Debates of March 23rd, 2004
House of Commons Hansard #27 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was tariffs.
- Order in Council Appointments
- Committees of the House
- Questions on the Order Paper
- Customs Tariff
- The Environment
- The Budget
- The Environment
- RAI International
- Government of Canada
- Jewish Community
- Epilepsy Awareness Month
- Toronto Jewish Community
- Toronto Jewish Community
- Pay Equity
- Festival du film de l'Outaouais
- Youth Criminal Justice Act
- Sara Corning
- Bell Island
- Sponsorship Program
- Softwood Lumber
- Sponsorship Program
- Foreign Affairs
- Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act
- St. Lawrence Seaway
- The Senate
- Border Crossings
- Foreign Affairs
- Softwood Lumber
- Fisheries and Oceans
- Public Service
- Canadian Wheat Board
- Royal Canadian Mounted Police
- RAI International
- Aboriginal Affairs
- Foreign Affairs
- Sponsorship Program
- Gasoline Prices
- Presence in Gallery
- Customs Tariff
- The Budget
John M. Cummins Delta—South Richmond, BC
No, Mr. Speaker, this amendment to the Customs Tariff would simply extend the life of the tariffs that are in place.
The member raises an important issue. Many of the jobs that he suggested are good jobs. They are jobs that we should be training young Canadians to do. When we look at and read some of the statistics, we are going to be short of many skilled workers, whether they be carpenters, plumbers or electricians, and certainly textile workers as well. It does not matter.
It is one of the issues that is important. Yet, when we look at the failure of the government to advance some substantive legislative agendas which would deal with some of these real problems that we as Canadians have, it causes one almost to break faith with the system.
We have some serious problems that cannot be addressed simply by fast-tracking legislation like this through the Commons, saying that it is okay, that it will be dealt with, and then move on.
Yves Rocheleau Trois-Rivières, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to take part in this debate which, as you know, deals with an important and complex issue.
For the benefit of the Chair and of those who are listening to us, I will mention the fundamentals of this legislation. This bill extends to June 30, 2014 those sections of the Customs Tariff that allow Canada to provide a preferential tariff for imports from WTO member states and from the least developed countries.
The fact that we are talking about the WTO, the World Trade Organization, about less developed countries and about foreign trade shows that globalization is increasingly present, whether it is through the trading and exchange of goods, contacts between parliamentarians, or global communications.
This situation impacts on the role of a sovereign government such as the Canadian government with regard to two of its main responsibilities. The first of these responsibilities is the fight against poverty that should take place on this planet, in this world, but is not conducted properly. We know that the gap between the rich and the poor is increasing, possibly because of this globalization. So, the fight against poverty must be a concern for this government.
There is a second responsibility and it is economic development, the development of prosperity, raising the quality of life, improving the well-being of the population, and thus encouraging a better distribution of wealth within Canada itself.
In a context like this, with respect to a bill, we can see that sometimes these two responsibilities can clash. They are not necessarily complementary, not at all.
On the one hand, we must be aware that the international war on poverty is a necessity. When we now speak not only about developing countries but also about the least developed countries, it means that we have become more subtle in our approach or analysis of the situation that exists on the international scene with regard to the balance between wealth and poverty, knowing that, as I said just now, unfortunately and for reasons that have nothing to do with the Holy Ghost, we are watching the widening of the gulf between the rich and the poor.
Thus, the situation is becoming more and more dramatic. When we talk about the least developed countries, we mean 49 countries, of which 34 are in Africa. I had the privilege and opportunity of travelling to Africa once again last month, at the invitation of the International Development Research Centre, which is an agency of CIDA, if I understand correctly. We went to Senegal for a meeting of African parliamentarians from a dozen countries. One of them—if memory serves, it was a colleague from Senegal—in his speech at the end of the deliberations reminded the assembly that, and I quote, “Africa is not poor; Africa has been impoverished”.
That being said, Africa having been impoverished—and I agree with the statement that Africa is not poor but has been impoverished—that is where Canada comes into this impoverishment and where it has an obvious moral responsibility to take the necessary steps to try to improve the situation.
The figures vary, but we know that, at the very least, there are millions of Africans whose average salary is $1 per hour, in our terms. That is one example that illustrates the unacceptable nature of the situation. This is the kind of poverty that has been growing in recent decades.
The reasons seem obvious when you are there. There are very few processing plants, yet there is an abundance of natural resources. In addition, the prices for products such as cocoa are set in Western capitals and fluctuate constantly. Accordingly, Africans end up entirely at the mercy of irresponsible decision-makers.
