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House of Commons Hansard #156 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was americans.

Topics

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

March 14th, 2002 / 10 a.m.

Halifax West Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to one petition.

Interparliamentary DelegationsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1), I have the honour to table in the House, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian section of the Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie, and the financial report relating to it.

The report refers to the meeting of the APF's Commission de l'éducation, de la communication et des affaires culturelles, which took place in Alexandria, Egypt, from February 10-13, 2002.

I would like to thank Guyanne Desforges for her professional work in preparation for this mission, and her significant contribution in preparing this report.

Jean-Paul RiopelleRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Hamilton East Ontario

Liberal

Sheila Copps LiberalMinister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, it is with regret that we learned of the death Tuesday evening of international artist Jean-Paul Riopelle, who died at his home in Île aux Grues at the age of 78.

A painter and sculptor, Jean-Paul Riopelle was one of those Canadians who put our country on the artistic map, not just here at home but around the world. Mr. Riopelle emerged as a true international visual arts celebrity during the nineteen fifties. As one of the group of artists who became known as the “automatistes”, he had an extraordinary influence on the visual arts internationally. His works are found in all major galleries in Canada and in galleries and private collections around the world.

Born in Montreal in 1923, Mr. Riopelle spent most of his life in France, but he made regular trips to Canada. He returned some years ago to live beside the St. Lawrence River, from which he drew inspiration for his last creative period.

Mr. Riopelle also drew inspiration from the waters around France where he often sailed on his Sérica , previously owned by Henri Matisse. The Government of Canada has recently been able to assist the Musée maritime du Québec in acquiring, restoring and interpreting this early twentieth century sailboat which can now be seen at the Musée.

Just this past year, the government was pleased to be able to help the Musée du Québec with the acquisition of Mr. Riopelle's 1951 work Espagne . It also helped with the acquisition of 92 of his paintings, recognizing their international value.

Our programs recently made it possible to put together for the first time a collection of 20 very important works by Mr. Riopelle and exhibit them in New Brunswick and Ontario.

In recognition of his enormous artistic contribution to Canada and the world, Mr. Riopelle was named a Companion of the Order of Canada in 1969 and his name was inscribed on the Canadian Walk of Fame in 2000.

Today we mourn the loss of this artist who has bequeathed to us such an extraordinary body of work. On behalf of the Government of Canada, I want to tell his companion and his daughter that his loss is a loss for the entire country. We offer our sincerest condolences to his family and friends and especially to the artistic community, which can never really replace this great international talent.

Jean-Paul RiopelleRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Abbott Canadian Alliance Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of Her Majesty's official loyal opposition in response to the unfortunate passing of Mr. Riopelle.

Yesterday we honoured Herb Gray who, in his own way, brought a very special character to politics in his devotion to Canada.

Today, as we think about Jean-Paul Riopelle, we recognize that in Canada, no matter what the arena, we have some giants. Clearly, from the research I have done on Mr. Riopelle, he was just exactly that.

I would like to take just a slightly different tack to an ordinary approach. I would like to look at some of the techniques, the technical aspects, of what he brought to us. I am reading from The Canadian Encyclopedia where it states:

Under the influence of surrealism, with its emphasis on the “liberation of the human spirit,” Riopelle moved from figurative painting to the gestural abstractions for which he is now famous. After WWII, against the growing standardization and depersonalization of industrial capitalism, Riopelle's paintings were characterized by personal improvisation and “raw” gestures that attested to the uniquely human process by which they were made. To increase the spontaneity of his art, he used several experimental techniques: supple gestural brushstrokes...; the controlled drip technique of squeezing paint directly from the tube onto the canvas...; and, in the early 1950s, the use of the palette knife to create mosaiclike surfaces of paint--a hallmark of his later style.

The reason I read from this rather technical description of art--and of course art cannot be broken down simply into techniques-was to show the creativeness of this individual.

I would concur with the minister of heritage that truly Canada has lost a giant in the field of art. He was certainly a tremendous credit to all of us as Canadians. Our country mourns his loss.

Jean-Paul RiopelleRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very honoured, but also sad to rise today to mark the passing of a great man, a great Quebecer and a great international painter, Jean-Paul Riopelle.

