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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

Veterans AffairsOral Question Period

March 14th, 2002 / 3 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Ontario appeal court issued a scathing ruling against the government saying that disabled veterans may receive as much as $4 billion. In a written decision the Department of Veterans Affairs was condemned for mismanagement of pensions since 1919 and the judge called it reprehensible.

Will the Minister of Veterans Affairs intervene to afford aging veterans their dignity and security, or will we be treated again to the usual government tactic of putting principle behind procedural delay through appeals? Why will he not act now? Why will he not do the right thing?

Veterans AffairsOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Winnipeg North—St. Paul Manitoba

Liberal

Rey D. Pagtakhan LiberalMinister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the ruling was issued yesterday. It is of course a very complex legal issue and government lawyers are indeed reviewing the ruling.

Let me assure the hon. member that Veterans Affairs Canada will continue its commitment and continue to deliver quality services to veterans. In fact since 1990 we have been paying interest on the administered accounts.

Veterans AffairsThe Royal Assent

3 p.m.

The Speaker

Order, please. I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received as follows:

Government House

Ottawa

March 13, 2002

Mr. Speaker:

I have the honour to inform you that The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, Governor General of Canada, will proceed to the Senate Chamber, on the 21st day of March 2002, at 3:00 p.m., for the purpose of giving Royal Assent to certain bills of law.

Yours sincerely,

Barbara Uteck

Secretary to the Governor General

Business of the HouseThe Royal Assent

3:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Randy White Canadian Alliance Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the government House leader about the business for the rest of the week in the House of Commons and the business for the following week.

I would also like to know from the government House leader about the anticipated legislation for the national sex offender registry which was committed to us by the government and expected by all provinces throughout the country and it is not yet tabled.

Business of the HouseThe Royal Assent

3:05 p.m.

Wascana Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, tomorrow, we will conclude the third reading stage of Bill C-49, the Budget Implementation Act, 2001.

Monday and Tuesday shall be allotted days.

Next Wednesday we will consider report stage of Bill C-15, certain amendments to the criminal code. On Thursday, March 21, I expect to return to report stage of Bill C-5, the species at risk legislation or perhaps other unfinished business. On Friday, March 23, we will again consider Bill C-50 respecting the WTO followed by Bill C-47, the excise tax amendments.

With respect to the specific legislation that the House leader for the official opposition has referred to I will pursue that matter with the solicitor general to determine what plans he may have.

Points of OrderThe Royal Assent

3:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Pankiw Canadian Alliance Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Five years ago, the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations informed the minister of fisheries that some Indian only fishing regulations were ultra vires the act of parliament. In other words, they were defective regulations that were in effect illegal. For five years the committee has been trying to have those regulations revoked but the minister's office has just stonewalled.

In December the committee voted to have a draft disallowance report prepared. The disallowance procedure for regulations would have the committee chair table the disallowance report in parliament. Today however at the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations the Liberal members voted against a motion to adopt the report. This means the chair of the committee could not come today to table the disallowance report of these race based regulations which discriminate against people on the basis of race, not to mention the fact that they are illegal.

I would like to seek unanimous consent of the House to table this report nonetheless right now.

Points of OrderThe Royal Assent

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

Does the hon. member have unanimous consent of the House to table this report?

Points of OrderThe Royal Assent

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Points of OrderThe Royal Assent

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

No

Points of OrderThe Royal Assent

3:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Pankiw Canadian Alliance Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, I seek your guidance because the mandate of the committee has been prostituted. The committee is not fulfilling its mandate and its responsibility. We know these regulations are illegal. They have been in place for five years and now the committee is refusing to put a disallowance report to parliament.

Mr. Speaker, what is your guidance? What is the point in having the committee if it will not act to disallow regulations that it knows are illegal? Where do we go from here?

Points of OrderThe Royal Assent

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

Far be it for the Chair to advise the hon. member on what other steps he might want to take in the face of a decision of the committee. I can suggest to him that he look at the authorities in Marleau and Montpetit, Beauchesne's and Bourinot's. He could spend perhaps the next weekend reading to see if he can gain from those authorities some clue as to the kind of things he might do with the particular draft report which I assume he was holding in his hand a few moments ago.

It is not for the Chair to advise hon. members on the course of conduct to take in relation to these matters, tempting as it might be. I can only suggest to the hon. member that thorough reading of the authorities will give him ideas that are beyond even what the Chair could suggest.

Points of OrderThe Royal Assent

3:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Pankiw Canadian Alliance Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, more specifically, I am asking if you have any authority to intervene in the case of a committee that refuses to carry out its mandate?

