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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word is liberal.

Liberal MP for Winnipeg North (Manitoba)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 35.80% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2 October 29th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I get a little nervous when I notice the government House leader. I am thinking of the potential for time allocation.

Having said that, my question is for the member for Kildonan—St. Paul.

In terms of co-operation, we made the suggestion that the government consider EI premium breaks for all new hires. We have had many third-party stakeholders who have commented on just how valuable this recommendation is. It is an idea that would create thousands of jobs.

If we want to fight for the middle class when debating the proposed legislation, I think a big part of that would be fighting for jobs. Allowing EI premium breaks for new hires would go a long way.

Would the member not support initiatives that would cause employers to create literally thousands of new jobs at a relatively marginal cost? I would be interested in her thoughts on that.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2 October 29th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I want to pick up on an area with which I know the member is somewhat familiar. It is an area that is really important to all Canadians, even though there is no real mention of it within this budget bill. That is the issue of the infrastructure expenditures. The government has cut actual spending, estimated to be between 80% to 90%, for this year in anticipation that possibly in the next year, the election year cycle, we might see some substantial increases.

The real concern is that the infrastructure is so vitally important. We have seen this in some of the municipal elections that have taken place. We talked about Toronto yesterday and the city of Winnipeg a week prior. Different council members, mayoral candidates and others talking about the need for infrastructure. This is at a time when the federal government has not seen fit to recognize it within this bill or within its overall budget. This is important to the Canadian economy. By investing in the infrastructure, not only does that help create direct jobs, but also indirect jobs, and adds so much more value to the Canadian economy.

Would the member comment on the importance of infrastructure and why it would have been good to have had it incorporated it into the bill?

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2 October 29th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the minister is being somewhat less than honest with respect to the role the current government has actually played with the temporary foreign worker program. This is a program that has provided great economic and social benefit for Canadians for many years. Yes, it was a Liberal prime minister who ultimately brought in the program, but the program had been a huge success prior to the current government taking office. It is the current government that embellished, and in essence, put the program into a crisis situation.

If we go into the Prairies, or even into Atlantic Canada and other regions, we would find that there has been a great value to the program. It is the current government that has made a mess of the program. It has turned it into a crisis situation and the Canadian economy is paying as a direct result of its incompetence.

My question for the minister is with respect to areas of the country where the temporary foreign worker program has proven to be very useful and necessary. I am sure if he did some work by going out and checking with some of those employers maybe the government would recognize that there is some value to properly fixing the program to get it back on track so that the overall economy would be that much better.

This is a very specific question. Does the minister believe that the temporary foreign worker program has a valuable role to contribute to Canada's economy?

Canada-Korea Economic Growth and Prosperity Act October 28th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the member very happily emphasized that the NDP was the only party that provided amendments at the committee stage. The only question I have for her is this. Does she realize that if those amendments had passed, we would not be on the path to a free trade agreement with Korea? Would she acknowledge that would in fact be the case?

Had the NDP amendments passed, what do New Democrats believe would have followed from that point? Would there have been new negotiations with Korea, or did they just believe that their amendments would not pass and that is the reason they brought them forward?

Canada-Korea Economic Growth and Prosperity Act October 28th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, one of things I have noticed as more and more New Democrats stand up is that they have shiny new speaking notes that include three items, which is great. It makes sure that everyone is consistent and singing from the same book in terms of the three principles that they believe are important if the New Democrats are to support a free trade agreement.

I applaud the fact that they have changed their views on it. Now today inside the House of Commons there is only one party, the Green Party, that opposes free trade agreements, at least on the surface.

If the member were to take the principles he has referred to and apply them to previous trade agreements that have been signed over the last decade, does he feel that New Democrats might have voted incorrectly in the past? That would be okay. I am wondering if the member might want to provide some comment on that.

Canada-Korea Economic Growth and Prosperity Act October 28th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity, given the importance of the trade agreement, to highlight the fact that there are certain industries that will be able to benefit in terms of the potential expansion of their exportation. I have talked a lot about Manitoba's pork industry. Allow me to focus on my province but also on the aerospace industry.

We have amazing technology and products here in Canada, particularly in my home city, where there are opportunities to expand in terms of the export of product and knowledge. Something that is really important when we talk about free trade agreements is that it is more than just a widget we are talking about. We need to recognize that Canada has a great deal of knowledge that can be exported to other countries. The aerospace industry is one of those areas where I think there is great potential, not only for product but also for knowledge.

I wonder if the member might want to comment on the issue of trade with Korea and others in terms of the benefits of going beyond just widgets.

Canada-Korea Economic Growth and Prosperity Act October 28th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am very much interested in what New Democrats would have to say in regard to the amendments they said they brought forward in committee. I am sure the member realizes that had these amendments passed, there would have to have been more negotiations with Korea to make sure they were in compliance with the amendments that were being passed by the New Democrats.

Would the NDP then make changes to the free trade agreement? Are we to assume that if the NDP were in a position of power, it would renegotiate? That is an awfully big “if” that scares a lot of people.

If it were to occur, would it then be the policy of the New Democratic Party to give South Korea the six months' notice so that New Democrats could make the changes they wanted to make at committee stage?

Canada-Korea Economic Growth and Prosperity Act October 28th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, no offence to the member, but I do not believe the New Democrats are being fully transparent on this issue. The reality is quite different in terms of what they have done in the past versus what they say today.

If we use the same logic that the member just talked about in terms of how they thoroughly investigate and base their decisions strictly on the merits of a trade agreement, did that same principle apply when Jack Layton or Ed Broadbent was the leader of their party? Are they saying that the Jordan agreement and this agreement are the only two agreements that Canada has ever signed that are worth supporting? They need to look in the mirror and reflect on what they say if they want to be consistent and honest with Canadians.

