Mr. Speaker, it is always a little disconcerting when speeches are interrupted in the middle but I will continue on from this point.
I had just finished explaining to members how I would be finding out the political will of the constituents in my riding so that I could vote that way when or if the MAI comes before the House.
I would challenge other members particularly those of the NDP who assume that their constituents are against this thing to really get out there and start sharing information from both sides. Do exactly what I do and find out how the majority feel.
I would like to turn to a few of the questions that have been sent to me in a stack of letters from constituents. I will not be able to go through all the questions but I will give a few.
Is it not true that foreign corporations would be able to ignore our environmental and labour laws, leaving us to be ruled by large corporations? The government's response to that has been that it is not true. It says that all corporations will have to abide by the same environmental and labour laws in Canada as domestic corporations. They ask why we should have two sets of laws anyway as it does not do anyone a favour to have domestic companies working to a lower environmental or labour law than we would have for a foreign company.
I accept that explanation as reasonable. But my question is, why are the Liberals not out there telling the public? Why are they not out making this information available? That is what today's debate is all about.
The second question asked, and it was mentioned earlier here today, why is there a 20 year opting out period? If the deal turns out to be bad for Canada, why should we be stuck in it for 20 years?
The government's response is that it is not true. We are only tied in for five years. The 20 years refers to any companies, perhaps like McCains, that have made a large investment in one of the participating countries only to find that country then opts out again. McCains or any other company for that matter would be protected for the following 15 years.
Members on the government side are nodding their heads so I have got their explanation right. But why are they not out there telling the public? Why do we in Reform have to stand here to facilitate this when it is the government's job to be selling the program, to be answering questions from the Maude Barlows and the Paul Hellyers? Why is the minister not out there debating those people? Instead of that he sits in his chair doing nothing, waiting for this thing to explode around him.
There are adequate statistics available from NAFTA from the last 10 years to show that these types of investment programs really work. I have in front of me the figures for NAFTA for more than 10 years actually, the figures from 1984 to 1997. In that time the volumes of exports to the U.S.A. almost doubled from $85 billion to $157 billion a year, thanks to NAFTA. Meanwhile our exports to other countries, almost all the other countries of the world, have actually gone down. In Europe they have gone up, but to a lot of other countries they have actually gone down.
If we can get a good MAI which facilitates trade in the same way that NAFTA has in North America, we have a really good chance of building our exports and therefore our job creation in Canada. That would not just help McCains and Northern Telecom, it would work for the small companies in my riding that are very busy exporting in small quantities to those other countries.
The MAI or at least the principle behind the MAI, the concept of an MAI promises similar benefits. If it is properly and fairly negotiated it should ensure that any person or company investing in one of the signatory countries will find identical investment rules in place in each country. That is good. Negotiating such an arrangement makes good sense.
It even makes sense if it forces our cultural and health industries in Canada to compete in a real world marketplace and to become excellent instead of mediocre, to strive for excellence in the climate of competition. I think that may be good. I have two pages of letters to the editor of the North Shore News in the last week complaining about the health care system being in disarray. If there was a little bit of competition introduced to the marketplace we might find it would go a long way to solving some of the problems.
It is always possible of course that even under the best possible negotiated MAI some inefficient and subsidized industries are going to go out of business and jobs will be lost. Under NAFTA, jobs disappeared from the costly and inefficient shipbuilding industry in my riding but they were replaced by high tech, cleaner, new industry jobs, many, many more of them. Frankly the unions in the shipbuilding industry let down their members badly by not helping them to retrain and adjust to the new marketplace reality.
This brings me once again to criticize this Liberal government which is not adjusting to the reality of the information age we live in. People want to know what is going on. They want to know what the government is negotiating on the MAI. The Liberals have failed to acknowledge that they need to do that.
The minister has blown it completely. As I mentioned, he should have been out there debating Maude Barlow. He should have been debating Paul Hellyer. He should have been debating the professors, the academics from the socialist universities who are complaining about this MAI. The Speaker laughs but, Mr. Speaker, the universities are loaded with socialists.
As for the question of sovereignty disappearing, I would like to see the minister debating Maude Barlow about the loss of sovereignty. Frankly I do not believe there would be a loss of sovereignty because the Liberal government is so dictatorial, I cannot see the Prime Minister giving up even one iota of his power to anybody else. To suggest that we are going to lose our sovereignty is totally ridiculous.
I am rapidly running out of time and I have only asked a fraction of the questions that are in the big pile of letters from my constituents. I have passed on copies of some of those letters to the parliamentary secretary to be answered.
I know he will do that for me. However, I will finish with a quote from a fax from Dr. Koscielniak who sent it to me. He says in one of his questions: “Why the secrecy? Could it be that the Liberals are ashamed of this treaty?”
Maybe Dr. Koscielniak has hit the nail on the head. This minister and his entire government are actually ashamed of the treaty because they are ashamed to admit that world trade is a reality. It needs to be properly negotiated and fairly implemented.
Those members made the promise to get rid of NAFTA and found out that it works. Now they have the responsibility of the MAI and they are so ashamed at having to back peddle that they do not want to talk about it.
I would just like the minister to get out there and actually start doing something.