House of Commons Hansard #144 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was quebec.


Criminal CodeAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, on May 13, 2003, I asked the Minister for International Trade a question on softwood lumber. Unfortunately, we are now in the fall of 2003 and still in an impasse. There has been no settlement of the dispute, and as a result, the economy of a number of regions in Quebec and Canada, particularly in the area I represent, has deteriorated badly.

I would like to be assured of one thing by the minister or his representative. This summer we discussed a proposal with the Americans. Now, judging by the decisions in favour of Canada, we realize that there should be no concessions to the Americans under any circumstances, based on the proposal made to us then.

Now we know the Americans have specific deadlines for putting the decisions reached by the international bodies and tribunals into application. Can the government assure me that there will be no concessions forthcoming on our side that would lead to the resumption of negotiations on the agreement proposed this summer, which was rejected, by the Free Trade Lumber Council in particular?

First, can the economic diversification program aimed at dealing with the softwood lumber crisis be extended to give a break to our regional economies? Second, can a support program for businesses be added to the current federal program to deal with the softwood lumber crisis?

We have asked repeatedly, as did businesses, that loan guarantees be provided and that they be consistent with international agreements. These loan guarantees should not compromise Canada's position in the negotiations. However, they would allow our businesses to get through this difficult period and it would especially allow us to not give in to the Americans, in the way things seemed to be going last summer.

I remember that, when I asked the question in May 2003, we were in a situation where industry leaders were learning what was happening through the media, while the minister, who kept saying that he had played a leadership role in coordinating the negotiation on the Canadian side, had told them nothing.

Today we want to ensure that this does not happen again. Can the government give us assurances that there will be no negotiations where we would make too many concessions? We will win the softwood lumber dispute, but we must ensure that plant workers can go on working in their industry.

What is difficult at this time is that several regions such as Témiscouata, Les Basques, Kamouraska and Rivière-du-Loup are suffering the consequences of this softwood lumber crisis and, for several months, have been facing the prospect of finding themselves in dire straits. The profitability of plants is a real problem.

Several employers have been exemplary in the way they have dealt with the situation, but the fact remains that there are expectations with regard to the federal government's position. We want to be sure that there is real support for businesses as well as an extension of the regional economic diversification program to deal with the softwood lumber crisis.

Can the government give us assurances that it will take concrete measures so that we can get out of this crisis? There are still several local stakeholders, particularly small sawmills, that are being hit very hard by the current crisis.

Criminal CodeAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

Dufferin—Peel—Wellington—Grey Ontario


Murray Calder LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to respond to the questions of the hon. member across the way. I would like to say too that the member has worked very hard on this file, as has the Government of Canada.

As I have said in the House before, this dispute is the most significant trade challenge facing Canadians today. The member also knows that this dispute has gone on for many years.

In the most recent action, the U.S. Department of Commerce has imposed 27% countervailing and anti-dumping duties on imports of Canadian softwood lumber following the expiry of the softwood lumber agreement of 2001.

Throughout this dispute, the Government of Canada has consistently provided strong leadership to Canadians. That leadership is rooted in our strong and ongoing commitment to consult with all provinces and industries affected by the dispute and our resolve to defend the interests of affected Canadian lumber companies, the people they employ, and the communities they are located in.

That leadership is reflected in our legal challenges of the U.S. actions. We have cooperated closely with Canadian stakeholders in our challenges of the final determinations of subsidy and threat of injury before both the World Trade Organization and the North American Free Trade Agreement. Canada is also challenging the final determination of dumping before the WTO, in close consultation with Canadian industry, while Canadian producers have taken the lead in challenging the dumping action before NAFTA.

The Government of Canada has also exercised leadership in working closely with the provinces and the industry in discussions with the United States that are aimed at finding a fair and reasonable agreement which will bring about a durable resolution of the lumber dispute.

The government has worked closely with the provinces during discussions with the U.S. government on a U.S. Department of Commerce policy bulletin that would guide changed circumstance reviews of the countervailing duty on Canadian softwood lumber. Throughout these discussions, which focused on provincial policy, we were able to maintain a united Canadian front. We are continuing to work together to press the U.S. to include a Quebec example in the policy bulletin.

