Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to address you as the Speaker today. It is a temporary honour, but I must say you do look good in the chair.
I want to talk for a few minutes about this private member's initiative by the member for Vegreville. He has put together the essence of the Reform Party's position on internal trade barriers into one neat package.
This bill will not become law and we are not going to have a chance to vote on it. However, this bill is important because it details what we would do if we were to form the government, or perhaps I should say when we form the government.
The Reform Party says there are 10 roles the federal government must maintain and in fact should strengthen in order to encourage a strong national government. One of the areas in which it should be strong is in the ability to strike down internal trade barriers.
The federal government should be involved in 10 essential areas. If we are going to have a nation, then we have to have a strong federal government. One of areas is the ability to regulate international trade or to enter into international trade agreements. Other areas are national defence, customs, the justice system and so on. Some areas are obvious but one many people do not think about is the ability to strike down internal trade barriers. If we cannot have a common trading market in our own country, how can we keep our country together? Economic ties will help us keep this country together.
One of the disappointments has been the inability of the Liberal government to conclude an internal trade agreement. The framework agreement is there and it sounds good. We were all very excited when in 1994 the government brought forward this internal trade agreement. We supported it. We thought that good, this is what we have been saying all along. The Reform Party has been firm on this from the beginning; it never changed its view. We must have a strong ability to strike down internal trade barriers.
But what do we see? All the easy ones are done right away. It is easy to talk about a few parts of the trade agreement, but when it comes to the tough stuff, the ones which grate between provinces, look what has not been signed. There are blank pages on the energy
side. There are blank pages on the agriculture side, another contentious issue. There are blank pages when it comes to municipalities and academic institutions, the so-called MASH group. There are blank pages in the natural resources sector.
There must be a free trade zone between the provinces but the federal government allows these trade barriers to stand. What is the cost of that? A lower standard of living and less trade between provinces. It is ironic that it is sometimes easier to trade north and south, as far down as Mexico in my part of the country, than it is to have free trade between the provinces. What a sad development.
Is it any wonder that the federal government relies almost exclusively on the export market for job creation. And I do too. I love export markets. It is a great opportunity for export companies. There is a danger in that. All job growth, for example, has been in the export market. There has been no job growth in Canada of any kind in the domestic market.
What kind of a message does that send down the road? What if there is an international downturn? That can happen and will happen. It is inevitable that it happens from time to time. The country would become totally reliant on international trade. If the country still has its own trade barriers, has not developed a strong national economy and has an export based economy only, when the downturn comes it will hurt and hurt a lot. This is why the federal government should adopt the step by step proposal of the member for Vegreville on what we should enforce as our national trade policy.
They should be given another little shot at it and told to listen up. All provinces should be told that we will have a national free trade economic zone. They have agreed to it. They have the framework agreement. They have been squabbling among yourselves for three years, which is not good enough. They should be given another few months to get it settled. They should think of Canada now instead of their own neighbourhoods. They should get with it and sign it.
The second proposal would be to change the ratification formula from unanimity, which is very hard to get when they are protecting their own turf, to a formula where two-thirds of the provinces and territories representing at least 50 per cent of the Canadian population would be used to pass sections that are contentious.
Why is that important? I have talked about job creation. The member for Vegreville talked about the cost per family of some $3,500 as a result of the trade barriers and the inability to trade freely between provinces. It causes poor business decisions to be followed and endorsed by the government.
In times past a brewery would be put up in one province because it could not sell in the next one. In those kinds of decisions they felt it was better to have a company headquartered in one province and another one headquartered across the river in the next province because it helped to get jobs, grants and business influence. That should not be the case in Canada.
We should say we are a free trade zone. The labour market should move freely to where it can find work and the best jobs. We have intellectual property that travels freely between the provinces. We have standards that keep us together as a nation. We should make sure in the energy sector, a valuable part of Canada domestic trade, that there are no barriers to trade. As we enter into the North American power grid with the provinces and the Americans, one province should not be pitted against another trying to sell at a cheaper rate and undercutting.
It should not be like that. We should be free to trade energy in Canada. When we get on the international power grid there is no use back biting one another. We should work together because we are a small player in the big scheme of things. We should work to protect our agricultural industry. It is amazing to me that one of our most valuable industries, the agricultural community, does not have free trade between provinces.
I remember earlier in Parliament asking members of the Bloc Quebecois what they thought would happen if Quebec separates. What will happen to the dairy industry, one of the most important agricultural industries in the entire province of Quebec? National agreements allow for trade of milk products from coast to coast. They had better get in on the agricultural deal. If they think they will get a better deal by pulling Quebec out of the country, they should think again. The dairy farmers in my region will say if Quebec is not part of the national scheme it does not get to sell them industrial milk.
I hope Bloc members tell their farmers the truth in upcoming federal election campaign. They are far better off staying in Canada and trying to work out a good deal with all the provinces than going on their own and finding out that the butter they are shipping to British Columbia will not get past their border because we will produce our own.
I am just saying in general that it is better for those in agriculture and energy to be part of a strong national system and a strong national government that protect their rights internationally and allow them a huge trading bloc within Canada. I hope they are paying attention and are telling that to their farmers.
Overall the reason this matter is important is that it is one of the 10 key areas the Reform Party says we need to have a strong national government. We cannot weaken the federal government by taking away its ability to control the common economic market and farming it to the provinces. It is something that must be maintained in Parliament.
The ability to strike down barriers to trade is something that we will strengthen. We will take advantage of our constitutional right to do so. The federal government needs to flex its muscles a little to try to get an agreement. The provinces need to know that a Reform government will make sure the common economic market will be maintained in all of Canada.