That, given that trade between Canada and the United States of America exceeds $1.5-billion per day, more than 300,000 people normally cross the common border monthly, the two countries have enjoyed one of the world's largest open trading blocs for the free movement of goods, services and people since 1989, the economic challenges caused by COVID-19, and the need for a serious plan for the economic recovery that recognizes the integration of the North American economy, the House appoint a special committee with the mandate to conduct hearings to examine and review all aspects of the economic relationship between Canada and the United States, including, but not limited to
(i) the expressed bilateral economic priorities of the governments of Canada and the United States,
(ii) natural resources issues, including oil and gas exports and transportation, softwood lumber exports, and related jobs,
(iii) "Buy America" procurement rules, requirements and policies,
(iv) the government's efforts with the United States' administration to ensure a stable and predictable supply of COVID-19 vaccine doses for Canada as a major border and trading partner,
(a) the committee be composed of 12 members, of which six shall be from the government party, four shall be from the official opposition, one shall be from the Bloc Québécois, and one shall be from the New Democratic Party;
(b) the members shall be named by their respective whip by depositing with the Clerk of the House the list of their members to serve on the committee no later than Thursday, February 18, 2021;
(c) membership substitutions be permitted, if required, in the manner provided for in Standing Order 114(2);
(d) changes to the membership of the committee shall be effective immediately after notification by the relevant whip has been filed with the Clerk of the House;
(e) the Clerk of the House shall convene an organization meeting of the committee on Tuesday, February 23, 2021;
(f) the committee be chaired by a member of the government party and, notwithstanding Standing Order 106(2), there shall be one vice-chair from each of the other recognized parties;
(g) quorum of the committee be as provided for in Standing Order 118 and that the Chair be authorized to hold meetings to receive evidence and to have that evidence printed when a quorum is not present, provided that at least four members are present, including one member of the opposition and one member of the government party;
(h) the committee be granted all of the powers of a standing committee, as provided in the Standing Orders, provided that (i) the provisions of Standing Order 106(4) shall also extend to the committee, (ii) until Sunday, April 11, 2021, the committee shall not meet on a day when the House is sitting, except for (A) the meeting required by paragraph (e), (B) the committee's subcommittee on agenda, if one is appointed;
(i) the committee have the power to authorize video and audio broadcasting of any or all of its proceedings;
(j) the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade, the Ambassador of Canada to the United States of America, and other ministers and senior officials be invited to appear as witnesses from time to time as the committee sees fit;
(k) the committee be instructed to present an interim report, concerning an analysis of the importance of the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline to both countries' economies and the consequences of its possible closure, including the labour market implications caused by layoffs of unionized and other workers, together with recommendations to address and safeguard Canadian interests, no later than Thursday, April 15, 2021;
(l) the committee be instructed to present a second interim report, concerning current and proposed "Buy America" procurement rules, requirements and policies, together with recommendations to address and safeguard Canadian interests, no later than Thursday, June 17, 2021; and
(m) the provisions of the order adopted on Monday, January 25, 2021, authorizing virtual and hybrid committee proceedings, shall continue to apply to the committee and any of its subcommittees until Sunday, September 19, 2021.
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup.
I am proud today to speak on our official opposition day and bring forward a Conservative motion to create a special committee worthy of our focus, which is the economic relationship between Canada and the United States. It is long past the time when the government was being proactive rather than reactive in terms of our relationship with the United States, but the motion before the House today will allow us to do exactly that.
Trade between Canada and the U.S. exceeds $1.5 billion per day. Our partnership with the United States is of critical importance. Our two countries share more than a just a border. We share common ideals, and many Canadians and Americans work and live across our borders and have family or friends who reside on the other side of the border. Their lives are integrated. Our business relationships provide countless jobs across the country with our two-way trade.
Since the ratification of NAFTA in 1994, and more recently with CUSMA, our two nations have enjoyed the benefits of the free movement of goods, services and people. It is a strong relationship that has become only stronger over time. However, like every relationship, it takes effort and work.
I know many of my colleagues today will speak on a wide range of challenges that affect different sectors across our country, some old and some new, which highlight the need for this committee.
We have had Keystone XL cancelled and other pipeline issues, such as Line 5, which may lead to immediate fuel shortages in Ontario and Quebec, higher fuel prices and the loss of thousands of jobs; tariff issues; disputes on softwood lumber, dairy, and aluminum; low-priced Washington apples being dumped into Canada; stricter buy American policies; and investigations on several of our fruit and vegetable exports to the U.S.
We need strategic focus. Most of us on this side of the House come from the private sector. We have been entrepreneurs. We have founded and operated companies. We have been in senior leadership roles. We have been involved in strategic planning and risk management, and we have been responsible for people’s livelihoods. We have foregone pay cheques ourselves to make sure our workers, who often become our friends, get paid.
We take seriously people being able to keep their jobs and support their families. Leadership is acknowledging when there are areas that need focus. It is common practice and good governance to put extra effort into important topics.
