Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to enter into debate on Bill C-16. Trade agreements are an important subject of debate within this House, and I am glad that we have this opportunity.
Before I forget, I will mention that I will be sharing my time with my friend, the member for Regina—Lewvan.
Before I get into the substance of my speech, since I am on my feet in the House, I will note that today is a day of remembrance for the tragic shooting that took place at a mosque in Quebec. It is incumbent upon all of us to ensure that we take the time today to consider the implications of hate. Likewise, two days ago was International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Two poignant days this week remind us all of the tragic consequences of hate.
We are entering into debate on one of the constitutionally significant roles that this place plays: Canada's relationship with other global jurisdictions. In that context, there is no more important relationship than the one we have with Great Britain, the United Kingdom.
We share a governmental system. In fact, the opening lines of our Constitution refer to this government as being based in principle upon the Westminster system of governance. Certainly we share a lot of history, and even the symbolism around this place and in many of our provincial flags represents that long-shared history.
The United Kingdom has undertaken some pretty significant changes over the last number of years, as we have seen with Brexit, the exit of the United Kingdom, after a referendum, from the European Union. Last year it negotiated the intricacies of that departure, bringing us to the point where we are today, debating a continuity agreement as a stopgap between the previous CETA and what we expect will be a more comprehensive trade agreement in the coming years. The United Kingdom is acknowledging what it has gone through over the last year as well, in exiting the European Union while securing trade agreements with many partners in Europe and around the world.
It is a little troubling, because in typical government fashion and in direct contradiction to commitments made in this place, this process was brought forward at the 11th hour. The parliamentary secretary who spoke before me made a statement that trade deals take time. Yes, that is absolutely correct, but it is incumbent upon the government to ensure that steps are taken to anticipate changes.
We knew for a number of years that the circumstances relating to the U.K.'s position in Europe would be changing significantly. It is disappointing, quite frankly, that we now find ourselves debating this continuity agreement at the 11th hour, while other comparable jurisdictions have taken steps to go much further than what we are debating here today.
It is the opinion of many that had the government been more proactive, had the government worked more diligently to ensure that steps were taken early, we would be in a very different position. Because Canada is a trading nation, we have spent a lot of time this week discussing our trading relationship with our neighbours to the south. As well, I believe the United Kingdom is our fourth-largest trading partner. All of these sorts of agreements have massive implications upon our economy, upon jobs and upon the security of Canadians.
One of the troubling trends we see with the government is that it seems to not take seriously the need for certainty, investment certainty and certainty of the economic circumstances that allow people to do things like plan for their future.
A trade agreement is a massive undertaking. Negotiations between two jurisdictions are complex. In the case of the United Kingdom, we have similar legal systems and a long history. We share a Queen. We could not be closer than that. There are massive intricacies involved the negotiations. When we see these eleventh hour deals brought forward, it brings a level of uncertainty. Although many may suggest that it does not have an impact on the ground for regular Canadians, it has a significant impact. Jobs are impacted each and every day by the certainty of ensuring that investment has a clear path. When companies or entities are looking to invest in jurisdictions, they want that certainty. They want that understanding that there will not be a massive upheaval in jurisdictions, that there will be consistency in the long term.
This is really at the heart of why it is so troubling that we are debating this. We are actually debating this after the U.K. left the European Union, although work has been done to ensure there are further stopgaps that provide a bridge between the exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union, which took place the last day of last year. Before the bill is passed, some significant work has been done to ensure there are measures to bridge that. Now we are debating another bridge to which we will see within three years very clearly that we will enter into more fulsome negotiations for further trade agreements. That speaks to some of the challenges we face and why this debate is so important.
Many aspects of the bill reflect similarly the agreement we negotiated with CETA. I would like to compliment the former Conservative government led by Stephen Harper and specifically the member for Abbotsford, who was the trade minister for a good portion of the Harper government's tenure. There is no question that the Conservative Party is the party of free trade. When that member spoke on the bill the other day, he brought incredible wisdom to the conversation and the clear fact that many of the deals that the Liberal government had taken credit for was because of the heavy lifting done by the previous Conservative government.
In fact, when it comes to CETA, we saw the panic on the faces of Liberal ministers when they almost screwed up. They had to rush back into negotiations with Brussels and other jurisdictions to save the deal because they decided to change things. Then we saw how they were quick to jump into negotiations with the United States, and we came out behind in the new NAFTA or the “hafta” agreement. With respect to the CPTPP, much of the heavy lifting was done by the previous government.
There are significant details I would love to get into, but I do not have the time. However, the Liberals will claim that they are all about free trade. The the reality is that even in the 1993 election, they ran on a campaign of two major promises. The first was to get rid of the GST, but I still see GST on everything. The second was to pull out of NAFTA. However, when they saw the value of trade, they seemed to have changed their tune. I am proud to be part of a party that has worked diligently to increase trade globally.
I know a number of members have brought forward the need to address some of the pension disparity that U.K. expatriates have in Canada. I often hear from constituents who have uncertainty regarding their pensions. I would hope that as the government moves forward into the fulsome trade agreement, it would use its position at the bargaining table to advocate for U.K. pensioners who live in Canada and, in some cases, have lived in Canada for many years.