This is a very special occasion for me, because Jean-Paul Riopelle lived for a very long time in the riding of Laurentides, in Sainte-Marguerite-du-Lac-Masson. One of his very close friends, who is also a friend of mine, has a small bistro, the Bistrot à Champlain, and he has several paintings that Jean-Paul Riopelle gave him as presents. Indeed, Jean-Paul would regularly give him paintings, to make himself happy.

Jean-Paul Riopelle was very attached to his friends. Friendship was sacred for him. Needless to say that he is leaving behind very close and long time friends who are very saddened by his death.

I would like to quote Jean-Paul Riopelle, who was an exceptional human being:

If I am asked how long it takes to do a painting, I cannot answer. I often walk into my studio—in fact I go almost every day—open the door and shut it again, because I cannot do anything. But when I am on, time does not matter; I may come out 10 or 20 hours later, but in a different state.

I would also like to quote François-Marc Gagnon, from the Université de Montréal, who said:

The recent works of Riopelle made us find again something from that initial shock. They scandalize us, they make us stumble, in the etymological sense of the word “scandal”, which comes from the Greek skandalon, which is a stumbling block that makes us lose our balance. Sure, they are disturbing but, for that very reason, they present greater human interest than anything that Riopelle has done before, and they definitely do not deserve the somewhat uncomfortable view in which they are held now. Like anything that comes from the bottom, we would prefer not to see them. We would prefer to hide them. Certainly not show them to everyone on the electronic highway and make them appear on our computer screen.

I would like to conclude with this thought: Jean-Paul Riopelle was and will forever be that great man in our minds. He was also a very easy going and friendly person, a great friend.

We are saddened by his departure, but I am very pleased that the Quebec government decided to honour him on Monday by organizing a state funeral for this man who marked Quebec's history forever.

Jean-Paul RiopelleRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Wendy Lill NDP Dartmouth, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of the New Democratic Party of Canada to recognize the passing of one of Quebec's and Canada's most recognized artists, Jean-Paul Riopelle, at his home in Île-aux-Grues.

It was a pleasure to hear the hon. member for Laurentides offer her personal recollections and images of the man. It added to the memorable occasion this morning.

It is fair to say Riopelle was to Canadian painting and sculpture what Glen Gould was to Canadian music. He was a beacon of creation to others in his craft. His art was a direct expression through his hands of the subconscious feelings in his soul. Monsieur Riopelle's work takes one's breath away. Raw emotions leak from the canvas into one's brain. Like great artists, he saw the world differently. He used his paint to speak to us, express emotions and share with us the briefest glimpse of his vision of the world.

Riopelle was part of a group called the Automatistes whose members believed in the spontaneous transcriptions onto canvas of whatever one's spirit suggested. Riopelle carried that spontaneity into his daily life. Even when his work returned to the realist form of painting his artistic contributions continued.

Riopelle was a clear example to the world that Canadians cannot only create. We produce a unique perspective and have developed a standard of artistic excellence for which we should never apologize. Jean-Paul Riopelle never did.

We salute a great Canadian artist today.

Jean-Paul RiopelleRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant McNally Canadian Alliance Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to join in the tribute to Jean-Paul Riopelle.

Riopelle was born and raised in Montreal. The son of a building contractor and amateur architect, he developed a love and appreciation for art as a young boy. His studies and career led him to leave his home province of Quebec for Paris where his works received international acclaim and played an important role in getting Canadian painting recognized beyond our borders.

Riopelle is considered one of Canada's greatest painters. He holds the distinction of being the first Canadian to have a canvas sell for more than $1 million. He received many honours for his achievements including the 1962 UNESCO prize, the Grand Prix de la Ville de Paris in 1985, the Companion of the Order of Canada in 1969, the prix Philippe Hebert in 1973, the Prix du Quebec in 1981 and the Officier de l'Ordre du Quebec in 1988.