Striking this committee would be comparable in the business environment to an ad hoc committee, which would have a specific goal or focus and exist for a set amount of time. At the international trade committee we already have several studies cued up. We are quite behind due to sitting only once between April and September 2020, partially due to the prorogation of Parliament. Other committees are in a similar position.
This Canada-U.S. committee would allow the freedom to focus on the important relationship with this partner. There is a new U.S. administration from which we have already seen some new policies that are affecting businesses and workers in Canada, and that are affecting everyday lives in important sectors.
Our economies and supply chains are integrated, and I will explain what that really means. We may have the raw materials in one country, let us say the U.S., which are shipped to the other country, Canada, where a product is made in a Canadian business, and then sent back to the U.S. and perhaps turned into another item. This is the integration of our supply chains. This happens every day across our border in multiple industries, likely in the ridings of almost every member of the House.
The Prime Minister’s response to important Canada-U.S. economic issues has been concern or disappointment. Canadian businesses and workers deserve hope and plans. Concern and disappointment are not enough, and they are neither a strategy nor a plan.
One emerging issue is the new buy American executive order signed by President Biden, which has stronger language than we have seen before. This executive order creates a new made in America office within the President’s office. It will substantially reduce the ability for Canadian businesses to participate in U.S. government procurement contracts.
We have already heard from business groups that are concerned, and there is a lot of uncertainly. A small manufacturing business in my riding explained to me that they sell through a distributor in the U.S., which sells to a department of the U.S. federal government. It is unclear if this new buy American policy will outright stop them being able to have these sales.
In 2019, Canadian companies had nearly 700 million dollars' worth of government contracts in the United States. I spoke with a representative of an industry association the other day who thought this might actually be higher due to the integration of our supply chains.
When buy America provisions were announced by the Obama administration a decade ago, the previous Conservative government got to work. They showed those on both sides of the border the importance of the integrated North American supply chain and that promoting and ensuring our mutual economic recoveries were important during the financial crisis of that time. The then Conservative government negotiated an agreement that allowed Canadian companies to be exempt from buy America policies and to continue participating in U.S. government procurement.
We need our current government to work immediately to do the same to ensure stability for our local manufacturing businesses and workers, who depend on this cross-border supply chain. We are in a vulnerable position because, while the buy America policy is addressed in chapter 13 of CUSMA, Canada did not negotiate this and it only applies to the U.S. and Mexico.
The establishment of a special committee on Canada-U.S. economic relations would allow members of Parliament to do a comprehensive dive into the Biden administration's buy America rules. This motion before us specifically addresses instructing the committee to present an interim report on this matter.
Regarding another emerging issue in the past, 31 of my colleagues in the official opposition and I sent a letter to the Minister of International Trade and the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food urging immediate government attention. Last September, the United States International Trade Commission began an investigation on U.S. blueberry imports. Additional investigations began on strawberries and bell peppers. Canada was the fourth-largest producer of total U.S. blueberry imports in 2019 and, according to the BC Blueberry Council, was the largest supplier of frozen blueberries. These numbers represent $750 million of our exports to the U.S., which support 8,300 farming families and thousands of direct and indirect jobs.
Our hard-working farmers play an integral role in the economy, and we urge the government for immediate action on this. Apple orchardists in my riding are selling below cost due to large quantities of low-priced apples coming in from the U.S., and many are near bankruptcy. The creation of this special committee would allow us to get ahead of these issues.
We also cannot forget that our forestry workers are still looking for stability and a resolution to the current softwood lumber dispute. The previous Conservative government successfully negotiated a softwood lumber agreement with the U.S. government providing this much-needed certainty. Unfortunately, the current government has yet to reach a similar agreement. While I welcome reduced duties on Canadian softwood lumber exports, which were announced last November, this would not have been an issue if we had been able to negotiate a new softwood lumber agreement with the United States.
When we were debating Bill C-4, the CUSMA implementation bill, around this same time last year, I recall the Conservatives raised the issue of the softwood lumber dispute not being addressed by the government then. This was a missed opportunity, as there were over 6,000 jobs lost in the second quarter of 2020 alone.
In my maiden speech of this House in 2019, I raised the issue of the only lumber mill in my riding of Kelowna—Lake Country, the Kelowna division of Tolko, announcing its decision to close at the beginning of 2020, creating hardship for all those families. This has been a trend in our resource sectors. It is important that we stand up for our responsible resource sectors, a backbone of our economy. We need to get the government to succeed in removing countervailing measures on softwood lumber exports and stand up for Canadian resources, agriculture and manufacturing sectors.
I know my colleagues in this House across all party lines will talk on a number of important issues. I will move this conversation forward. We are talking about food security, energy security and mutual economic recovery. With the establishment of this committee, we can strengthen our resolve when acting on the best interests of Canadians.
We must start planning to rebuild, reopen our economy and get Canadians back to work. We are focused on securing jobs, our economy and our future. I encourage all members of this House to vote in favour of this motion, so we can get to work.