Madam Speaker, I am pleased to respond to the motion put forward by the hon. member for Vancouver Island North.
This is viewed as a force in twenty years. It impacts hundreds of thousands of Canadian jobs directly and many more indirectly. Resolving the lumber dispute is a priority for the Government of Canada. The livelihood of many Canadians and their communities depend on this very important industry.
The hon. member for Saint John asked what we can do with regard to some of these trade disputes. Today is an example of what we can do. All members of the House are coming together with one strategy forming a clear team Canada approach.
I am delighted to see that the Alliance has finally come around to the government's way of thinking and to give a comprehensive stance on this particular issue. The stance has been a bit changeable over the past while. The hon. member for Nanaimo--Alberni has said in the House that our mill workers and mills cannot afford to wait one and a half years or two years for the WTO process to work its way through. The government has been looking at that. We have been aware of that. It is nice to see that the opposition agrees with us.
Alliance members seem to have faith in the WTO and NAFTA dispute resolution mechanisms only until they start to see their own constituents lose their jobs. Then suddenly they want a cost benefit analysis of litigation versus negotiation. Not just that, but Alliance members, including the former leader, have tried to tie softwood to trade in energy or tied to a support for a North American perimeter.
They have finally made a decision today to bring a motion to the House that all of us can buy into because that is the key thing. We must stand together as Canadians across the country regardless of party differences so that we can let the Americans see that we agree regardless of our affiliation.
While this has been going on our Prime Minister has been taking every opportunity in Washington to find a real solution. He is doing that as we are speaking here today on this issue. We have been advocating a team Canada approach for a long time. We have been talking with the provinces, with industry and with communities.
I am pleased to see that the NDP is finally on side for negotiating freer trade with the U.S. This amazing change of heart by the members of the New Democratic Party is a good one. I know that they have begun to see the error of their ways. I remember the hon. Ed Broadbent saying:
The truth is: we overestimated the negative impact of the free trade deal back in '88. We believed that free trade would result in massive job losses. But at this point, economists seem to agree that it's had a positive impact on jobs. If we're going to be intellectually honest, we have to admit it.
I am hoping this is a start of a trend in this House, whether it be on issues of free trade, issues of negotiation or issues of dealing with terrorism, that we come together on those common ground issues, that we find a workable solution that we can all agree with, that we can move together as a nation on those clear issues instead of playing the games that we have been playing in the past. Flip-flopping on softwood lumber reminds me of the old question, “If a tree falls in the woods, and there is no one there to hear it, does it make a sound?”
Free trade is our right and we will win. However we recognize that it may take some time. This is an issue that is important to all regions of Canada. Our government supports the best solution that will promote free trade for all regions of Canada.
This is a solid team Canada stance. Over 300 Canadian communities are at least 50% dependent on a strong lumber industry and about 1,200 communities across Canada have lumber as a key component of their local economy. The livelihoods of almost one million Canadians are related to this industry. We have heard in B.C. alone of about 15,000 to 20,000 workers who have been laid off.
I want to speak on a key area relating to the dispute. The state of Canadian lumber producers, the mill and the forest workers, is of utmost concern not only to the government but to all of us here in the House. I want to lay out for the House what we can expect in the days ahead relating to the pending U.S. decision and what the government will do to defend the interests of our industry, its workers and the communities that depend upon them.
We have been pursuing a two track strategy. We are engaging the United States in negotiations while challenging them on trade action at the WTO and under the NAFTA.
We are in detailed and intense negotiations with the United States. Later today the Prime Minister will raise the lumber dispute with President Bush, emphasizing the importance of reaching a durable resolution to the benefit of companies, workers and communities. We are committed to addressing the root causes of the dispute so that we do not face this kind of ongoing uncertainty again. An agreement designed to get us to free trade will be good for both the U.S. and for Canada, but more important, we will finally achieve the stability that industry, workers and communities have sought.
My colleague, the Minister for International Trade, held a very successful meeting with his provincial counterparts and industry leaders yesterday. There was unanimous agreement that we should continue to seek a durable negotiated resolution to the issue and one that would ensure long term, unfettered and open access to the U.S. market. While it is not possible to go into much detail at this time, given the delicate nature of negotiations, it is clear that the main elements of any agreement could include: the U.S. terminating the ongoing trade cases or a U.S. commitment of no future trade cases; and a commitment by provinces to change their forest management regimes.
We know the provinces of British Columbia, Quebec and other provinces have taken this very seriously. There is a possibility of a border measure on behalf of the provinces while provincial governments implement their policy commitments and a bilateral body at the ministerial level to oversee the implementation of the agreement.
These negotiations are exactly what industry, the provinces and the Government of Canada have agreed to pursue. We are hopeful that these negotiations will be successful; we know there are no guarantees. Government and industry have agreed to continue to litigate the dispute through all legal venues available. With the support of the provinces and the industry we have initiated several WTO organization challenges of the U.S. trade actions, its laws and its practices.
For example, last August the government commenced a WTO challenge of the commerce department's preliminary subsidy determination. Canadian industry is not subsidized. We are attacking the basis of the determination, the decision to apply duties retroactively and a provision of U.S. law that denies Canadian companies their WTO right to an expedited review of the result of the final subsidy determination following the investigation.
It is important to recognize that the government initiated two proceedings under the North America Free Trade Agreement. The NAFTA provides for binding panel review of final determinations in these cases. Last month the government filed notices of intent that it would seek panel review of those final determinations of a subsidy and dumping. These are the first steps. The notices have triggered panel selection and appointment processes and those are on the way.
The department of commerce is scheduled to make a final determination next week. If we were able to reach an agreement favourable to Canada and avoid these rulings Canada would be formally challenging the rulings under the NAFTA dispute settlement proceeding. The result would be binding on the U.S. so the request for a dispute resolution mechanism is already there and it has been included in chapter 19 under NAFTA. This would make for bilateral panels that would allow us to have binding decisions. That is the kind of thing that we have been seeking and that we have been pursuing for all of this time.
Everyone realizes the punitive and unfair U.S. trade sanctions on our industry. That is why we are trying to find a durable solution. We have found not only industry and provinces are on side, but first nations groups, communities, manufacturers and all of the communities. In the past we know there have been differences between the provinces. That is gone. The provinces are looking at changing policies so that we have some fair rules of the game. We are also looking at how we come together and form a very complete stand.
We have long advocated in the government this team Canada approach. We have had everyone else come on side so it is good to see that the opposition parties are now finally joining the team.