We thank Jean-Paul Riopelle for his gift of creations that will be remembered long after his passing. We think primarily of his family today. We offer our thoughts, condolences and prayers on their behalf. On behalf of my colleagues in the PC/DR coalition I offer my condolences to Mr. Riopelle's family and friends. I invite all Canadians to celebrate his life and his contribution to Canadian art and to our country.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Halifax West Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I wish to inform the House that because of the ministerial statement government orders will be extended by 12 minutes.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Duncan Canadian Alliance Vancouver Island North, BC

moved:

That, in the opinion of this House, the principles and provisions of the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), including their dispute resolution mechanisms, should be fully applied to trade in softwood lumber, and it urges the government not to accept any negotiated settlement of the current softwood lumber dispute outside of the FTA and the NAFTA unless it guarantees free and unfettered access to the U.S. market, and includes dispute resolution mechanisms capable of overriding domestic trade measures to resolve future disputes.

Mr. Speaker, I had a question this morning relating to the last part of the motion which reads “and includes dispute resolution mechanisms capable of overriding domestic trade measures to resolve future disputes”. The intent of that was to include a dispute resolution mechanism that would override U.S. domestic trade legislation which has always been the stumbling block. The U.S. has always retained the trump card in past softwood lumber agreements.

I am pleased to be able to bring the issue to the House today as the subject of business. We all know how important the softwood lumber dispute is in terms of the economy of Canada. It is now getting the public prominence it has deserved for a long time.

The dispute is almost 12 months old. It began when the old softwood lumber agreement expired in March 2001. Forest dependent communities, workers and companies have been dealing with uncertainty about market access to the United States since that time. Everyone is focused on March 21, a week from today, because that is when the U.S. department of commerce will announce its so-called final determination on countervail tariff and anti-dumping tariff rates.

I remind Canadians that the deadline is only one of many. Nothing about March 21 is earth shattering. Earlier deadlines have included last May, last August, last December and, more recently, February 19. Is it any wonder the public and many people in the industry remain fuzzy and confused about what is going on? It is hard even for those of us who follow the issue to keep the process in its chronological order.

One thing is for sure: We are a year into it now. This is not the time to get into brinksmanship. That is where the history of the dispute goes and it is a long history. It is good to look at history to ensure we learn the lessons of the past. It is vitally important to get our forest industry back to health without compromising the long term viability of our industry through short term band aids that do long term damage.

There was more bad news today as some companies reported their financial earnings in British Columbia, our major softwood lumber producing area. B.C. contributes about half our lumber exports to the U.S. on an annual basis. Quebec is our second largest producer. Pricewaterhouse Coopers reported yesterday that total profitability of B.C.'s publicly traded forest products companies was down last year from $1.5 billion to $200 million. That is an 87% drop in profits. We did not go the whole year with punishing duties. We only went a portion of the year, as members are well aware.

This is a very significant measurement. We had some individual results from companies that were actually much worse than that. Companies have been putting aside huge cash reserves to cover potential duties. Last year was the worst year in five years. Prices for pulp and for lumber were not very good although prices for lumber this year are up considerably. We can forecast that a big part of that is due to the impact of this dispute.

We have spent five of the last six years under a softwood lumber agreement with the U.S. that was based on a quota system. We were never on a quota system before. That was negotiated by the Liberal government and imposed in 1996. The quota system carried us through to 2001, terribly distorting and very destructive particularly to independents and to people without quota and new entrants.

I watched the government defend that quota system right up until it was virtually expiring in March 2001. In the meantime we had many people trying to move the government to plan for the future. Was the government going to adopt free trade? Was it going to extend the old quota arrangement which was becoming more problematic?

There were groups on both sides of the border, the American consumer groups and the Canadian producers, all wanting the government to take a position. The government did not take a position until March 2001. That is my great frustration and my party's great frustration that we wasted all of that time.

Meanwhile the Canadian Alliance, the official opposition, was firmly fixed on promoting unfettered free trade market access to the U.S. market for softwood lumber. We had built a lot of bridges with the American consumer movement and with Canadian industry. I want to put that on the record. Although the Liberal government is currently talking the talk of free trade, it is not a great free trader in principle.

