Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on Bill C-61, the bill which implements the Canada-Israel free trade agreement.
This agreement should benefit many Canadian businesses and many Canadians. It means job creation which must be a top priority for anybody in this House. This agreement applies especially to the areas of agriculture and grain products, high tech communications, natural resources and the manufacturing sector. It is important for Canada to promote more open and fair trade with all countries around the world. We would not find much argument in this House with regard to that statement.
My concern lies in the fact that it seems like too much of this government's energy on balance goes to seeking out trade with other countries and too little energy goes to seeking free trade within Canada.
Canada's international trade amounts to about $160 billion a year. It is a large part of the Canadian economy, so it is important. I want to make it clear that it is important to encourage free trade with other countries. Since the Canada-U.S. trade deals have been put in place, our trade surplus with the United States has increased dramatically. It has been good for Canadians. Deals like the Canada-Israeli agreement, though much smaller, are still important.
My concern is the lack of balance in the government's policy. While foreign trade amounts to about $160 billion a year, trade between provinces amounts to $146 billion a year. How often have we heard this government or the official opposition talk about the importance of removing the barriers to interprovincial trade? The balance is not there.
Our Prime Minister goes on world tours to places like China, Chile and so on. He makes a big show of signing contracts in other countries. When he does this it probably plays well to the folks back home. I acknowledge it is important for the Prime Minister to perform this function but again, where is the balance?
The Liberals in this government, in throne speeches, in budget speeches, in reports from committees-I could mention many different key documents which this government has presented in the House and outside of the House-have stated that it is a top priority to deal with the problem of internal trade barriers, barriers in trade between provinces.
Last year the finance committee released a prebudget report on interprovincial trade which stated: "Trade in Canada must be placed on an equal footing with Canada-U.S. trade in terms of the free flow of goods and services". I am sure the committee would have expanded this statement to include deals between Israel and Canada. Government members acknowledge that interprovincial trade should at least be placed on an equal footing with international trade. Unfortunately, their words do not coincide with their actions.
There was only one action the government did take. In 1994 it signed the agreement on internal trade. It was a start but many different sections of that agreement were to be completed later by set dates in the future. Not one of these targets has been met.
While this government deals with agreements such as this to some extent, it has completely failed to do anything substantial to remove the barriers to interprovincial trade. Yet interprovincial trade amounts to almost as much as international trade. Where is the balance? It is important that that balance is restored.
The government, rather than follow the recommendations of its own throne speeches, its own budget speeches, has not treated with interprovincial trade with the kind of importance that it should have. As a result, some very unsettling situations are building in this country. We have, for example, the problem between Quebec and Newfoundland with the Churchill Falls hydro deal.
If the section on energy in the agreement on internal trade had been completed as was promised by the government, while it would not deal with the current Churchill Falls hydro contract, it certainly would allow the new lower Churchill Falls project, which is critical to the future development of Labrador and Newfoundland, to go through. I am not talking about renegotiating a current contract, I am talking about allowing the development of the lower Churchill Falls project, a brand new hydro contract, which would really help in the development of Newfoundland. It would provide much needed jobs not just from the development project itself but from the development of Voisey's Bay, for example, and other developments in Newfoundland down the road.
The neglect of this agreement has led to that kind of disaster. Quebecers are fair people. They are people of integrity. When they think of holding back Labrador and Newfoundland's development, the people of Quebec would not feel kindly about that. They want the best for Labrador and Newfoundland. That is just one of the areas that has been neglected. The balance is not there between internal trade and foreign trade.
Second is the dispute that has arisen between New Brunswick and British Columbia with the United Parcel Service workers moving to New Brunswick. If the agreement on internal trade had been completed on schedule and if the proper degree of importance had been placed on that deal, then this dispute would never have arisen.
If this dispute or another one had come up and a proper dispute settlement mechanism had been put in place then this dispute settlement mechanism could have dealt with this very serious problem, which actually threatens to take British Columbia out of the internal trade agreement altogether. That would be a very sad day for this country and for British Columbia.
