moved that Bill C-375, an act to amend the Agreement on Internal Trade Implementation Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-375, which would allow the completion of the agreement on internal trade.
The agreement on internal trade was signed in 1994. At that time several deadlines were set by the legislation. Almost all the deadlines have passed and agreement has not been reached. Clearly there is a problem which must be dealt with. It is important that we complete this agreement.
I would like to explain what this bill would do. First I will give a little background on the events which led to the agreement on internal trade and the implementation bill, which is the legislation that Bill C-375 would amend to allow the completion of the agreement on internal trade.
If we take a look at the sequence of events we will see that the committee on internal trade is comprised of trade ministers from federal, provincial and territorial governments. The agreement on internal trade, as I mentioned, was signed in 1994 by the federal, provincial and territorial governments. The agreement states that all governments will commit to work together to break down barriers to internal trade. That is the basic principle of the agreement on internal trade. The barriers which prevent free trade between the provinces will be brought down.
We live in a country which has free trade agreements with the United States and Mexico. Goods move relatively freely between the countries, yet we have barriers between provinces which do not allow the free movement of goods. Clearly that is unacceptable.
The present formula that the committee uses to reach an agreement, whether it is an agreement on completing the deal or an agreement on the dispute settlement mechanism, is a formula of unanimity. In other words, the agreement on internal trade stipulates that a consensus is required. However, consensus is not defined. The way this committee has chosen to interpret consensus is unanimous consent. Most areas are left incomplete after almost three years. To complete any area it requires unanimous consent from the federal government, the representatives from the provinces and the representatives from the territories.
When was the last time we had unanimous consent on any type of an agreement like that in this country, a consent which in some cases may cause some difficulties with certain groups in the provinces? Although, all provinces and territories have agreed that completing the agreement on internal trade will make things better for those living in every province.
Unanimously all governments involved have agreed that completion of the agreement on internal trade will make things better and yet the completion has not happened.
Clearly this unanimous consent formula is not going to work. My private member's bill, Bill C-73, simply changes the formula and puts in place the Reform policy on this issue. Instead of requiring unanimous consent it will require consent of at least two-thirds of the provinces and territories which includes at least 50 per cent of the population.
Then when the provinces are negotiating settlement in any one of these areas that are left incomplete the impossible task of getting unanimous consent will be removed and instead the requirement will be there for agreement from a majority of provinces and territories including a majority of Canadians, which is a much more reasonable formula and a formula which I believe if implemented would lead to the completion of the agreement on internal trade in all areas. There are many experts who agree with that, as I will demonstrate later.
I would like to read through the actual Reform policy on this issue. The policy is that in order to break the deadlock which has prevented the completion of the agreement on internal trade and the removal of internal trade barriers, the Reform Party proposes to amend the approval formula of the committee on internal trade, used to approve sections of the agreement on internal trade and the dispute settlement mechanism, by replacing the requirement for unanimous consent with the following. First, allow the current unanimity base voting formula, eight months, to resolve the deadlock experienced in completing the agreement on internal trade. Let us give the unanimous consent formula another try but limit it to eight months.
Second, if sections of the internal trade agreement remain unresolved after eight months, then the unanimous ratification formula will be replaced by a formula which allows ratification on the basis of at least two-thirds of the provinces and territories representing at least 50 per cent of the Canadian population.
Third, if sections of the agreement are not completed within one year of implementing the two-thirds/fifty formula, the federal government shall move unilaterally to use its constitutional powers to complete the agreement on internal trade.
Clearly the change proposed in my private member's bill will lead to the completion of the agreement on internal trade in all sectors. The impact of that will be dramatic indeed.
I will speak a little on the possible impact. I will refer to several experts in this area and different groups which have found this to be such an important issue that they have written substantial documents outlining what they feel the impact of removing the barriers would be on Canadians.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce in a substantial document released approximately a year ago said that just by increasing trade
between provinces by 10 per cent would lead to 200,000 new jobs in Canada.
We know the Liberal government has failed on its promise to deliver jobs. The unemployment rate has been above 9 per cent for so many months that people have lost count, the highest level since the Great Depression.
We have had this situation where the unemployment rate has stayed above 9 per cent and the government has not done what it should to complete the agreement. I know that the Minister of Industry would like to see the agreement completed. I believe he is sincere in wanting that. It is so hard to figure why it has not happened when the agreement was signed almost three years ago.
I think 200,000 jobs would be some incentive for the government to get serious about completing the deal. However, it has not happened. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce is disappointed.
