world. I have been through that plant a couple of times. Raw materials such as sheets of aluminum come in one end and go out as finished streetcars. The only thing the Bombardier plant in my riding does not make are the wheels. They buy the wheels from somebody else. Everything else is manufactured from scratch in that plant.

It means that those are highly skilled, well paid jobs. If Toronto needs streetcars, subway cars or train cars, it is the government's responsibility to ensure that those train cars are built right here in Canada and preferably right here in Ontario.

The issue is very simple. Canadian taxpayers are going to be purchasing manufactured goods. We are talking about billions of dollars of goods in the case of Bombardier and the streetcars for Toronto. If we are going to spend that money, it is going to come out of the pockets of workers who struggle every day to make ends meet and put food on the table. What would happen if the government had its way? Those jobs would be offshore.

There was a big fight. A whole of people wanted to see those streetcars made in China. We are talking about billions of dollars worth of streetcars, well-paying jobs, and there was a group who wanted to have them built in China.

It might have been $50,000 cheaper to build them in China. However, what about the service? What about after-service? What about after manufacturing? What about people who have the skills in this country to work and work hard on behalf of their families and they do not have an opportunity to work?

Mr. Speaker, I see I am running--

Made in Canada Act
Private Members' Business

2:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the item is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

It being 2:30 p.m., pursuant to an order made Friday, June 19, 2009, this House stands adjourned until Monday, September 28, 2009 at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2:30 p.m.)