Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this private member's motion today. Perhaps the member understands my interest in this after what the Progressive Conservative Party went through last week at its convention. A proposal was made indicating that the free trade agreement should be reviewed and it seemed to catch the attention of the media.
I have taken stock here today and I note that there are four parties in the House who are taking this issue even further than we suggested at our convention. We suggested the free trade agreement should be reviewed by a blue ribbon committee, but at least four parties in the House have said it should be renegotiated, far more than the Conservative Party ever considered. I hope the media, who was critical of our position on this issue, is watching this today.
Motion No. 391 points out aspects of the free trade agreement that need to be reviewed. Questions in the last two weeks have focused on international trade with the United States which again points out problems with the NAFTA agreement. Nobody is suggesting that it be thrown out or backed up or redone.
I listened to members from three parties on this issue. I understand the NDP supports this motion which calls for a renegotiation of NAFTA. The Progressive Conservative Party is not going that far. We think it should be reviewed. On the other hand, however, there are examples of why it should be reviewed. Softwood lumber, the potato issue, steel, and durum wheat are good reasons why the agreement should be reviewed.
These are some of the problems with regard to free trade with the United States. This gives me reason to believe that maybe some things could be improved in the agreement. This is a timely debate for me. It was interesting to hear that four parties out of five, and I am not sure about the fifth party, agree with my party that the free trade agreement should at least be reviewed.
The Progressive Conservative Party brought in free trade and the benefits for Canada have been huge. Each province has benefited from free trade. My own province of Nova Scotia has experienced a 211% increase in trade with the U.S. between 1988 and 2002, and it continues to grow. Ontario has experienced an increase of 200%; Manitoba 335%; and Alberta 380% since free trade came in. These are huge increases and they are reflected in an enormous number of new jobs. Imagine what it would be like if we did not have these increases because of free trade.
However, nothing is perfect. As the international trade critic, I know that things are not perfect with the free trade agreement, but hopefully they can be improved. After 10 or 12 years the agreement should be reviewed, and the Progressive Conservative Party fully intends to do that and hopefully come back to the House with some recommendations that will enhance it. Perhaps the government will adopt those recommendations.
Today's proposal deals with one of the most controversial aspects of free trade which is the investment side of it. From my own personal experience and my contacts with people across the country, this aspect raises more concern than anything.
We welcome the opportunity to participate in the debate. As I said, the Progressive Conservative Party would make this a part of our overall review of the free trade agreement which will be announced shortly. The troublesome aspect of the investment part, the lack of transparency, and the unfair treatment from country to country will be addressed.
The Progressive Conservative Party endorses this motion as well as an extended review.