We must look at this from another perspective. We have a commitment and a responsibility and actually a vested interest as a country in supporting international organizations with effective dispute resolution mechanisms or at least dispute resolution mechanisms that work in the international arena, maybe with shortened timeframes. There are organizations like the World Trade Organization that we cannot undercut. If we go and do things that undercut the WTO we are being hypocritical.

I want us to keep that in the background here. We do have opportunities that we are pursuing as a nation through the WTO on this softwood dispute. We cannot write that off without being very considerate of whether we are damaging that organization or its ability to function in the international arena.

It is clear what the U.S. lumber lobby wants. It wants to restrict Canadian softwood lumber market access into its market. Why does it want to do that? It is very simple, the U.S. lumber lobby consists primarily of U.S. forest landowners who are also producers, but sometimes only landowners whose margin of profitability is increased if they can restrict Canadian access to their market.

Plain and simple that is the way it goes. The U.S. domestic legislation allows them to petition the government, harass the Canadian forest industry and have basically all of the rules favour their trade actions. This is nothing new. This has been going on for over 20 years and our track record as a nation is not particularly good in these softwood disputes. We buckled in 1986 and we imposed this quota system in 1996 in order to satisfy that lobby. We never took the process all the way through.

Our historical track record if we never take it all the way through encourages further harassment down the line. Softwood lumber is the largest commodity exchanged between the two countries. It is the largest commodity trade in the world and so it goes to the core of our trading relationship with the U.S. Not doing well on the lumber front would have implications for other trading relationships.

The negotiations surrounding softwood have always been cloaked in a diplomatic tug of war located in either Washington or Ottawa. The brinkmanship is incredible. Last weekend we had Canadian and U.S. positions exchanged. Ours was called a non-paper because it does not really exist although I have one here. The gulf between the two positions is quite incredible.

We have some major issues here. We have a sovereignty issue. Will we throw our provincial forest policy-making wide open to approval or not by American interests, the American lumber lobby? Are we interested in insuring that over the long term our independent mills, our small community single industry opportunities continue to exist or will we push this all into a direction where only the people with deep pockets can stay in the business?

The way our governments behave influences that very greatly. If we want a case study in all of that, members should recall what happened after the imposition of an export tax in 1986. Members should look at what happened over the ensuing four or five years and it will be very clear what will happen if we get into a punishing export tax scenario this time.

We have a clear example in British Columbia where last fall some very significant policy proposals were tabled, things that it thought would improve market conditions within the province. It was quite aggressive and it tabled those with the U.S. negotiators.

Predictably the good faith actions were responded to with a statement that it was not enough. There was a complete rejection from the U.S. lumber lobby, the U.S. lumber lobby holding the cards in terms of the U.S. domestic trade law situation which is most unfortunate.

To be an equal partner in these negotiations we must use our leverage. What is our leverage? It is the WTO and NAFTA panels. That is why we were such a promoter of an effective or neutral dispute resolution mechanism in those two organizations. That is why we are promoters internationally of those types of arrangements. That is our leverage. It is quite clear. We will drop our WTO and NAFTA actions if the U.S. petitioners drop their petitions and then we can start the cycle all over again.

I had the pleasure last weekend in Victoria at the speaker's reception for the six Vancouver Island members of parliament to meet Mike Apsey, who is the past chair of the Council of Forest Industries and who has been involved in these trade disputes for the last 20 plus years.

He said he could go back to his old files and figure out what the U.S. lumber lobby would be saying next week. He is right and that is why we need to change this agenda. The world is changing faster than the U.S. department of commerce and the U.S. lumber lobby. Market access is the issue. We must ensure that this a non-political, non-partisan and a binding trade dispute resolution on softwood.

If we cannot get that in these current negotiations then we should not go there. If these negotiations can lead to that outside of NAFTA and the WTO, with some kind of a binational panel, then we can buy it. However, if we do not get it the reversion from having an agreement is NAFTA.

On the issue of a border or export tax, our current forest practices do stand international scrutiny. We proposed some welcome changes. They are free market oriented and our friends in the U.S. have anything but clean hands on this front. Since 1984, the U.S. has had a bailout of $1.3 billion, something called the timber relief act. It was just for Washington, Oregon and northern California when their so-called public auction system completely fell apart after people had bid up timber contracts and then found they could not harvest and process these trees profitably.