The third major problem that has resulted from the lack of action on the part of the government in removing internal trade barriers is the dispute between Quebec and Ontario on moving labour and contracting back and forth between the two provinces. This dispute has been brewing and getting bigger and more threatening over the last few months. We saw sand, manure, other things dumped on bridges between Ontario and Quebec. Today, as I speak, a rally is being planned by the construction workers in Ottawa at the Delta Hotel-I am not sure about the location-and construction workers are not going to let this issue die. Ontario construction workers are concerned because while Quebec workers and contractors are allowed to freely come to Ontario, Ontario workers and contractors
are not allowed the same access to Quebec. I think it is very important for Quebecers to think about this situation.
The government of Ontario is threatening very serious trade action which would restrict the movement of Quebec workers and contractors into the Ontario market. The Ontario legislature is seriously moving in the direction of putting up a wall so that trade will not go freely either way. That means Quebecers, many of whom are now working in Ontario, will be denied access to Ontario jobs.
Why has this very serious situation arisen? It is because of the lack of action on the part of the government to finish the agreement on internal trade and remove the barriers to interprovincial trade. There is no leadership from the government in this area.
What does this lack of leadership cost Canadians? According to the Fraser Institute and other think tanks, it costs Canadians between $6 billion and $10 billion a year in lost income. This is very serious. According to the Fraser Institute it costs the average Canadian family about $3,500 a year in lost income, all because the government has not put the priority on interprovincial trade that it has put on foreign trade.
Bills such as this one today are important. I acknowledge that. But why on earth not have a bill tomorrow which will deal with the barriers between provinces in a serious and substantial way? This is very important. It is so important that the Canadian Chamber of Commerce came out with a substantial report on this issue. It estimated that a 10 per cent increase in interprovincial trade would add 200,000 new jobs in Canada.
Instead of moving in that direction, within a couple of blocks of the House of Commons a rally is being planned by construction workers who are frustrated because the government has not taken the action it should have to remove barriers to free labour movement and to be able to conduct business openly and freely between provinces. This is a serious situation.
It really surprises me that the industry minister who is in charge of the agreement on internal trade has been completely silent while right in his own constituency in Ottawa, Ontario workers are being denied access to jobs across the river in Hull and Gatineau because of the barriers thrown up by Quebec. It is a sad situation.
There are Liberal members in the government who represent people in Hull and Gatineau. Why are they not speaking out on this issue? If they do not act very quickly and very soon, the Ontario government will close the border, build a wall and there will be no free movement of labour or business between Ontario and Quebec at all. It has come to the point where that decision could be made very soon. Where is the government in dealing with the problem right in its own backyard?
The government should be ashamed. It has to focus on this. It has to look at the balance and the importance between interprovincial trade and international trade. It has to realize its importance to the Canadian economy are very similar, speak out on this issue, solve the problem that is being demonstrated very clearly right here in this city and finish the agreement on internal trade. It has to put in place a dispute settlement mechanism and at least give Canadians the same kind of freedom in doing business with another province as it has between Canada and other countries.
The sad reality for many business people in certain parts of the country is that they actually have easier and more open access to the United States than they do to other provinces. That is sad and action must be taken on this. It is very urgent right now because of the serious situations building across the country.
Pitting one province against another certainly does nothing to help national unity. Pitting Ontario against Quebec does nothing to help national unity. Pitting British Columbia against New Brunswick does nothing to help national unity. Pitting Quebec against Newfoundland and Labrador does nothing to help national unity.
Why has this issue of removing interprovincial trade barrier not been given the importance that it should be given? It is important to people in every single province in this country. It could mean a 10 per cent increase in interprovincial trade. According to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce it could mean 200,000 jobs or more, $3,500 added to each family household income, a $6 billion to $10 billion increase in income to Canadians. All of this could be achieved if the same importance were given to interprovincial trade as has been given to international trade and if these barriers are removed as quickly as possible.
I would like to more than encourage the government, I would like to push it, in particular the industry minister, to deal with the issue and allow the free movement of people, goods and services between provinces, and allow those 200,000 jobs to be added in Canada.