These people report to no one. Furthermore, they are practically unknown. It is because of market forces that we have quickly ended up with the situation described to me, in which the cost of production exceeds the sale price of certain products on the market. The situation is becoming really terrible.
Globally, there is an increasing realization that Africa is going through a type of decline. In terms of international gross national product, Africa is trailing behind. This is absolutely unacceptable, especially when we know what natural resources are available in this wonderful and captivating continent.
I had the privilege of visiting Gorée Island in Dakar. We must not forget that the development of the Americas, especially North America, was due in large part—much to our shame—to the contribution of millions upon millions of Africans who were made slaves and transported here in unspeakable and revolting conditions. America must never forget the disgraceful past that was instrumental in its current development, development which continues to the detriment and on the backs of nearly all the other continents in the world, South America and Africa in particular.
The Canadian government's first responsibility is to implement measures to fight world poverty. Its second responsibility is to promote the economic development of Canada and its people. This is where there may be conflict between these two major responsibilities. The government must do this in the current context, according to international accords and trade agreements. In my opinion, it must do this by taking measures to try as much as possible to protect jobs and help workers adapt to such economic and socio-economic upheaval.
If nothing is done, if the market is left to its own devices, we run the enormous risk of seeing the globalization of poverty, as others have already written and described. We must fight against this phenomenon.
I want to talk about what is happening just in my region. I am the member for Trois-Rivières. I can name the companies that have closed their doors since the 1970s—I was testing my memory earlier—in greater Trois-Rivières for reasons that might be attributed to globalization or international trade, since this is not a new phenomenon.
I am thinking of Associated Textile in Louiseville or Wabasso in Trois-Rivières and Shawinigan. I am thinking of Rubin and Utex in Victoriaville. I am thinking of Le Culottier in Batiscan, which was a very important jeans manufacturer. I am thinking of Fruit of the Loom, which closed its doors and had employed 600 women in its textile mill in Trois-Rivières. These are only five or six companies. This amounts easily to 4,000 to 6,000 jobs lost for reasons related to international trade.
These are not empty words. These are very concrete things that affect the lives of our fellow citizens. We must be aware of just how delicate this situation is.
Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting the directors of a clothing company in my region that shall remain nameless. It has been operating for over 100 years. The directors are extremely anxious about the abolition of tariffs in January 2005, particularly with regard to competition from Bangladesh and China.
If no steps are taken, all scenarios will have to be looked at. They are likely, at worst, to resort to heavy lay-offs, if not actual plant closures. This would contribute to a still larger problem; in the garment industry alone there would be 97,000 Canadian jobs affected, 75,000 in Quebec. Hon. members will have grasped the significance these matters have for Quebec. For instance, that company in my region that will be threatened if the government does nothing. The government needs to be aware of the situation, more aware than it seems to be at present, and more aware than it has been, its former Minister of International Trade in particular.
What people are calling for is preferential treatment for manufacturers over importers. Manufacturers are the ones who create added value, who create jobs, and who process raw materials. It seems that textile and garment manufacturers and importers are being put on the same footing. These are very important concepts, and the manufacturers need to receive better treatment in future.
Then there is a second suggestion I have passed on to the new Minister of International Trade, which is that the government just use common sense, while avoiding protectionism. The federal government, like all provincial and municipal governments and government agencies throughout Canada, should encourage buying domestic products. Until some other solution were found, such as a slight percentage of protection—let us call a spade a spade here—it could at least ensure that Quebec or Canadian products were purchased by institutions paid for by the taxpayer.
As for the private sector, it can decide for itself. As far as the government sector is concerned, however, public interest dictates that public funds be used to buy domestic goods and services. This must at least apply to federal institutions and all government agencies.
There are therefore some steps that need to be taken on the domestic front, but it will also be necessary to restore certain programs that were in place before the terrible battle to attain zero deficit resulted in wholesale cuts in 1994. One particular cut was to POWA, the program for older worker adjustment, which was formerly WAT, the work adjustment training program. That, moreover, was only for textile and garment industry workers.
This program was changed to serve older workers in general. It seems that back then the government cared more about the plight of these workers and businesses. There was a program, known as the WAT, designed specifically for workers in the textile and clothing industry. With the liberalization of markets, such a program should be restored to protect the interests of Canadian workers. The government must assume its responsibilities, not only in the fight against poverty at the international level, but also as regards the preservation of social peace, the protection of workers and jobs, economic development and social harmony.
It must also promote, as it did at the time, adjustment measures for workers. The business to which I was referring, whose officials came to see me, finds it all the more frustrating because in recent years it has spent huge amounts of money on manpower training to adjust to the new market reality. It has also made huge investments in more modern equipment. With the changes that are coming all this is put in jeopardy, even though that company assumed its responsibilities while taking into account its corporate interests on the one hand and the interests of its workers on the other hand.
