Madam Speaker, we are a small country population-wise and a large country geographically, obviously. We are very dependent on our exports.
We have a major dispute on lumber. We have steel disputes. We have some agricultural disputes going on. We are reliant on WTO in the long run supporting the fact that we are fair traders and free traders. All of this, under the guise of some financing from the Export Development Corporation under the Canada account which I am calling a Liberal minister slush fund, is actually hurting us. It goes to the very core of what is important for us as a national strategy. We simply cannot play both ends on this kind of arrangement.
I am very critical of the Canada account. We do not need it. It is undermining WTO. It is also undermining EDC. EDC needs to focus on depoliticized finance arrangements, not on something like this. This has been foisted on it and it does not have the ability to fend it off unfortunately. It is a very unfortunate trend. I hope we can sort that out internally without waiting for WTO or someone else to embarrass us to the point where we have no choice but to remove it. We should be much more proactive than that.
There are two further statements from the EDC website which I will make reference to. The first one states:
As a crown corporation, we operate at arm's length from government and according to commercial principles.
I would put that in the category of a wish list. That is not actually what happens, as I have just described. The second statement is:
Governance policies and practices are determined by our board of directors. The board has 15 directors, drawn mainly from the private sector.
We know that is a wish list too, from the standpoint that the board of directors does not entirely make all the decisions on practices. Increasingly we are finding that the directors may be drawn from political appointments as opposed to from the private sector.
In summary, the EDC needs to be independent of government and it is not. I have given some rationale as to why, for example, political appointments and the Canada account. The Canada account is a Liberal minister slush fund. Mixed messages from the Minister of Industry and the Minister for International Trade are hurting us at the WTO and in the international community.
We are major beneficiaries of rules based trade and we cannot have it both ways. In other words, we cannot be free traders when it is convenient and protectionists when it is convenient. We have to have a level of consistency on the free trade ledger.
We have to keep this clean. It is too important for Canada to do it any other way. Today for example we are expecting the anti-dumping ruling from the protectionist side and instincts of the U.S. lumber lobby as exhibited by the U.S. department of commerce on Canadian imports of lumber. In order to keep the lumber file clean, we have to keep our other files clean. Softwood lumber is a huge issue for us.
A portion of the EDC mandate is politicized. These amendments do not clean that up. As a consequence, Canadian interests are not fully served, nor are the interests of the Export Development Corporation fully served.