Canada-Korea Economic Growth and Prosperity Act October 28th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, there was a time in which there was more difference between the New Democrats and the Liberals, but the New Democrats are trying to become Liberals on the trade issue.

We need to recognize that when the member said whether it was the European Union, that in principle they supported the concept of free trade. This is much like when Jack Layton was the leader of the New Democrats. He would say very candidly, “We oppose free trade agreements”, even if the free trade agreement was not on the table or if there was no context to the agreement at all. At one time, the New Democrats knew that the content did not matter. It was totally, absolutely irrelevant. They just opposed trade agreements. It is only under this new leader that they have made this flip. That is a good thing.

They do not need to try to come up with this justification. That is all they are really talking about is justification. The Liberal Party believes in the importance of environmental and labour laws. We want to ensure that there is a respect for democracy and human rights. The New Democrats are coming up with a justification for their flip-flop. That is all it is.

Canada-Korea Economic Growth and Prosperity Act October 28th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I plan to address the benefits versus the lack of benefits if we have a trade deficit.

First, I would like to provide some context. When we talk about trade with Korea, what are the types of items we are talking about? When we think of Korea and the exports it has, we are looking at motor vehicles; trailers; bicycles; motorcycles; electrical machinery and equipment; boilers; mechanical appliances; iron and steel articles; plastic and plastic articles; rubber and rubber articles; optical, medical, and scientific technical instrumentation; mineral fuels; oils; and copper and copper articles. These are the top Korean exports to Canada.

To my mind, and to the minds of many Canadians, a particular concern is the automobile industry. There is a great deal of interest in what will happen to our automobile industry. Obviously, the automobile industry as a whole in Canada provides tens of thousands of good-quality jobs for Canadians.

When we think of what Canada exports to Korea, top on the list are minerals, fuels, oils, and so forth. Next to that, we are looking at ores, slag, and ash; wood pulp; boilers and mechanical appliances; wood and wood articles; charcoal; aluminum and aluminum articles; electrical machinery and equipment; optical, medical, and scientific technical instrumentation; cereals; and, a very important one for me and something I have had an opportunity to talk a great deal about in the House, meat, particularly Manitoba's wonderful pork.

That gives us a sense of what is coming into and leaving Canada. We are talking about literally hundreds of millions of dollars on an annual basis.

South Korea plays a very important role when it comes to trade with Canada today. The expectations are that with the trade agreement, we will be able to enhance trade between the two countries. There are some industries, the pork industry and aerospace industry being two very important industries for my own province and across Canada, that would benefit from this trade agreement. Having said that, we need to recognize that there are areas we need to be concerned about.

As I have pointed out, this has not been an agreement driven by the Conservative government. It goes back to 2003, when the South Koreans took it upon themselves to move toward world trade agreements.

Canada has actually been very slow in pursuing an agreement. That was back in 2003. At that time, Paul Martin was the Prime Minister, and the Liberal Party was in government. Within a year of South Korea stating its intentions, the government of the day expressed its willingness to begin negotiations.

It is frustrating that the Canadian government made this country such a low priority. It signed some other agreements that involve a fraction of the trade that was being done between Canada and Korea.

Therefore, the Conservative government should not try to give the impression that it is the Prime Minister who has been out courting to get this agreement. That is not the case. Yes, the Conservatives has signed the agreement, but it has a lot more to do with South Korea than it does with the government.

The Liberal Party has consistently recognized the value of trade, and I can go through a litany of Liberal prime ministers. I often refer to the 1960s when we had the auto pact agreement and how Canada benefited the economy and ultimately socially as a result of that. Through the years, we have continued to support the principle of free trade agreements where possible and where it makes sense.

In the last 15 or so years there has been a lot more interest around the world to develop and promote free trade agreements. That is why we have seen a lot more activity. In the late 1980s, it was not the thing of the day, and I made reference to this before.

I recall first hand when I was sitting on the Manitoba legislature and Prime Minister Chrétien at the time talked about how important trade was to Canada. He wanted to go Asia, particularly China, and other countries, and he wanted this team Canada approach. He invited other provinces, stakeholders and so forth to participate in trying to capture new and growing markets to benefit from world trade.

If we look at the governments of Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin, we will see that we had consistent trade surpluses, and that is important.

I have studied basic economic courses and I had the opportunity to talk economics throughout the last 20 years in many different capacities, as well when playing the role of critic in the Manitoba provincial legislature. The bottom line is that a trade deficit is not a positive thing.

If we look at trade in a holistic fashion, what better way than to look at the bottom line? The trade balance is important. If we are on the right side of the balance on the ledger, we will find that we are in a better position to generate good quality-paying jobs. That is what Canadians want.

This is a fight for the middle class. We need the emphasis of our policy, and in setting policy, to benefit our middle class, because the middle class has been hit hard over the last number of years. One of the ways in which we can deal with that is to be more progressive on the trade file.

We cannot be dismissive or passive about a trade deficit and not worry about it. If the Conservatives gave the attention that was warranted in dealing with the trade deficit, we would have had more employment in Canada. The manufacturing industry would not have been hit as hard as it has been in Ontario, where we have lost tens of thousands of good quality manufacturing jobs. No one can convince me that has nothing to do with the trade deficit because it does. There are many things in which the government could be doing that would make a difference, and it is a small point.

We ask questions about infrastructure. Investment in infrastructure allows our companies in Canada to get their product to market that much faster. It allows them to be that much more competitive. Investing in infrastructure is a good, sound economic policy.

We should all be concerned with the overall trade balance. I understand that the only party opposing this trade agreement is the Green Party. It is encouraging to see the flip that the New Democrats have made on trade policy.