So, as I mentioned, the government must take some measures at the domestic level. It must also do something about international assistance. Canada must do more to achieve the UN objective of 0.7% of the gross domestic product for international development assistance.
We are currently at 2.7 of 1%, or one third of the objective set. Clearly, the Canadian government could make an effort, in conjunction with other countries, to ensure that international assistance is more significant and it could take measures to also ensure that this assistance does reach those who truly need it.
The government could be a better corporate citizen of the world by signing agreements and treaties on working and living conditions, including under the aegis of the International Labour Organization. Canada has not signed some very important treaties on child labour and women's work.
With this legislation, the government is giving access to products that were made by children working under abject conditions. There are treaties dealing with this situation. Some countries have adopted a code to which the Canadian government does not adhere. These are measures that it could take to improve the situation.
Therefore, we must go in this direction. We must be aware that when we talk of globalization, it is possible to see it in a positive light, but if this continues, if globalization is driven by private interests instead of the public interest of the world, we will be talking more and more about the globalization of poverty. It is happening and will happen more and more at the expense of social solidarity in even its most minimal form. That is a very bad sign for the generations to come.
Ted White North Vancouver, BC
Mr. Speaker, again I hear in the discussion on this bill talk of protectionism and of ways to improve the working and living conditions for people in third world countries. I heard the member say that the Quebec government should encourage Quebeckers to buy local products. I think that is perhaps a component of helping the marketplace, but it is completely the wrong approach, in my opinion.
What I think local governments should be doing, the Quebec government or the British Columbia government, or the Vermont government for that matter, is encouraging their citizens to send gifts of the very best products from that province or state to their friends and their relatives overseas to help expand the market for the product. They should not be insular and just encourage the people in their own regions to buy a product. That does not improve the marketplace. It does not improve the variety for the consumers. All it does is create a protectionist atmosphere where they do not want to let anyone else in.
The best way to do it is to try to get people to expand the marketplace. If I were in charge of an advertising campaign for a product in British Columbia, I would not be advertising for BCers to buy homegrown product. I would be saying that they would get a coupon for a discount if they send homegrown product to a relative in Quebec or a relative in Florida. Then it would be an extra coupon for that relative to buy some more. That is how we expand markets at a global level and make it better for the business in the province.
When we talk about things like improving the working conditions in the third world for the women and children the hon. gentleman talked about, let us we look back at the working conditions in a place like the United Kingdom, in England, as we went into the 1900s. There were little boys working as chimney sweeps, climbing up inside chimneys. The majority of the population in England lived in the sort of poverty and conditions that the third world is in today.
How did it improve? Because governments encouraged initiative, training and free markets. If we look at the conditions of a country, we will see time after time after time that the countries that trade freely, that encourage free trade and that encourage initiative are the ones that have the high living standards and the good working conditions.
We are not going to improve the lot of people in third world countries by trying to protect our own markets. We have to open up our markets, remove the tariffs and encourage those countries to export to us.
Yves Rocheleau Trois-Rivières, QC
Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to point out to my colleague that I never mentioned the Government of Quebec as such. On the contrary, I spoken about the federal government, provincial governments, the municipal level and crown corporations in general, who should pay particular attention to Canadian and Quebec products.
One example I could give is from the apparel sector where, it seems, Canada's Department of National Defence has a buy-Canadian policy, but the Department of Immigration shows no awareness or sensitivity in this regard.
It is not fashionable to be a protectionist. We must open our borders, but we must not be naive, all the same. We must also look at what our western competitors are doing. We must ask ourselves if all our western competitors are playing by the rules. If we are the only ones, we must not be naive, nor should we be overly optimistic as it seems the former Minister of International Trade was.
We must be vigilant and make certain that the public interest of Quebec and Canada is respected, without having people laugh at us, as we enter fully into the new globalization and free trade game.
Ted White North Vancouver, BC
Mr. Speaker, we have had a very interesting debate today. When we started this morning, nobody expected it would move along this way, but it has been certainly interesting.
The Conservative Party will support the bill because we support free trade. However, this has given all of us an opportunity to talk in a wider frame about free trade and the sorts of problems that do or do not occur.
Before continuing on Bill C-21, I would like to mention an exchange that took place a little earlier between myself and a member of the NDP. He talked about unfair competition and that if there was unfair competition, we would surely want to have protection in place for the companies that were subjected to this unfair competition.