This is the system the U.S. lumber lobby would like to impose on us. It cloaks it in market access but actually it would like to put sticks in our spokes. When we talk about market access let us remember that U.S. lumber production is shrinking. Canadian lumber production cannot increase a whole bunch. Our imports are necessary in the U.S. so this whole area needs a broader look.

We should not be fighting with each other. That will lead to market substitutes for wood products. We have more in common than we have that separates us.

Going back to the motion, I would like the House to support this free trade motion. That is what we need. It should be non-partisan, and the whole House should agree to it.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Liberal Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Mr. Speaker, I really appreciate the concern expressed by the member opposite. He is obviously speaking for an industry in his constituency that is in serious trouble.

I cannot help but be struck by the irony. For the past six months, so often the Canadian Alliance has told the House that the Americans are our best friends, that the Americans will do us no injury as a nation and that we should support them in everything they do. Here we do have an instance where the Americans are very difficult and powerful friends to be beside, and they can be a bully sometimes.

I understand the member suggesting that we should stop negotiating directly with the Americans on softwood lumber, that we bypass the Americans and go directly to the World Trade Organization or the other dispute resolution panels. I sympathize with him on that, but I do have a question with respect to that. Will that not take a long time?

The difficulty with going through the formal dispute mechanism is it may add another year onto a resolution of the problem. Is negotiating with the Americans first not a better tactic?

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Duncan Canadian Alliance Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I do not stereotype Americans. I was talking about the U.S. lumber lobby, not Americans. We have more friends in the U.S. on this lumber file than we have protagonists. I have gone out of my way to make friends in congress on this issue and to form a strong bond with the American consumers for affordable homes. I refuse to stereotype our relationship with the U.S. I also do not appreciate the stereotype that the member is trying to apply to the Canadian Alliance. The Deputy Prime Minister is prone to doing that as well and I do not think that is productive.

What is more important for us to do today here is to display some kind of consensus from the Canadian parliament that we are seeking free trade. That is the best possible message we can send to the U.S.

In terms of this whole question of would it not be better to negotiate rather than go through a longer timeframe dispute resolution mechanism, all things being equal, that would be wonderful. However, if we are unilaterally in a rush to come to judgment, given certain circumstances, that can only lead to us getting into a one-sided deal that favours the other side. We cannot have a unilateral rush. It has to be both parties that want to resolve this, with an equal sense of urgency. Otherwise we are placing ourselves at a disadvantage.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Vancouver Island North for bringing this debate here today. I know he has worked very hard on this issue, as have many of us. I some comments.

I would like to correct the record about the idea that the government wanted a quota system. The member worked with MacMillan Bloedel and I worked very closely with Roy MacLaren, the minister of trade at the time. I also worked in the forest products. I know the minister and I had many discussions about this. He told me that the industry begged him for a lumber quota system, for five years of peace. That minister and gentleman was not a person who supported managed trade. It was totally an anathema to him. He did not want to go that way.To suggest that the Liberal government imposed a five year quota system on the industry is totally absurd, and the member opposite should know that.

I generally support the motion. In fact the position that our minister has taken is that we should not accept a negotiated solution unless we have free and unfettered access to the U.S. market. However it is the last paragraph that I am a little concerned about.

The member opposite knows as well as I do that the Americans will be incredibly reluctant to override their own legislative authority. That is one of the challenges. I know that is the nub of the problem. However for them to say that they will allow this to override their own capacity to legislate will be a very serious challenge and may not be realistic.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Duncan Canadian Alliance Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, first, I know where the pressures came from for the quota system. I know they came from British Columbia. I know that was a very difficult time because British Columbia had so dominated the forest industry in 1996. That led the government to adopt the quota system. I did not say it imposed it on the industry. I said it imposed it on the country basically.

However what surprised me was long after the industry in British Columbia and other parts of Canada realized that it was not working, the government still defended it and refused to adopt a free trade posture right up until March 2001, the very month it expired.