The government has been working hard to find a resolution to the dispute in the form of an interim measure that would replace U.S. duties pending provincial policy changes and changed circumstance reviews. Throughout these efforts we have worked closely with provincial governments and Canadian industry, which are and have been supportive of the federal leadership.

The leadership exercised by the Government of Canada has resulted in a highly unified Canadian approach to the softwood lumber dispute and we plan to continue with this approach. There are differences of view at times and this dispute is a complex and difficult one too, but we intend to continue with our approach of close consultation with the provinces and the industry.

As part of that ongoing commitment, the Minister for International Trade met numerous times with representatives from the industry, the provinces and municipalities. The government has also demonstrated leadership in its ongoing efforts to ensure that Canada's concerns in this dispute are heard by Americans. We have maintained a vigorous campaign to demonstrate to U.S. decision makers and the U.S. public that there is no basis for the duties and that these duties are harmful to American businesses and homeowners who need quality Canadian lumber at a fair price.

Criminal CodeAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, of course, the public will base its assessment of the government's performance on its capacity to find a sustainable long term solution, especially for the regions hard hit by the softwood lumber crisis. We have to avoid making the same mistakes every five years. The government will be assessed on its capacity to get back the more than $1.5 billion our companies have already paid in compensation. If we win the case, we have to ensure that the companies get their money back so that they can invest, modernize their operations and keep getting more productive.

With the Canadian dollar rising, can the government give the assurance that additional measures will be taken, that there will be a second phase to its plan to help businesses, besides the economic diversification assistance for the regions? If the crisis lasts for more than another three months, a lot of stakeholders, of sawmills will disappear.

Will the federal government add something to its current business assistance program to ensure that we will get this $1.5 billion back and try to find a long term solution to the softwood lumber crisis?

Criminal CodeAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.


Murray Calder Liberal Dufferin—Peel—Wellington—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I have said before to the hon. member across the way, our approach has always been a two tracked approach. We first went to the WTO and the NAFTA. We have been very successful on that track. The second track is the track we have been working on in consultation with the provinces, the industries and municipalities.

On the issue of the rising value of the dollar, of course we will be going back and talking to the industry to find out the best way possible for it to address that issue and, with the ongoing negotiations with the United States, to come to the best long term solution to the problem.

Criminal CodeAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to talk about a serious issue affecting not only my community but also Ontario and other parts of the country.

Specifically, I asked a question about coal-fired plants and the effect they have on our communities and on our air quality and also what they do to our international relations. We have just had a discussion on softwood lumber disputes, but we also have a disruption happening because of transboundary pollution.

In Windsor, Ontario, we actually suffer some of the worst air quality at different times because of transboundary air pollution coming from the Ohio Valley and across Michigan. We have all kinds of issues related to smog as well as the environmental conditions that affect people's health because this actually affects the water, the soil and also the air we breathe.

One of the situations we have in Canada is that in Ontario we have some of the worst coal-fired plants in this area. They are actually affecting the State of New York. The State of New York is receiving a lot of pollution from Ontario and this country, to the point where New York's attorney general, Eliot Spitzer, wants three coal-fired plants in southern Ontario to be shut down on their emissions because they are causing major damage to the state's environmental public health.

Mr. Spitzer actually filed a complaint with the Commission for Environmental Cooperation set up under the North American Free Trade Agreement. He wants the board to investigate the pollution output of three coal-fired plants in particular.

Actually, a coalition of 40 groups and organizations are involved in this, but we have not seen the federal government come forward with its position, to make sure that there are going to be supports to phase out these plants.

We recently had a provincial election in Ontario in which the Liberal Party of Ontario promised at election time to phase them out by 2007, I believe, but now they seem to be waffling a little. I think that now is the time for the federal government to help eliminate these coal-fired plants and convert them or use other alternatives, which are outlined in a number of different initiatives. That could be quite possible.

One quote I have to note is this one from Mr. Spitzer:

Ontario's massive coal-fired power plants operate with wholly inadequate pollution controls and are a major factor contributing to acid rain and respiratory disease in New York and throughout the northeast.

This is a problem that is identified not only by Spitzer and the Americans who are doing something on this; the coalition even involves Canadian groups. We also have other groups and organizations in Ontario, such as the Ontario Public Health Association, that are calling for the elimination of these plants.

