My thanks for the generous offer. A new member always likes that.
I thank the Minister for International Trade for listening to Yukon's submissions. When I have brought the number of concerns of the mills and the forest industry to the minister over the many months he has been working on this, he has been very willing to listen and to deal with our industry. For much of this debate, the minister was here listening to the ideas of members from all parties.
I also thank members for unanimously supporting the motion.
A member of the Alliance made the observation that for members of parliament there is more that actually unites us than divides us. That is a microcosm of Canada itself. There is more that unites us than divides us. We all want similar objectives. We want to raise our families and make a good living. It is tremendous on issues such as this one when we can come together. Hopefully in parliament we could do this more often for the benefit of all Canadians. We could strike out strongly in the world to protect Canadian interests and make progress. That is what all members are here to do.
During the course of the U.S. trade investigations, Canadian industry submitted in excess of 100 requests for species and product exclusions. These requests included western red cedar, red and white pine and a series of further manufactured products. The Government of Canada has actively supported these requests through the course of the investigations, filing numerous briefs strongly encouraging the U.S. commerce department to give serious consideration to all exclusion requests.
Canadian industry argued extensively for these exclusions, particularly with respect to the high valued cedar and pine species. The U.S. commerce department, after considering numerous requests from companies and associations, excluded only a limited number of products and no species. This is an arbitrary and unfair decision. While we are disappointed with the decision, the commerce department's actions are nothing more than a continuation of U.S. negotiating practices.
The Government of Canada is looking at how to best ensure the fair treatment of all segments of the Canadian lumber products industry in any agreement. Canada will be filing additional briefs and arguing before a commerce department hearing to press it to render species and product exclusions. Our negotiators will also be pursuing a number of exclusions from any agreement that we may ultimately reach with the United States.
Canadian lumber producers that do not benefit from programs covered by the U.S. countervailing subsidy investigation are entitled to seek an exclusion from any duties. The granting of such exclusions is highly discretionary by the U.S. commerce department.
The Government of Canada has worked closely with companies, industry associations and provincial and territorial governments to ensure that companies entitled to an exclusion from trade action were able to seek an exclusion. Some 350 Canadian companies were submitted for consideration in October last year. This included some 200 Canadian remanufacturers, secondary lumber manufacturers who produce value added products.
The federal government, the territories, the provinces, industry associations and individual companies went to extraordinary lengths to submit applications that were accurate, complete and fully in accordance with U.S. regulations. After four months the commerce department announced that of some 350 applications, it was only prepared to look at a handful of companies.
The 30 companies selected source their logs from private lands, the maritime provinces, Yukon or the United States. While we are pleased that companies are still being considered for exclusion, Canada is extremely disappointed with the decision to ignore over 320 company applications.
The commerce department has now completed verification of the companies that are being considered. It will announce the results of the company exclusion process when it makes a final subsidy determination on March 21. Canada is continuing to pursue exclusions in the current discussions, particularly with respect to remanufactured products.
Canada's proposal recognizes that a border measure needs to be tailored to ensure that the remanufacturing sector is not disadvantaged relative to other producers. The United States has yet to provide a detailed response to Canada's proposed transition measures, including the issue of exclusions.
Unlike the unreasonable approach the United States has taken to date in the subsidy investigation, for instance imposing the provisional duty on a final mill basis which makes no sense, Canada has proposed that the export charge be imposed on a first mill basis. A first mill reflects the fact that remanufacturers acquire lumber through arm's length transactions and would avoid taxing the value added transportation costs that the remanufacturers and other secondary producers must face.
I would like to talk to our friends in America, those who might be listening every time we have this debate. We have had numerous debates on softwood lumber to make our point about what we feel is a travesty of justice against Canada. Every time I speak to Americans who might be listening, I hope that a few more will get the message.
Recently I was at a celebration in the United States with over 500 people, mostly Americans, who were celebrating their relationship with Canada. They were celebrating the assistance we gave them on September 11 and the assistance we are continuing to give to help their troops protect them and achieve our common objectives.
How could a country so closely linked to us as a friend make arbitrary trade decisions, including the one on softwood lumber, which also affects its neighbour? I know that most Americans are not responsible for this. It is a failing in law. It is a little archaic provision that has not yet been removed which allows a few minor officials to embarrass their country around the world by unilaterally imposing arbitrary, unfair trade subsidies like this one. Sometimes I wonder how a country so powerful that it can put a man on the moon cannot get rid of a little legal irritant which allows junior officials to embarrass such a great nation.
I just want to describe how embarrassing it is in relation to my riding of Yukon, which of course has been impacted like the rest of Canada by the provisions of this agreement. These provisions suggest that the U.S., a great country, which most Americans think is fairly strong economically and has some fairly strong businesses compared to other countries, is running scared from a tiny place called Yukon. Let me describe this adversary the Americans are cowering from and running and hiding from.
Yukon is so far away from the United States consumers who will buy this lumber. Most Americans have probably never been there. Many of them have probably never heard of Yukon. They have probably never been there because it costs thousands and thousands of dollars to get there. If we use common sense, it will also cost thousands of dollars to get the lumber back into their stores to sell to them and compete against them.
The trees in Yukon are hundreds of years old. They are way up in the north Arctic. With the cold temperatures, it takes a lot longer to grow the trees than the ones the Americans are growing and selling in their stores.
Imagine the costs of labour way up in the Arctic. The cost of labour input is much more in this very competitive industry.
Think of the heating costs we have up there. When we need a tradesman, he has to come hundreds of miles. The parts for the mills may have to come thousands of miles. How could we possibly compete with anyone? Yet the great United States appears to be running and hiding, claiming it needs to add a 30% tariff to protect it from this huge great enemy.
A lot of the land from which some of the mills are producing is settlement land from land claims, which is indeed private land and not subsidized. We cannot put a subsidy against it.
Much of the land in this great northern threat is semi-arid. There is not much water compared to the great rain forests of the United States coastal areas. It takes so long for our trees to grow and they are so small. It is beyond anyone's imagination to think we would be a competitive threat.
Let us imagine a race to a store in the United States. We have some competition here to see who wins the race, who gets their lumber there at the cheapest price.
There is a lumber mill down the street. It puts the lumber on a truck and ships it down to the store.
Then there is the enemy the Americans are terrified of thousands of miles away who has to spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars for gas for a truck, for a truck driver, for truck parts to go all the way through Yukon and all the way through British Columbia or over thousands of miles of ocean to get there. With increased labour costs, with heating costs and with trees that have taken hundreds of years to grow, what kind of competition would that be?
We should think what it would cost to actually put that lumber in the store beside the nearby product from the American mill. It would be so much more expensive. Yet this ridiculous provision suggests that Americans will have to add 30% to the cost of that in the store if they want to buy it.
If we add 30% on top of the huge amount it would cost extra, think how much more the Americans are paying for lumber and building products. It is ridiculous that a few minor officials and a few firms in the United States have allowed this archaic provision to continue.
I implore Americans on behalf of my constituents. We cannot help them here. Americans have to go to their congressmen and their senators to protect the poor people in the United States who are paying these huge prices, to protect their building stores that need to sell these products and the employees of those stores and to protect middle class people.
Housing prices are way up because of the dramatic taxes on lumber. Most of all, they have to protect the poor people, which both countries have, who need housing. I implore them to do that and to ask their congressmen and senators to remove this ridiculous provision and these arbitrary trade sanctions against Canadian products, because we are one of their best friends in the world.