In terms of the other point, if we look at the U.S. response to the Canadian proposal of last weekend, we find that the dispute resolution mechanism is binding on us but not on the U.S. That will simply not work. I am saying that is unacceptable. If it is not binding on both parties, then I am sorry, we have to go with NAFTA or WTO.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, I highly appreciate the comments by the hon. member, the international critic of the official opposition on the softwood lumber file. He has done tremendous work on it and I commend him for it.

I would like to point out that the issue of softwood lumber is a very important in British Columbia. Many people depend on this issue and file. Their livelihood depends on it. The economy of the province depends on the softwood lumber file to a great extent.

Could the hon. member tell us what the weak federal government should have done in the past to resolve this issue sooner or could he throw some light historically on what the government should have done but failed to do on this file? I would appreciate if the hon. member could throw some light on that.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Duncan Canadian Alliance Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, there are a couple of things and I have already made reference to them. One is the fact that we did not make alliances when we could have simply because the government refused to take a position until March 2001.

I had been meeting for 15 months with members of the American consumer alliance before March 2001. Instead of them being able to spend full time worrying about the U.S. congress and shifting its views, they were still preoccupied with where the Canadian government would position itself. There was no point in them lobbying the U.S. congress in a serious manner, if the Canadian government was not on the same page. There was huge wasted time and opportunity there.

Another thing is to have resolve to carry this forward we need to have a contingency plan in place for our forest workers and our industry in case the negotiations are unsuccessful. Everybody knows the government has not taken those actions. It will be scrambling should negotiations fail.

We have pointed that out for some weeks now. It may be months. To this date the minister of trade responsible for Export Development Canada has not even ensured that Export Development Canada is developing the background and the plans necessary to implement some kind of response for a contingency plan. That is clearly unacceptable.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

London—Fanshawe Ontario

Liberal

Pat O'Brien LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, thank you for recognizing me. You have a tough job and I know you are very fair in distributing the questions. Now that I do have a chance to speak because I did not get a chance in questions and comments, and I understand your need to spread the questions, I will first make a couple of points about the interesting comments of my colleague from the Alliance Party, the Alliance trade critic.

First, he has offered some interesting points, but one ought to be that he should speak to the leadership of his own party. He certainly offered some criticism of our performance. Maybe I can remind the hon. member that his own party went many weeks this time last year with no trade critic whatsoever. It is incredible but true. The party was going through its own kind of tearing out its hip action with its leadership at that time. It has one now, which is great, and he is working pretty hard. However we have no lessons to learn from the Canadian Alliance or its trade critic on interest and involvement in this file.

Second, the hon. member has pointed out that the Canadian government has not had a position on whether it is for free trade. That is absolutely and completely incorrect. Try as I have repeatedly, I cannot seem to get the hon. critic for the Alliance Party to understand this simple point. When the softwood lumber agreement ran out last March 31, that automatically put us in a position of free trade in softwood lumber with the United States. That automatically became the situation. That is fully and completely what the Canadian government supported with unanimous support from all the provinces of Canada, including B.C., the province that he hails from. It was only when the Americans again took their very unfair and punitive trade actions that we found a divergence from the free trade agreement.

For the member to say that we were not clear in our position or that we were not clear that we were for free trade, is absolutely and completely incorrect. I know him to be an honest person. I can only conclude that he just does not get the fact that was the situation. We tried repeatedly to explain it to him and hence a little frustration that I may be exhibiting on that point.

Now I would like to turn to my remarks as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for International Trade. As the minister has said repeatedly, we have reached a critical point in the softwood lumber dispute with the United States. The motion put forward by the member for Vancouver Island North is therefore timely. I congratulate him for it and I welcome the opportunity to respond.

I would indicate, Mr. Speaker, as I should have at the start, that I am splitting my time with the hon. member for Etobicoke North.

As we all know, this issue represents the most intractable trade dispute that Canada has ever had with the United States. For decades it has been driven by old style protectionism, promoted by a U.S. industry that simply does not want to compete with the efficiently produced, high quality Canadian lumber that U.S. consumers demand. Protectionism is a powerful force and unfortunately a firmly entrenched tradition in the U.S. softwood lumber sector.