Also, in regard to the Ontario economy, it costs billions of dollars each year because of the smog and air congestion we face from the plants.

My question for the government is about what specifically it can do seeing that we have signed the Kyoto agreement and seeing that reductions of these emissions themselves would have a significant effect on the overall situation if our country met the obligations of the commitment which we as the New Democratic Party support. Why will the government not be proactive and move on the issue as opposed to just letting it drag on?

Criminal CodeAdjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.

York South—Weston Ontario


Alan Tonks LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada is well aware of the points that the hon. member has raised. I thank the hon. member this evening for once again reminding us that the outmoded coal-fired power plants in Ontario in fact have to be looked at and that we must be vigilant in terms of reducing the particulates that are creating a health hazard. The member has made that point very well.

The government is very concerned about pollutants that are being released and their effect on the health of Canadians. That is why three years ago the Canadian government signed the Ozone Annex agreement for air quality with the United States to reduce by 2007 those particulates that are creating the health hazard which has been described. In fact the target is to reduce those particulates by 60% to 80% from those coal-fired plants.

The air emissions resulting from energy generation from coal-fired plants contribute to all the current environmental air quality priorities for Canada in fact. That is climate change, acid rain, as has been mentioned, smog and air toxins.

Need I remind the House that the environment is a shared jurisdiction between the federal government, the provinces and the territories in Canada. However, a broad national framework has been established for air quality management to avoid duplication and to rationalize our responses.

Historically, provinces have been regulating emissions from power plants. However, the federal government could exercise jurisdiction in certain instances. In this case it is our preferred approach that Ontario deals with these emissions. As has been pointed out, there is a new government in the province of Ontario and hopefully that new government wants to find a reasonable path of implementing a rationalized approach to the technology being used to replace those coal-fired plants.

We are thus working very closely with the province to determine whether that government can prevent, control or correct nitrogen oxide emissions under its laws. Ontario has already taken some regulatory actions toward reducing emissions from fossil-fuelled power plants.

However, as has been pointed out, there is no question that more actions need to be taken. The Minister of the Environment is watching this carefully and if we need to, we will be considering whether to step in to ensure we meet our Ozone Annex commitments.

That is not all. We have had tremendous success reducing other emissions like acid rain by working with the provinces. Ontario has committed to a further sulphur dioxide reduction of 50% under the Canada-wide acid rain strategy. These are just a few of the initiatives that have been taken.

The international air quality agreement, pilot studies with Puget Sound and the Georgia Basin and the Great Lakes air quality agreement are parts of the total framework that focuses on the issue which has been outlined by the hon. member, and the government is prepared to continue to act and to work very closely with the provinces.

Criminal CodeAdjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I hope we can look at this jurisdiction issue and, if something does not happen soon, that we move strongly on that. I would encourage the government to do so.

Just to remind Canadians, regarding the emissions from this coal, we had solutions. Anyone can check out the new supply options for Ontario at the Ontario Clean Air Alliance. There are all kinds of options we can choose from to change our energy. However, coal-fired plants introduce nitrogen oxide, sulphur dioxide, mercury and heavy metals into the air. That impacts not only the individuals in those areas, but also individuals in the rest of the country. Another thing is it produces dioxins and dioxins interfere with the development of children and with adult reproductive systems.

These are known factors. I believe it is very important that the government move quickly on this and it can do so because it has jurisdiction. It sets a poor example for us in international standards. We know we should work toward our relationship with the United States. By being proactive, we show good faith so we can have clean air for all of us.

Criminal CodeAdjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.


Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member has made the point very well; that is, that under all our commitments, be they related to Kyoto, or to reducing greenhouse gases or to our clean air agreements, we must use the best available technology. We must have the best legislative architecture in place that is not hampered or held back by jurisdictional issues. We must use the best available technology in terms of replacing the source, especially in the large industrial emitters and the power plants, and coming up with solutions. The public demands that we be seen to do that very quickly.

I can assure the member, as I attempted to say in my statement, that the minister will be monitoring this very closely and reporting from time to time to the environment committee and to the House on the progress that we are achieving.

Criminal CodeAdjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:49 p.m.)