That hits pretty close to home. Prior to being a member of Parliament, I was in business for myself. I had a company with 10 employees, and at one stage in the 1980's, we were in the facsimile business, selling fax machines. That was about the time when Office Depot and Staples started expanding into British Columbia. They were opening stores in the Vancouver area where I was selling fax machines. Suddenly people could buy fax machines from Staples and Office Depot for a couple of hundred dollars less than the fax machines I sold.
I guess my colleague from the NDP would probably argue that was unfair competition. This big box store was coming in taking away the livelihood of my employees and all the stuff that went along with it. However, I did not look at it that way.
When we say it is unfair, unfair for whom? It was wonderful for consumers. Now they could buy a product at $200 less than they could from me and more people could afford it. As a result, Office Depot and Staples could employ many more people than I could. They could sell the types of products that they could bring into the marketplace, which the small retailers could not.
Instead of crying, weeping, going to government and demanding and asking for help to protect my business, I sat down and took a look at what Staples and Office Depot could not do that I could as a small business entrepreneur. I discovered that my technicians were trained to service the fax machines, and they could service the machines that were sold by Staples and Office Depot. What is more, the market became bigger because Office Depot and Staples were selling a lot more fax machines than I ever could, so we had more servicing opportunities than we ever had before.
I also looked around at products. We chose a line of specialty telephone equipment that Staples and Office Depot could not sell because it was too complicated and required too much pre-selling for a customer to understand how it would be beneficial.
There are always ways for an innovative business person to move aside from problems that are created by a free marketplace and to find something else that works. It is called niche marketing and it works really well. That is why Northern Telecom is so successful. It is in a niche market. It started at a time when virtually no one serviced that part of the telecommunication equipment market. It has become the world leader in the supply of telecommunication equipment.
When we talk about bills like this one and the whole environment of free trade, we have to remember that free trade has really and truly helped countries like Canada. All of the other countries of the world that have opened their borders now have higher living standards, better wages and just generally a better environment because of free trade.
I left this example until after I had given my own personal example. One of the Bloc members earlier talked about a manufacturer of paper bags in his riding who was distressed because those bags could now be made more cheaply in China. I assume this manufacturer has complained to his member of Parliament about this terrible state of affairs and has asked what the government can do to protect his paper bag manufacturing plant.
I am making some assumptions, but I think they are a reasonable assumption. The correct approach is to be honest with that manufacturer and tell him that the government policy is free trade and that he will have to work out a way to make his business work in this environment, not with government subsidies, not with protection from tariffs. Rather he should look at what he is manufacturing.
If somebody else is knocking him out of the marketplace, he should find something else to make. Perhaps he can make a specialty plastic bag, one of those wine carriers we see being sold a lot now. They are very much in vogue. There is string attached, and it is a nice type of plastic bag or paper bag in which to carry our wine when we go out to visit someone for dinner. There could be gift bags. There could be a whole range of different options for that manufacturer to get back into the marketplace in an niche market that cannot be touched by China because it is too small for that mass market and yet very profitable. There are other examples like this, too.
I am originally from New Zealand. As hon. members would know, in the mid-nineties New Zealand went bankrupt. What happened? It had to remove almost all the subsidies and grants that were given to farmers in New Zealand. My goodness, there was a lot of wailing, weeping and moaning about what would happen, and certainly a number of farmers went bankrupt. However, within 10 years there were three times as many farmers in New Zealand as there were prior to the removal of subsidies because farming had suddenly become profitable. Farmers were able to use their initiative to find niche markets.
At one stage some farmers in New Zealand were providing most of the mozzarella for Pizza Hut in the United States. They discovered they could make a quality mozzarella at the right price to fill that niche market. Farmers had been making orange cheddar previously, which everybody made, and governments filled warehouses full of cheddar that nobody needed. It was wonderful. The New Zealand farmers were forced into the position of getting off that government reliance and on to the idea of niche markets.
I do not know if hon. members have ever been there, but they should take a trip to New Zealand, go to a supermarket and take a look at the dairy department. They will be astounded at the variety and choice in that supermarket. There are so many cottage industries in the dairy industry making specialty cheeses for the yuppie market, I suppose we could call it. In addition, there are flavoured whipping creams in New Zealand. We can get kahlua whipping cream and grand marnier whipping cream. We cannot even get that in Canada because it is still illegal to sell alcohol added to those products. It is not that simple, but the removal of subsidies and grants has spawned an industry and initiative that was never there before.
I will give a home grown example. In British Columbia in the early 1980s the wine industry was heavily subsidized. Anyone who grew grapes would be guaranteed to get a huge government subsidy to stay in business. Everybody knew the wine was absolutely awful. Everybody knew it was dreadful stuff. The government of Bill Bennett at the time removed the subsidies.
