Madam Speaker, before I start I would like to congratulate my colleague for his most excellent speech. We can always tell when a Reformer is speaking from the cacophony of bleating babble which comes from the other side.
We are talking today about another Liberal broken promise. There is a whole bunch of them. We have referred to them over and over again in our interventions on this bill and other bills.
First of all, we are talking about the promise to scrap, abolish and get rid of the GST. We are also talking about the Liberal promise to introduce democracy into this House. The people on the other side of this House yelled, screamed and ridiculed the Tory government for doing exactly what they are doing today.
I would like to respond to some of the comments made by the hon. member for Gander-Grand Falls. I have respect for this member and I am aware that on many occasions he has had the courage to stand up and challenge his own government, to challenge his own leader when there was an issue that was going to affect his constituents. He knew and realized that the government was wrong and he challenged it. I congratulate him for that. If more backbenchers in the Liberal government did that then possibly we would get better government. Unfortunately most do not have that courage.
During the intervention of the member for Gander-Grand Falls he was trying to paint this wonderful rosy picture of how great a job this government has been doing for the last three years. He referred to statistics with regard to the deficit and other industrialized nations. For the life of me I cannot understand why this member, who has been very lukewarm to his own government for the last
three years, is all of a sudden on side with it. I imagine he has his own reasons for that.
In a valiant but vain attempt he painted his government in the best light that he possibly could. He said the government's record is good. We know what the government's record is on the GST. We know what the government's record is on invoking closure. Let us talk about a couple of other issues, issues that are not only near and dear to me but near and dear to many people in my constituency.
Let us talk about the broken promise of the North American Free Trade Agreement for a few minutes. When this government campaigned in 1993 it said it would abrogate the North American Free Trade Agreement unless it worked for Canadians. It had some concerns about the agreement and it wanted to make sure it could go back and renegotiate it and make sure it worked for Canadians.
Let us examine the government's record on the North American Free Trade Agreement. What is the single most important trade issue between Canada and the United States? What is the single biggest net export to the United States that means the most jobs in Canada? It is Canadian softwood lumber. Canadian softwood lumber is the single biggest net export to the United States.
What has this government done in renegotiating NAFTA and standing up for Canada's interest in the North American Free Trade Agreement? When Mickey Kantor talked to the Prime Minister or his office or the minister of trade and said he wanted to do a deal that is going to limit Canadian imports into the United States, the minister said "how high do you want us to jump and when can we come back down again?" The government rolled right over on it.
This is an issue that affects four provinces significantly and every province either directly or indirectly. There are hundreds of thousands of jobs hanging in the balance. This government and this Prime Minister who promised Canadians they were going to make the North American Free Trade Agreement work for us have turned their backs on these people and allowed American trade officials, Mickey Kantor in particular, to dictate to us how we are going to run our softwood lumber industry.
I want to talk for a minute on who benefits from this. Most of the timbered land in Canada is owned by the crown and is granted as tree farm licences. Various sawmills and pulp mills get rights to harvest in these areas but the land is owned by the crown.
In the United States it is different. Most of the timbered land in the United States is owned by private individuals and corporations. Incidentally, most of the timbered land in the United States is owned by a handful of wealthy corporations that have the money and the power to go to Washington, D.C. and lobby for their interests. They are the ones who are benefiting. They are the ones whose asset value has increased as a result of this quota system. They are the ones who are able to demand more money for their timber in the United States.
And who is losing? The first big losers are the consumers in the United States who on average pay $3,000 more now than before the quota for the construction of a new home. The American consumers have been held up by their own lobby groups and by the wealthy timber owners in the United States. And the other big losers are the Canadian producers and the people who are employed in those industries. They are the ones who are paying for this.
I cannot understand for the life of me where the leadership is from the government benches, the Prime Minister and his trade minister. They allow the North American Free Trade Agreement to be abrogated by the Americans so that it works in favour of the Americans at every step and turn when it becomes an issue that is important to them. But when it is an issue which is vitally important to Canada, there is no leadership whatsoever. They roll over and play dead. This is another example of a Liberal broken promise.
The Prime Minister takes these trade junkets all over the world and spends millions of Canadian taxpayer dollars doing it. He goes to South America, Europe and Asia, all the while telling people he is there to promote Canadian business and industry. He hands over millions of dollars in subsidies, grants and no interest loans to well heeled companies like Bombardier. However when it comes to an issue that is vital to British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec, what does the Prime Minister do? He just rolls over.
A lot of potential jobs will be lost as a result of this. Sawmills in my riding, in Terrace, Smithers, Hazelton and Prince Rupert are on the verge of closing. They have announced closures and are cutting back or laying off people just before Christmas because of the lack of leadership from this government.
It reminds me of another Liberal promise. Does anyone here recall the promise about jobs, jobs, jobs? Well the jobs, jobs, jobs in my riding are going gone, gone, gone because this Prime Minister and his trade minister cannot represent the interests of Canadians when it comes to trade with the United States. That is the track record of the government.
I cannot believe it. I am ashamed as a Canadian. I am absolutely appalled and ashamed that the government is so weak-kneed and so willing to accept what Mickey Kantor and the trade department of the United States demands of us rather than standing up for our interests.
While we are talking about Liberal broken promises, the promise to scrap, abolish and kill the GST, the promise to introduce more democracy into Parliament and do away with votes on closure so that we would have the ability to debate these issues at length, there are other broken promises as well which are costing Canadians jobs
right now. Broken promises are costing my constituents their livelihood.
This is totally unacceptable. The government should demonstrate leadership. The Prime Minister should demand a meeting with the President of the United States and put this issue at the top of the agenda and work for the interests of Canada for a change instead of going on golfing holidays with his friend Mr. Clinton while Mickey Kantor beats up on our trade officials.
I am appalled and ashamed of being a Canadian today when I look at how easily American interests have rolled over us and forced us to do their will.
In closing, when the government brags about keeping its promises, when the government brags about how well Canada is doing economically, it is totally ignoring the unemployment rate in this country. It is totally ignoring the people who are concerned about losing their jobs, and there are a lot more of them now as a result of the softwood lumber issue. It is totally ignoring the cost to the people of Atlantic Canada for paying the harmonization cost of the GST. It is totally ignoring the fact that the rest of Canada is going to foot the bill for this billion dollar bribe.
The government is totally ignoring many of the most serious and important promises it made during the last election campaign. We will be reminding Canadians in the very near future of all these Liberal broken promises.