Points of OrderThe Royal Assent

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

No. The committee is master of its own proceedings. The committee can make decisions as to whether it wishes to fulfill its mandate, do something else or even go beyond. The powers of the Chair in relation to committees are, in my view, quite limited. I think the member would discover that if he were to read the texts I have suggested to him over the weekend.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gary Lunn Canadian Alliance Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to the Canadian Alliance opposition supply day motion. I am also pleased that all five political parties in the House were able to unanimously adopt the motion to send a very strong message to the United States that we are united on this issue which is a critical issue.

I would like to go back a little bit. I think the motion has been read a number of times but I will read it again. It states:

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.

I am pleased the House adopted that. I know the minister, and I have spoken to him numerous times, is in very intense negotiations on this file. We do get people asking us if we are looking toward a negotiated settlement. As I expressed to the minister before, I think it is very important to keep all the doors open. If he is able to reach some type of agreement that will eventually get us unfettered access, whether if it is a bridging agreement for a year or whatever, then we should look at it and be open to it. Of course until we see all the details we will not know.

I know the industry in British Columbia is very much saying that if the government can do something that will ultimately give Canada free and unfettered access to the U.S. markets, that would be a good thing.

Although the motion passed with unanimous consent less than two hours ago, I feel it is important to continue talking about what it is all about. One in 16 Canadians employed in this country work in the forest industry sectors. In over 337 communities 50% of the people are directly dependent on the forest industry for economic survival. We have in Canada today in the neighbourhood of 50,000 people who have lost their jobs as a result of this dispute.

The softwood lumber agreement expired last year around this time. It is absolutely critical that we stand united in this country. This is not a partisan issue. The parties in this parliament and the provinces should stand together on this issue against our friends to the south.

Having said that, it is critically important that the federal government negotiate hard and find a solution. It is the responsibility of the federal government on this file. I also have to add that there is a huge level of frustration because of the pain we have had to go through over the last year. A lot of people felt we should have been doing more through the duration of the softwood lumber agreement and that was our opportunity to reach a deal.

A lot of things have happened within the U.S. domestic situation. I agree that they are out of our control but the Americans keep claiming that they are big free traders. However, when we look at some of the things they have done, they are not acceptable.

I want to talk specifically about the Byrd amendment, which is still in place under U.S. domestic law. The countervail duties and the anti-dumping duties are being collected by the department of commerce in the United States. It takes the money Canadian forest companies pay in duties and gives it to the American forest industry. If we want to talk about who is subsidizing whom, it is pretty clear that our Canadian forest industry is subsidizing the U.S. industry simply through this Byrd amendment.

I have put these facts on the table in the hope that the government will take a hard stance on these issues and not back down. If there is an opportunity to reach a bridging agreement, the challenge for the government is to reach an agreement that has an end goal, whether it is six months or twelve months. If we hear the words export tax does that mean it is in place for six months, gets cut in half for the next six months and then we have free and unfettered access?

If we go toward this type of agreement, it is critical that the United States gives us its assurance that we will have free and unfettered access and, if necessary, that the government will amend the legislation to ensure that the U.S. forest industry will not have the ability to cut us off at the knees again. This dispute has been going on for a number of years. It is no secret to the forestry industry, I believe it calls it lumber four, and it has to come to an end.

In my province of British Columbia we export about $5 billion a year worth of softwood lumber to the United States. British Columbia alone exports over half that amount to the United States. There are 30,000 people right now who have lost their jobs and more mills are at risk of going permanently out of business.

Today the Prime Minister is in Washington speaking with President Bush. I hope this issue gets some serious attention on the agenda and not just some passing thoughts. I hope they do not discuss it for a few minutes in a conversation and then move on to other items. The Prime Minister should give it the attention it deserves.

We are at a critical point now as we await the final determination from the U.S. department of commerce next week. The Canadian forest industry could be faced with enormous countervail duties which, I argue, are patently unfair. We must take the United States to task. It claims to be the best free traders when in fact its record shows otherwise.

We have been around this issue a number of times in this parliament. The point I want to make is that it is critically important that the government make this its number one priority. If we end up not being successful in the next few weeks we could be looking at a two or three year litigation process. I admit that if that is what we must do then we should follow that course but Canada needs to make sure that the United States understands what is needed if it wants our co-operation. I appreciate that it is not good trade policy to start linking other issues, and I am not advocating that, but the Americans need to understand that if they want to sing free trade we expect them to live up to whatever agreement they sign.