Other colleagues from British Columbia will remember the screaming, yelling, wailing and moaning. Everyone was going out of business. It would be just awful. What has happened? It encouraged the industry to take a long, hard look at itself, to get rid of the junk grapes that it was growing, to start growing quality grapes and to get good winemakers from around the world. Winemakers came from France, New Zealand, Italy and Germany to help the industry develop, and now look at it today. British Columbia produces world-class wine.
Governments do not do anybody any favours by providing grants and subsidies to business. It stifles initiative and it stifles a choice in the community for consumers. It keeps prices high. If they wanted, everybody in the House could have a BlackBerry and most people could have a computer at home because of free markets that allow those products to be manufactured at a low enough price for the average person to buy in a store in Canada.
I can remember when a computer could only be purchased from a specialty store and cost $12,000. When my business purchased its first computer in 1979, it cost more than $12,000. Very few people even sold a computer. It had 12 inch floppy discs that we put into it. Only 80K of information was held on one of these great big discs, and it cost $12,000.
I had a Future Shop flyer in front of me earlier today. We can buy a desktop computer now, with a monitor and with 2.8 gigabytes of storage, for $499. What produces that sort of situation is free and open markets.
That is why at the end of the day we will be supporting the bill, because we truly believe in open markets and the reduction of tariffs. In fact, the only thing I am unhappy about with the bill is that it does not remove the tariffs completely. It maintains in place preferential treatment for some countries and less preferential treatment for others. At least it has been a step along the way, because when I immigrated to Canada in 1979 it was very much like New Zealand had been earlier with lots of protective tariffs in place and very high prices for a lot of products. It certainly is a much better environment today.
Before I finish, I need to mention something that was mentioned earlier by some of my colleagues and that is the unholy rush in which the bill is being pushed through the House. The government must have seen this situation coming up at least a year or two ago. There was a sunset clause on these tariffs. Everyone knew they were to expire very soon. Why did the government leave it until so close to the expiry date? The expiry date was to be June 30 this year. No one can tell me that no one in government recognized a year ago that this was going to happen.
Why did the government leave the bill until two or three weeks before an election call to bring it to the House? Now we are rushing the bill through without proper consideration of alternatives in order to make sure that it can stay in place when we go to an election and the House will not be here to make sure that it is done prior to June. This is typical of what has been happening in the House over the last few weeks.
I have been working on Bill C-3 which deals with the definition of political parties. That bill was introduced in the House when we came back after prorogation. The minister persuaded us that he wanted it to go to committee before second reading so that we could study the bill and make wise amendments to it and so on.
The minister indicated that he was truly interested in hearing input, that we were in a new era, that we would be getting rid of the deficit of democracy around this place. What happened when we went to committee on Bill C-3, the very first question I asked the minister was whether he or his department had contacted anybody affected by the bill and his answer, incredibly, was no.
Here we were with a bill already before committee prior to second reading. It had only been introduced and it went straight to committee and the minister had not even told the people affected by the bill that it was in process. Why? He wanted it through quickly because if it is not in place by June, it is a similar sort of situation. We have the Supreme Court of Canada ruling that the Elections Act will fall apart if we do not have an amendment in place by June, so the minister is panicking to get this bill in place and through the Senate.
In fact, the bill was supposed to come back today. The minister tried to get unanimous consent in the House to waive the customary three days' notice to bring it back and to put it on the Order Paper today. He could not get that consent, but there is this rush to get the bill back into the House because the government knows it is running out of time. It wants to get it through before the election call. Instead of having proper consideration of the bill, informing the people who will be affected by it, getting some news releases out and making the public aware of the bill, he is trying to get it through as quickly as possible with the fewest people possible noticing as well.
In committee I asked the minister if he had notified anyone. His response was no. I asked if we were getting any witnesses. His response was no. It ended up that the opposition, the Conservative Party, had to filibuster in order to get some witnesses, to even be able to tell the people affected by the bill that it was happening.
We filibustered in the committee and about a week later we managed to get the Chief Electoral Officer in as a witness. Also, at my request, the head of the Communist Party of Canada was able to come from Toronto. However, the government would not allow anyone else from the small parties, such as the Green Party, who would be affected by the bill.
The two witnesses gave their testimony. The Chief Electoral Officer raised some terrible problems with the bill and suggested some very wise amendments. Right after the witnesses appeared, the minister wanted us to go ahead and do the clause by clause study of the bill. We had to threaten filibustering again in order to even consider the evidence given by the witnesses.
Some very wise amendments were suggested by the Chief Electoral Officer. We met again a few days later in committee with the minister having given an indication he was open to discussion about the amendments but in the end he would not approve any of them.