In dealing with the latest round in the softwood lumber battle, the Government of Canada and its provincial partners have made every possible effort to seek a lasting resolution, including proposing meaningful changes to provincial forestry practices that should lay to rest U.S. complaints once and for all.

I would like to review our strategy to demonstrate that we have not only pursued the right course but that we must now stay that course.

Let me begin by saying that the sustained co-operation and collaboration between the Government of Canada, the provinces and our softwood lumber industry is unprecedented. No minister has had the success of the current trade minister in keeping together a national consensus on this very important file. It is unprecedented. He has put tremendous efforts into it and he is to be congratulated.

Under the leadership of the Prime Minister and the Minister for International Trade, we have worked together to develop and maintain a unified position that has greatly strengthened our hand.

As in the past, the United States industry has tried to divide Canadian stakeholders. In this it has failed. With this united front, we are deploying our co-ordinated strategy of the two tracks. I want the Alliance critic to listen to this: it is a two track policy. First, we are aggressively defending our rights in the WTO and NAFTA. Second, we have pursued discussions with the United States administration to see whether a durable, policy based solution to the softwood lumber industry can be found. It is not an either/or position, which the Alliance seems to advocate. We will pursue the legal avenues if necessary, where we will win again if we have to, but at the same time we will negotiate and discuss this issue in detail with our trade partner. That is what the provinces are calling for, perhaps most loudly the province of British Columbia, where the Alliance critic hails from.

Before I address these two tracks in more detail I want to emphasize that we have done everything possible to defend Canadian interests in the U.S. countervailing duty and anti-dumping investigations. The final subsidy and dumping determinations by the commerce department are due on March 21, to be followed by the final injury determinations by the international trade commission in mid-May.

In the course of these investigations the Government of Canada has filed over 250,000 pages of evidence refuting the U.S. industry's allegations. We have also helped individual companies prepare 334 applications for exclusions from the countervailing duty investigation. Earlier in that process we were successful in having the Atlantic provinces exempted from that investigation altogether.

Beyond this, we are advancing our dispute settlement cases in the WTO on track one of our strategy. As members are aware we have already won the first of these cases, which we launched in a pre-emptive move even before the United States subsidy investigation was initiated, yet we have an hon. member saying the government has done nothing. We acted in a pre-emptive move. In this case, a WTO panel upheld the Canadian position that our log exports do not constitute a countervailable subsidy. This pulls the rug out from under a key allegation in the U.S. industry's complaint.

We continue to make progress in three other WTO dispute settlement cases related to the softwood lumber dispute. In the first case we are challenging a provision in U.S. law that would prevent the refunding of countervailing and anti-dumping duties in cases where those duties have been successfully overturned in a dispute settlement proceeding.

In the second case we are challenging the methodology used by the department of commerce in arriving at its preliminary determination of subsidy, as well as its critical circumstances finding that allowed the imposition of the interim duty on a retroactive basis and its failure to provide for expedited review as required under the WTO.

Finally, we have joined with other countries to challenge the so-called Byrd amendment which provides for the distribution of countervailing and anti-dumping duties to the industry that filed the initial petitions.

The government is confident that we will prevail in the WTO proceedings. We always have. We challenged the last U.S. subsidy finding under the FTA and won, and we will win again at the WTO. We plan to take further action at the WTO or under NAFTA to challenge any aspects of the final determinations in the subsidy and dumping cases that are inconsistent with the rules. We have already advanced the panel selection process under NAFTA.

Given our ultimate objective of escaping the endless cycle of litigation and securing access to the U.S. market, we have moved along the second track in our strategy. This track of course involves our bilateral discussions aimed at finding a lasting resolution to the softwood lumber dispute. In these discussions the Government of Canada and the provinces have taken a balanced approach. We have responded to stated U.S. concerns, but in a manner that is consistent with Canadian concerns.

I can see that my time is coming to an end and I simply want to say that the government will continue with this two track policy. The government has been engaged with this issue at the highest levels for well over a year. There was no sense of not taking action. It is simply wrong to suggest that. The Prime Minister is today taking the latest opportunity in Washington to raise this issue with President Bush. The minister is involved in daily discussions with industry, with the provinces and with American officials. The government will continue on its two track policy.