Canada has been a very good friend, neighbour and ally with the United States in the war on terrorism. We have done more than our share. Looking back to the conflict in Kosovo, the Canadian armed forces were there in great numbers and did a great job. Our armed forces are now in Afghanistan taking a leading role in the war, as we should. I have to tell the House that there are people wondering why we still face these trade issues.

I will conclude by saying how very pleased I am that all five political parties in the House of Commons adopted the Canadian Alliance supply day motion: that in any agreement we reach we ensure in writing that we can reach free and unfettered access--it is critical that we do not compromise that--and that the necessary safeguards and measures are in place to ensure that we will not face countervail duties and repeat claims from the United States.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Comuzzi Liberal Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I compliment my friend across the way. I know how concerned he is today about what is going on in Washington because he comes from the heart of an area that is so dependent not only on softwood lumber but on other forestry products.

However I wonder if he would consider one element in the comments he just made. I think it is something that we should always remember in the House when we are discussing and talking about this dispute that we have with the United States.

I am absolutely convinced, and I wonder if he is, that most of the members of the house of representatives and of the senate in the United States, who have to go out and get elected, like we do, are sympathetic toward our case?

Where we really come into some difficulty as country is not in dealing with the president, the members of the senate or the members from the house of representatives but in dealing with the department of commerce in the United States. When we get into the area of the interpretation of NAFTA, we fail to realize that it is the department of commerce that has jurisdiction. It is dealing, as our minister has over the last year and done an admirable job, with Mr. Evans, the secretary of the commerce department; Mr. Zoellick, the trade commissioner for the department of commerce; and, most recently, in dealing with the former governor of the state of Montana, a friend and ally of Senator Baucus who was asked by the president to try to bring some conclusion to this very difficult trade dispute.

When my colleague talks about the United States, does he not think he should perhaps couch his remarks? Should he not be talking in more specific terms, at this particular period of time, after one year, about the people in the department of commerce in the United States, the leaders in that area, and not about our friends in the United States generally?

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gary Lunn Canadian Alliance Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Thunder Bay--Superior North also has great concerns with this file. Let me just say that our friends in the United States, the Americans, are not all of one label. I married one of those great friends and she is still an American. I have the highest regard for those people. They are our true friends and our greatest allies.

What I am talking about on the softwood lumber file is that we have no other course but to go under the political masters any more than I can hold accountable the international trade people who worked very hard on this file for success or failure ultimately is the responsibility of the Minister for International Trade and his government.

The same holds true in the United States. I appreciate the pressure on the department of commerce in the United States. The people that we have to go after aggressively are some of the political people. We have friends there. Over 100 congressmen signed on to supporting the Canadian position. They have signed a letter saying that they need free trade with Canadian lumber. It is in their own interest for affordable housing and otherwise.

Can we put more pressure on the department of commerce? Perhaps, and if we do we should probably take the lead of the government. I emphasize, just to follow up on the member's question, that the U.S. people are our greatest friend and ally. This is a dispute we are having. We need to get it resolved so we can move on to other things.

We will be successful if we can stay united, speak with one voice from all political persuasions across the country at all political levels: government, industry, trades and unions. If we present a strong united front against the U.S. government we will be successful on this file.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Denis Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew LiberalMinister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Vancouver Island North for having tabled in the House on this very day this important resolution on softwood lumber which I am very pleased we have been able to support unanimously already this morning.

If we were able to support it very easily and unanimously this morning, it was that the member for Vancouver Island North was generous enough to describe in his resolution the actual policy of the government. As this is the policy of the government we were quite pleased to get up with members of the other four parties and support this resolution.

It is very useful today that the House of Commons allied yesterday all 10 provinces at the federal-provincial conference in Ottawa. All 10 provinces and the 3 territories stood by the government, by the very policy we have been advocating, by the two track strategy that we have designed. Such a show of unanimity has been quite rare on the softwood lumber file. That made Canada stand united and when Canada stands united it stands tall.

I believe that it increases our chances to get the sort of resolution to the dispute that we care for: a long term policy based resolution that would give Canadian softwood lumber unfettered access to the market in the United States. This is what we are after.

We have had some success lately with the Bush administration. We had extraordinary success last week obtaining for Canada's export of steel into the United States an exemption of U.S. action. This is very good news.

Our international trade policy has been very active and we have been engaging with the United States. We have not always been pleased with its actions but we know that we can deal with them. We hope very much that in the course of the next few days, in the course of the next week, the unanimous message will be sent from this House, the unanimous message sent by all 10 provinces and the 3 territories, a message reinforced and supported by 95% of Canadian industry and by the stakeholders that actually think we are on the right track.