What a futile exercise it turned out to be in the same sort of circumstance as this bill. It is rushing through legislation without proper consideration, without hearing witnesses and without giving proper amendments so a faulty piece of legislation will be back in the House, I am sure, in the next few days. It is going to be rammed through the House so that we can go to an election and it is crammed with problems.
The Chief Electoral Officer said that Bill C-3 is forcing him into a position where he will have to make judgments about the purposes of political parties. In order to register them he would have to determine whether the Liberal Party of Canada, for example, actually has a purpose.
Mr. Speaker, how would you like to be in that position? That single person who is supposed to be non-partisan, completely independent of any of the political parties will be put in a position of having to determine and then sign off on paperwork that he is satisfied that the political party he is registering has a political purpose. That is the type of legislation we are getting because of this unholy rush to get things through before an election.
I realize that the bill before us is not quite as bad. It deals with a situation that has been well discussed in the past. It deals with free trade. It certainly has given us an opportunity, as I mentioned, to talk a fair bit about free trade today and to get some of our concerns on the table. We have heard a variety of opinions expressed today.
There are some who would like to see us move back to more protectionism. The members of the Bloc, whom I like to call the NDP of Quebec, would like to side with the NDP and see more protectionism. They think that would be helpful but it is not. All of the evidence that a person can gather shows that protectionism destroys jobs. Protectionism reduces consumer selection and choice. Protectionism increases prices for the consumer and it does not help people's living conditions or working standards.
The best way to achieve those goals is to have the type of environment that Bill C-21 produces, an environment of lower tariffs, freer trade and more opportunity.
Brian Masse Windsor West, ON
Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to my colleague's discussion about tariffs and trade. It is an interesting topic that certainly has dominated a lot of discussion in Ontario and across the country. It also opens up some longstanding problems that we have especially when we look south of the border to the United States.
I come from, Windsor, Ontario. We have seen free trade affect our community through the border crossings as well as through the manufacturing industry and in particular the automotive industry.
It is important for me to outline what happened. Signing on to free trade killed the auto pact and put us in the situation we are in today where of the last 18 auto assembly manufacturing plants, only one has come to Canada. There have been several problems with that situation. That is very relevant because one in 7.5 jobs in Canada, and one in six in Ontario, are related specifically to the auto industry.
The United States has put in massive subsidies to steal jobs from Canadians in the auto sector. They literally pour in hundreds of millions of dollars to ensure that plants go to the United States. It happened in the southern states, in Alabama, Missouri and others. Now it is happening in the northern states. Michigan recently received a plant for hybrid engines for DaimlerChrysler. They offered tens of millions of dollars of subsidies to be able to procure the plant, thus eliminating the option for communities in our country.
I would like the hon. member to address this situation. I have asked the government to at least challenge under the free trade agreement this subsidization of the auto industry that the U.S. is doing to steal the jobs, or to address the problem that we have.
What do we do when these companies demand hundreds of millions of dollars and then the United States provides those dollars and we lose those opportunities in our country? What do we do about that? We have been specifically told by those companies that taxation and health care do not interest them. What interests them is the subsidization that they get from the United States.
Ted White North Vancouver, BC
Mr. Speaker, I gave an example earlier about when I was in business for myself and my market share disappeared because competition arrived. The competition was in Vancouver which is across the harbour from North Vancouver, but it is the same principle as the border that runs between Canada and the United States. We can carry these arguments to the extreme and say to only buy stuff in North Vancouver to protect the North Vancouver industries and do not dare go across the bridge and buy something from the Staples store on the other side. It is the same principle.
What the member wants to do is to protect the industries in his region at the expense of the industries in my region. That is what it amounts to. I will give him an example.
Free trade, when it was introduced, opened up enormous opportunities for companies in my region. I have a friend who owns one and he could not trade in or export to the United States because of the tariff blocks. When Canada came into NAFTA and removed those tariffs, suddenly it opened for him that huge market of 200 million people that he could not get into before. He sells a very specialized type of equipment for the automotive industry to do with the painting of automobiles, drying and baking the enamel for small repairs. He has turned a small cottage business into an employer of hundreds of people with markets all around the world now because of the opportunity that came from the reduction of those tariffs.
I say again that because the member wants to protect one industry with tariff blocks, he punishes other industries. It is a very simplistic thing just to stand and say that there is a big industry in one part of the country and therefore we should protect it at any cost, without taking into account all of the benefits that may be accrued to other companies elsewhere in the country that is achieved by opening the markets.