The Fraser Institute put out a substantial paper on the issue. It said that trade barriers between provinces costs Canadian families $3,500 a year. Again, it is so difficult to understand why the government would not work hard to remove the barriers. As we know, since it came to power in 1993, the average Canadian household income has dropped by $3,000. If this agreement had been implemented in 1994 after it was signed by the provinces the $3,000 that was lost to these Canadian families would have been replaced with increased income resulting from the removal of these barriers.
It is difficult to understand why the government has not taken this more seriously.
Other think tanks and groups that have studied the issue have determined that these interprovincial trade barriers cost Canadian companies and Canadians between $6 billion and $10 billion a year. That is a lot of income because of a problem that should not be there and which really makes no sense.
We have the agreement that was signed in 1994, a formula that clearly does not work. However, after three years nothing has been done about it.
On speaking to representatives from the different provinces I know many provinces are absolutely committed to the completion of the agreement. Granted, most provinces have certain areas they are really concerned about because the province may be a net loser in a particular segment of its economy. But each province has recognized that overall the people would benefit from the removal of the barriers. There may be some losers in each province, but the numbers and the amounts lost would be very small compared to the net gain in each province.
What have the Liberals said on this issue? We can look at their red book where this was mentioned. In both throne speeches it was said that it was important to remove barriers to interprovincial trade. The 1996 prebudget report from the finance committee had a section on the removal of interprovincial trade barriers which acknowledged the impact on the economy and on jobs by removing these barriers to trade. Yet what has been done? Clearly not enough. The barriers are still there.
The industry minister introduced Bill C-88, an act to implement the agreement on interprovincial trade. The act passed third reading in the House in June 1996.
I do not know why the lag in time between the agreement being completed in 1994 and the implementation legislation being passed in 1996. It does not really show a commitment on the part of the government that match the words it used in the red book and in its throne speeches. Clearly the two do not gibe. I cannot answer why. However, it does show a huge failure on the part of the industry minister.
If I were running against the industry minister in his Ottawa riding I would be out talking about the barriers to the free movement of labour into Quebec. Quebec labour has a lot more freedom to move people to work in Ontario but it is pretty much a one way street. I would be telling all the potential voters in the minister's Ottawa riding about this and about the failures of the industry minister in this area.
He spoke the words, signed the agreement in 1994 and finally in 1996 got around to passing the implementation agreement. However, that is where it stalled. Deadline after deadline has passed, deadlines that were supposed to lead to the completion of the agreement, but it has not happened. I do not know why but I would be out there bringing that up in the minister's riding.
Why are barriers to interprovincial trade so harmful? Why does it cost who knows how many jobs? It is enough that 200,000 jobs would be created if trade increased by 10 per cent. There are several reasons. Just imagine being a company in Canada. I have talked with the CEOs of several companies in Canada that want to do business with people and businesses in other provinces. However, they find the barriers to trade between the provinces and the territories do not allow that to happen freely.
In fact, they say that they have far more access to companies and people in the United States than they do with people and businesses in other provinces. Some top notch companies in this country, high tech in some cases, have told me that they should be moving to the United States because if they operated there they would have free access to all provinces, something they do not have operating from one province of Canada. Is that not absurd? However, that is what we have.
I have also spoken to the owners of companies that have moved to the United States. They just gave up. They wanted to do business with all of Canada but there are too many barriers under the current system. By moving their companies to the United States they were able to do business much easier and in a less expensive manner with all provinces freely. That is the kind of absurdity that these barriers produce. We are losing jobs as a result of these barriers being in place.
A second way that these barriers really have an incredible negative impact on companies is on the small companies that want to do business internationally so they can grow. I have companies like that in my constituency. A prime example is a company that manufactures tanks in Lloydminster, Universal Industries. It has complained it is so difficult to do business in Saskatchewan. Lloydminster is a border city. The business is in a city that straddles the border between Alberta and Saskatchewan. To do business in Saskatchewan it has to jump through so many hoops that it is hurting its business. It would be able to operate a lot more effectively if it went to the United States where it would have open access to all Canadian provinces.
We have to get rid of these barriers. Canadians can no longer afford the jobs that are lost. They can no longer afford the $6 billion to $10 billion that is lost each year as a result of these barriers being in place. They can no longer afford the loss in family income of $3,500 a year. That income would replace the $3,000 per family a year that has been lost as a result of Liberal policies. This one change would go an awful long way to removing these barriers and to allowing the benefits of jobs, the benefits of added income, the benefits of added take home pay and the benefits of businesses growing in the country so that they can compete better in other countries.
These benefits are being denied due to a lack of action on the part of the government. I have taken the action necessary here. This private member's bill, should it ever be enacted, would go a long way toward the elimination of these barriers.