I believe that what has been done on this file is very useful. Unfortunately I heard this morning a number of opposition members who, despite this unanimity, despite the very fact that the resolution is being supported by all members of the House, were insinuating that the government had not done a thing on the softwood lumber issue. They were trying to say that we did not see the termination of the agreement come March 31, 2001. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In 1999 I appointed a senior facilitator to consult with Canadians on the options for our industry. In December 1999 the government began a formal consultation process with Canadians, with provinces and with stakeholders in the industry, two years before the March 31, 2001, termination of the earlier agreement. We knew it was coming.

In 2000 I went to British Columbia. I met with the industry. I met with the stakeholders. I met with the British Columbia government at the time, the NDP government. That government could not come to the table in a meaningful way. I am not talking about some members of the Alliance who unfortunately decided this morning that we had done nothing prior to that date, but the opposition knows full well that we tried to engage with the then government of British Columbia that had responsibility for managing forestry in that province and could not do a thing at that time.

There was uncertainty in that province and it could not engage in addressing the issue by preparing forceful, constructive forestry management improvements for British Columbians. I must commend the extraordinary contribution of the Campbell government, and in particular its minister of forests, Mike de Jong. They were elected on a platform that included forestry management practices.

I would like to talk about the sovereignty issue. Some people have been saying that Washington is dictating our forestry management practices now and that Canadian sovereignty is at stake. This is revisiting history. A few months ago the Campbell government was elected on a platform proposing changes to the forestry management practices of that province for the benefit of British Columbians. It was elected, so the changes proposed were not dictated by Washington. They were part of the platform on which the government was elected.

We are discussing on that basis what the Americans could deliver in terms of unfettered market access and free trade, considering our decision in our country supported by Canadian citizens to improve our forestry management practices.

What saddens me most is that the former leader of the Alliance, the member for Okanagan--Coquihalla who aspires to becoming national leader again, played the divisive politics of regionalism today. I was astounded by the ignorance of that member when he said the Prime Minister of Canada, who is completely committed to our work on softwood lumber, would have moved if there had been jobs in the Saint Maurice riding.

The Saint Maurice riding is the heart of the softwood lumber industry in Quebec. He said if there were 20 jobs in Saint Maurice he would have moved. This is absolutely ridiculous and it shows the ignorance of a man who aspires to becoming national leader again.

The Prime Minister does not need to have the softwood lumber industry in his riding to care about it. I do not have softwood lumber in my riding of Papineau--Saint-Denis which is a very urban riding, but I care about British Columbia's softwood lumber industry. At the very beginning of my term as Minister for International Trade I travelled back and forth to British Columbia, engaging with industry, engaging with the provincial government and working very hard, so much so that I have their total support now for the action we are taking.

I was saddened by that unfortunate approach to regional politics on an issue that requires for us to be united. That is what we have been doing. We have one more week before the March 21 final determination by the Americans and we want success. We will not negotiate a deal at any cost. We want a good deal for Canadians, but we know that it would be a lot better to make a resolution with the Americans that would bring a long term solution based on policies in our country.

In connection with the softwood lumber issue, we also managed to get the industries at both ends of the country working together. Both east and west engaged in a dialogue as never before. Despite sometimes diverging interests, representatives of the industry from Quebec, from British Columbia and from throughout the country understood that by working together we would get better results.

Today, on behalf of the Government of Canada, I wish to say a heartfelt thanks to the industry and the unions from throughout the country, which, on this occasion, worked together. I wish to thank the government of Quebec for supporting the initiative and the approach recommended by our government. The government of Quebec has also chosen to take the approach of improving its forest policies in the coming months and years in order to win us free trade with the United States.

I am very happy that, yesterday, the Minister of Trade, Mrs. Papineau, and the Minister of Natural Resources and Forests, François Gendron, congratulated us and thanked us for our leadership and work on this issue. It is this approach which will enable us to do much better in our dealings with the United States and to hold our heads high. We have received support from throughout the community.

On Monday, Mike de Jong, the forestry minister of British Columbia, visited us with representatives of industry, leaders of communities and unions as well, and aboriginal representatives. It was beautiful to see how these British Columbians, caring for their industry, came here to express their unity and support for the approach that everyone in the country supports.