In terms of subsidies, yes, we have to be concerned when we see subsidies from other places in the world to encourage our industries to go there, but the fact is that our taxes are too high in Canada. If we wanted to see more jobs than we can deal with in Canada, we would just have to eliminate the corporate taxes in Canada. Imagine if there was zero corporate tax. This is not a policy of my party; I am just throwing it out there for consideration. Imagine the rush of companies back into Canada from the United States, in fact from all around the world, to establish their plants here in Canada. As long as they could reinvest their profits in Canada, zero corporate tax would create more jobs than we would know what to do with.
Perhaps we should just reduce our taxes a little bit to be competitive with places in the United States like the member is talking about. The corporate taxes in some of the southern states are much lower than they are here.
Brian Masse Windsor West, ON
They are subsidies. They are offering cash.
Ted White North Vancouver, BC
Mr. Speaker, he calls them subsidies but they are not. They are taxes. They may take other forms such as property taxes or municipal taxes, but they are still taxes. They are part of government taking money out of people's pockets. If we want to be competitive, we need to deal with our taxation system in Canada.
The member is doing his job. He is arguing for the industries in his area and I appreciate that. That is exactly what I am doing too. My argument is that I do not want his industries protected with tariffs at the expense of the industries in my area. We have to move more and more toward an open and free marketplace where people compete on the basis of the quality of the product they produce.
John M. Cummins Delta—South Richmond, BC
Mr. Speaker, my colleague makes a very spirited defence of the free market system and one which comes from personal experience. I certainly appreciate that. Not many can speak with the conviction he does unless they have had the experiences that he has had. He certainly is a great spokesman.
I am curious about two items. One is my friend's thoughts on the impact that the low Canadian dollar has on this competitiveness and the need for tariffs, as well as the efforts that the government should take perhaps to encourage investment in production facilities in this country.
Ted White North Vancouver, BC
Mr. Speaker, first I will give my thoughts on the high Canadian dollar.
A lot of exporters have been concerned about the high Canadian dollar but the high Canadian dollar has produced opportunities for importers as well. It has reduced the consumer's cost for electronics and a lot of other goods they buy. It has transferred jobs, perhaps to a degree, although I am not sure to what degree, from one sector of the economy to the other.
We cannot automatically assume that just because one sector of the economy is suffering that the entire economy is suffering. In fact, it is not. Things are still going pretty well in Canada. A lot of opinions have been expressed in the financial papers indicating that Canada's economy is doing really well compared to the United States despite the high dollar.
At the moment, retail stores are full of people buying stuff. It is a consumer environment right now. Prices on some goods are lower than they have been in a long time. That has a spinoff into the rest of the marketplace in terms of servicing equipment when it breaks down, redecorating homes, buying lamp fixtures, carpets. There are all sorts of ways that filters down into other parts of the economy. It also lowers the cost of equipment that manufacturers have to bring in to produce their product.
I used the example of my friend who manufactures special paint drying machines for the automotive industry. A lot of the components that he uses actually come in from other countries. Although his export market had to be adjusted, the cost of the base products coming in has gone down and he has been able to bring his prices down slightly, and that has offset the high Canadian dollar.
I do not think the impact is always as bad as people think. It is a much more complex situation than one can sum up in one or two sentences.
Roy H. Bailey Souris—Moose Mountain, SK
Mr. Speaker, it has been interesting to sit and listen to the comments on this topic. One would think, from listening to people and from what we often hear on television, that globalization is an evil thing that will destroy our world, create poverty in every nation, destroy our health system, and it goes on and on.
We cannot return to the isolation and we cannot return to the trade barriers. The world is not geared for that today. I am not just talking about trade. When I walked into the lounge yesterday I saw our Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food speaking to us live from Lethbridge, Alberta. I came into the House last night for the votes and they were before us.
Not only has globalization increased in every field, but we live in a world where globalization is part of us and we will never return because of what we have attained over the last 50 years. I remember as a young person saying that one can take a pole and stick it in the wheels of a buggy to try to slow it down but it will never stop because we continue to move ahead.
In moving ahead, we see all kinds of imperfections. We see all kinds of things that go wrong. If we go back a century ago, the Wright brothers had some real problems. They did not fly very high, but in 100 years, Mr. Speaker, look what we have done in that field. Through that, we have a society that is a truly globalized society.
When I was a boy and my MP returned home from Ottawa, it was three days travel on the train. Today it takes a few hours. No one would want to go back to those conditions.
I walked into the General Motors dealer the other day, not to buy a new car but to look at some new models that had been perfected in an agreement with General Motors and were now being made in Korea. The ideas of joint ownership, joint manufacturing and sharing joint information is part of this new globalization. Heaven forbid if we were to ever put up barriers to stop the free flow of ideas, inventions and so on.