If necessary we will win this case again through the legal channels, because what has been clear from day one is that we want free trade in softwood lumber. We want guaranteed access to the U.S. market. Our producers deserve it and we will have it.

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11 a.m.

Bloc

Gérard Asselin Bloc Charlevoix, QC

Mr. Speaker, this morning the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade did his best to rend his garments, shout and carry on in this House in order to demonstrate to this House that the minister and the Prime Minister have done their job as far as softwood lumber negotiations are concerned.

In the regions, as far as the lumber producers are concerned, whether in Rivière-du-Loup, the south shore of the St. Lawrence, or the north shore, we have a problem with this negotiation. The Canadian and American governments are pitted against each other.

This has been going on for five years. There has been an amber light on for the past five years. The Americans criticize the way our softwood lumber is encroaching on their market. The Minister of International Trade of the day, and the present minister, as well as the Prime Minister, who has always been the same person, have never done their job as far as negotiations in connection with the American market are concerned.

When free trade came along and Canada decided to belong to NAFTA in the days of the Conservatives, the Liberals were critical of free trade. Free trade should be continued as it was. But the problem is not limited to softwood lumber, it also affects hothouse tomatoes and dairy products.

This is what I wish to ask the parliamentary secretary. I would like him to quite simply admit to the House, from his seat, that the Canadian government is powerless before the huge American juggernaut and that when the time comes to negotiate on something as vital as softwood lumber, we grovel to the American government.

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11 a.m.

Liberal

Pat O'Brien Liberal London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, as to tearing shirts, I will choose my shirt over the hon. member's, as frankly I do not want to tear mine.

I can understand why a separatist member from Quebec would try to put forth the myth that he just put forth, which is that the Canadian government is powerless. That is the whole agenda of the Bloc Quebecois and of the head office of his party in the province of Quebec, the Parti Quebecois. It is nonsense. Everybody knows it is nonsense.

We have taken these cases to the WTO before. We have won every single time. I know the separatist member does not want to listen but I would like the opportunity to respond, because I did not interrupt him. The reality is, if we want to speak some truths in the House, let us speak them. We have fought this issue at the WTO repeatedly and we have always won.

If the hon. member wants to portray the Canadian government as powerless to serve his largest political agenda, let him do so, but the reality is that everybody else in the country, and most Quebecers, understand that the government is defending the rights of all provinces, including the beautiful province of Quebec.

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11 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Duncan Canadian Alliance Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I do realize that the time is short, but the parliamentary secretary did make a couple of statement to which I feel I must respond.

Number one, the parliamentary secretary made reference to the fact that we had a point in time when we had no trade critic. That is not the first time I have heard all of this. The important thing to recognize is that I was involved and responsible for the softwood lumber file as the forestry and mining critic and that went with me to international trade. If proof of that is needed, he can go to my website and see that when I was forestry and mining critic in June 2000 our softwood lumber position, approved by caucus, was right there. I wrote it.

In terms of the other statement that the parliamentary secretary made, that it did not really matter what the government signalled because automatically on March 31, 2001, we would revert to free trade, that is the very question we kept asking the government: Are you going to let it expire and go to free trade or are you going to extend it? There were a lot of signals that you were prepared to do it. All of Canadian industry wanted to know what you were going to do and so did the American consumer--

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11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Pat O'Brien Liberal London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would just remind the hon. member, as I know you were about to, Mr. Speaker, that it is improper to use the pronoun “you” in the House of Commons. He is not addressing himself to you, Mr. Speaker of the House.

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11:05 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The message is made and passed on. There are 30 seconds left for the parliamentary secretary to answer the hon. member.

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11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Pat O'Brien Liberal London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I challenge the member to find in Hansard when it comes out tomorrow that I said it did not really matter what the government said. Again he is not listening. Of course it mattered. We were automatically under free trade last March 31 when the agreement expired. The government wanted that. Everybody wanted that. If the Americans had not taken their unfair punitive action again, we would not be having this debate and we would not have gone through the last year of pain that they have inflicted and unfairly forced on the industry and the economy of this country. He does not get it.