The number of representatives that we have had has been extremely useful all along. I for one have discovered wonderful friends in British Columbia. Mayor Kinsley of Prince George, whom I met with a number of times over the years, and I have been on the phone and have been able to develop a friendship over the file. Together we care about solving this. There is also the mayor of Squamish, Corinne Lonsdale, whom I visited over a meal in Squamish and who has become a good friend as well because we care passionately. Because a minister comes from Quebec does not mean that he cannot be a true Canadian and care for an issue in the country that mostly affects British Columbia. That is despite what the former leader of the Alliance insinuated today, along with a number of other Alliance speakers. We in the Government of Canada care for all Canadians, whatever the issues.

I believe very much that our two track strategy is quite useful. I believe very much that our negotiations with the United States are in exactly the right direction in the sense that we will not negotiate a deal at any cost because that would be to the detriment of our people and we know that very well. We will, however, spare no effort in the next week to make the very best effort. That is what Canadians are asking us for. That is what industry and provincial leaders asked us for yesterday. I am extremely pleased that the Prime Minister is in Washington today and I know very well that he will be raising it with President Bush. That will be quite helpful. I am extremely impressed by what we have been able to do over this issue so far.

It is certain that we are now awaiting from the U.S. administration an effort equivalent to the one Canadians have put into it.

We have made the effort to get the provinces, which have jurisdiction over forestry resources, to agree to some major changes in the way we manage our forests, in our best interests. We will not, of course, be giving up our crown lands, the public lands we have. This is the way we do things in Canada, and we want to remain Canadian, with our own model, our own approach.

We are, however, prepared to introduce some elements of transparency. We are prepared to establish some elements of a procedure for price setting that will be very close to the realities of the market.

No one wants a free lunch in the United States market, that is clear, but we are ready to make some changes in our provincial practices. What would count very much is if the United States would now engage fully as an administration in being as creative as we on the Canadian side have been at identifying the ways in which it could guarantee us market access in the United States for the long term, with a mechanism that would guarantee us that access for the long term. That is very important.

The administration realizes that it too at one stage will have to push back on some of the coalition members in the United States who are resisting because basically they just do not want any deal at all. They just do not want any successful resolution to this one. I am not talking about the majority of them. I am talking about the more vocal ones who are resisting the resolution.

We have allies in the United States. We have allies among the producers, who want a resolution to this dispute. We have allies among the consumers like never before. The consumers have organized in the United States and they have been able to get support, along with our Canadian embassy. I want to thank all members of parliament of all parties who participated in parliamentary delegations and who went to Washington to explain to Americans the different system we have and to explain that being different does not mean we are subsidizing.

I want to thank all of those who have contributed and are contributing to the success we are having in Washington now. I hope very much that the Bush administration, like it did on steel, realizes the particular circumstances of Canada and realizes that it is in the interests of their home buyers and their economy that they have a dynamic home building sector in the next few months to make sure that the recovery we have seen in the last few months will actually become even more concrete and more solidified.

This rare unanimity we Canadians enjoy is extremely useful. It means that we can move toward free trade as far as softwood lumber is concerned, but free trade that will, of course, respect who we are and where we are at. We are entitled to our difference.

Clearly, we in Canada are different as far as our Crown lands are concerned, our public land. We want to maintain this system and to make it more transparent, in order to be sure that the Americans can understand how prices are set, in order for there to be true free trade.

We have a good case, however, We are not going to sign an agreement regardless of the price. We know that, if it comes to that, if the negotiations are not successful in the coming week, we would have a very good case to submit to the World Trade Organization and would also have a very good case to submit to NAFTA.

Thank you for your patience, Mr. Speaker, and thank you to all members of this House for supporting this motion, which fits in perfectly with the path being taken, the policy of our government, with the unanimous support of the ten provinces of this country, and the partners in the industry.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Duncan Canadian Alliance Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, of course I listened to the minister very carefully and congratulate the minister on the parts of his speech that were non-partisan. I have to wonder about the rest of the speech in terms of whether it was productive or not. That is all I will say about it.

The minister has said that he has 10 provinces, the territories and 95% of industry supporting the two tracks. I understand that. I do not think anybody will argue that the two track set-up is the right way to go, but there is a difference between that and the negotiating tactics. That clearly creates some distinct separations and it is not our job here to try to create divisions.

My first question for the minister is, you said in your preamble that the Canadian Alliance motion today reflected government policy. My question is this. Will you apply this to--

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Pat O'Brien Liberal London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I am not one that is given to frivolous niceties but I already made this point earlier with my hon. colleague. I guess it is a slip. He has been in the House as long as I have, I think, but he consistently does not speak through you, Mr. Speaker. He consistently refers to other members as “you”.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The Chair thanks the parliamentary secretary for his support, but I had every intention to intervene once the question had been finalized.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Duncan Canadian Alliance Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I apologize. This has been a long week for all of us. I do not normally lapse that way, but I somehow have done that today and I will try very hard not to do it again.

Will the minister and the negotiators be applying the intent of the motion to negotiating tactics as well as to policy? I just wanted to comment on some of the timing historically to try to correct the record, because I met the minister's appointed facilitator in Washington in early 2000. I followed it right through from that time until the expiry of the softwood lumber agreement. Clearly the government's position was to wait for industry and British Columbia to develop a consensus, not the other way round. The government was not committed to free trade until March 2001.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Liberal Papineau—Saint-Denis, QC

Honestly, Mr. Speaker, I fail to exactly understand the logic of the hon. member, but I am so grateful for his resolution that I will try to take this as a contribution to the message we, as the House of Commons, I think, are trying to send to the United States of America.

On what has been the government's policy from day one on the softwood lumber issue, certainly since 1999, since I have been following it very closely, I can guarantee the hon. member that precisely what we have been preparing for is to move toward free trade.

There was a wide consensus in Canada when I started raising this issue years before the March 31, 2001, termination of the earlier agreement. The minute I was appointed minister in August 1999 I consulted with the provinces and with industry. There was a vast consensus, not for renegotiating a managed trade agreement but for a move toward free trade.

Indeed, that has been the government's policy, to reflect the views of Canadians and to really identify the best possible strategy to get there. I hope very much that time will come sometime next week before the final determination.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to see that today's debate has allowed the minister to come to the conclusion that the motion should be passed unanimously. This is what I gleamed from his presentation.

I think that this will indeed help strengthen the position and repeat it. This is an appeal that I launched this morning, and I am very happy with the results.

I went to Washington with the delegation and if there is one thing that I learned, it is that Canada should be promoting its reality more abroad. Perhaps the money that is spent on communications within Canada would be spent well if it were used to promote our reality in the United States.

I had a meeting with an American representative and, really, we had to explain to him the fundamentals. This is someone who worked in the forestry sector and he knew nothing about our reality. I think that we have our work cut out for us when it comes to this.

I fully agree with the fact that the motion being adopted unanimously will help. However, it is important to send a clear message—this is the meaning of my question—about workers in the businesses affected.

The government announced a support program to help businesses ride out the crisis. I have small sawmills in mind, but also big businesses, if it is needed. I think that we must move on this right away so that the Americans are fully aware that we are serious, that our position shows the U.S. government that if there is no agreement, the Government of Canada will support its businesses and its workers.

The minister has taken some interesting positions when it comes to business. I would like it if he could provide me with the details. But I would also like it if he could call on his colleague, the Minister of Human Resources Development, to help people who are experiencing the hardship of the softwood crisis on a daily basis, those who are no longer getting employment insurance benefits, so that they might receive them.

Could the minister confirm for us, that in addition to the motion, the government will take meaningful, additional measures to help these people?

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Liberal Papineau—Saint-Denis, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to thank the hon. member for Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques for his comments. I also thank him for taking part in the meetings of the Canadian parliamentary delegation that travelled to New York to present our point of view regarding the softwood lumber issue.

It is true that the Americans have a hard time grasping the concept of public land, of what we call crown land. It is extremely difficult to explain this concept to the Americans. We tried many times. Our Canadian embassy is doing a very good job, and parliamentarians have explained this concept a number of times. We have led very energetic campaigns to that end.

The problem is that as soon as we leave, or maybe three weeks later, it seems as though we have to start all over again. This lack of understanding is essentially based on differing views of what the role of the government should be in the economy. So, we constantly have to redo the work.

I really appreciate the hon. member's view and I thank him for being prepared to contribute to this effort, as have all parliamentarians so far. I can say that no effort will be spared.

As regards help for workers, the Department of Human Resources Development—and I take this opportunity to thank my colleague—has shown great sensitivity when workers across the country were suddenly faced with this situation.

I am very grateful to the employees working in HRDC's offices for having been receptive to the claims of these workers. As a government, we will continue, through our various programs at Human Resources Development Canada and elsewhere, to do our best for our workers.

I sincerely hope that the precarious situation in which our industry, our workers, their families and their communities have been in recent months, because of the punitive—and often overly protectionist—measures demanded by the industry in the U.S., will soon end and that the issue will be settled in the coming days.