I am presently involved in a bit of a misunderstanding that has been brought to my attention by Rotary International, which has a yearly exchange of young entrepreneurs. These people, who are professionals in business, have exchanges with rotary clubs here in Canada. It is a wonderful experience. It has been going on for over 25 years and we would not want to stop it.
We often hear things about globalization and how it will ruin our society. Well, very few people will go home tonight and not turn on the TV. When one thinks of what we are able to do now and how quickly information can spread across countries and between our neighbours, we would not dare go back. The world in which we now live is a global world, not just because of trade but because of communication, language and telecommunication. It is a world of trade in areas other than just the things we manufacture.
We will never have a perfect trade system. We never had it in the past and we will never have it in the future. One of the things that I, as a western Canadian, constantly face are the barriers put up by countries in the way of subsidies. Those are the things that hurt our province badly. We have lived with that and have suffered because of it but it has only been recently that our standard of living has gone down because of it.
Before World War II, the United States declared itself self-sufficient; that it would live within itself. That was a disaster. Regardless of how small a nation is or what continent a nation is on, no nation in today's world can live as an island to itself. I have great fears when I hear people say that we must restrict this or that because Canada is a world trading nation. To have any nation, including our nation, move into a position where that trade would be restricted would be extremely dangerous.
Some people say that globalization will ruin our culture. At the same time, the same people say that the importation of people into Canada makes it a multinational and that we are enriched by that, but yet when it comes to trade, it is somehow an evil effect.
In Canada, we often hear that on CBC and we often hear that coming from the rulings of the CRTC. I am not too sure that in this world of communications that we have today that globalization would really protect us very much. Those countries that have isolated themselves and have thrown trade barriers around themselves will eventually involve themselves in civil wars of all kinds. Isolation today simply will not work.
We have world patents in medicine. North America and Europe have been able to supply to the world, through globalization, many of the medicines that help stem epidemics.
The bill does not and did not intend to address the difficulties we as a nation have with the world trading organization. We are often hurt very badly by the slowness in settling disputes. We also have a lumber industry in Saskatchewan and we, too, were hurt by the United States on the softwood lumber agreement.
I think most Canadians would agree that the number one danger of these trade agreements is that the problem takes too long to resolve. I know the bill does not deal with that in particular, but we need to take some time at a later time to see what we can do to bring disputes to fruition and to an end so that nobody gets hurt for any long period of time.
Some day I would like to see a world where everything trades as freely as possible. I would like to see a lot of the barriers lifted. I do not think the living standards around the world would be hindered in any way if we were to extend free trade, lift the barriers and the taxations and so on which prevent the goods flowing back and forth.
We will support the bill. We think it is a good bill. I do not particularly like the differences in labelling certain countries. I do not think that will serve as too much value if you want to look down the road in 10 years, and we do need to look at trading and sharing our information and accepting their information. My colleague from North Vancouver did a magnificent job in explaining that world trade and sharing these ideas is bound to follow the trade, as it does in transportation, as it does in communication and so on.
We are not totally satisfied with the bill. I personally have some disagreements with it, but the bill is a good bill in principle and my party will be supporting it.
March 23rd, 2004 / 1:40 p.m.
Reed Elley Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC
Mr. Speaker, I do want to thank my colleague for sharing his thoughts and concerns about Bill C-21. I wonder if my colleague would like to comment on this government's practice, it seems, of bringing in this kind of legislation at such a late date, with an impending election looming on the horizon. Would he give us the benefit of his thoughts in terms of why the government continues to do this sort of thing?
Roy H. Bailey Souris—Moose Mountain, SK
Mr. Speaker, I truly hope that the bill is not before us at the present time as what we might call a “time filler”, something that is just putting in time until something else comes along. Today we will have the budget speech. I hope this bill is not here for any purpose other than that of having the members on both sides examine the bill and having them able to truly say that we want to look further at the bill. Then the members on that committee will have a better idea of what the House is talking about today.
I hope this bill is not being used as a filler. If it is, I would be very disappointed in the government for its exercise of that tactic at this time.
Ted White North Vancouver, BC
Mr. Speaker, in the speech given by my colleague he brought up the issue of filling in time. Certainly during my speech I talked about the haste with which this bill was being rushed through the House. It is interesting that my colleague mentioned the filling in time aspect of this bill, because there really is not much of an agenda before the House right now. All the bills that are under serious consideration now are part of the Chrétien era. It is as if this government has no real ideas of its own.
For us to be dealing with this piece of legislation, which the government could have dealt with months and months ago, it is almost as if the government saved up a bunch of five minute bills that it could rush through here in the last two weeks before we go to an election. I wonder if my colleague has been working on any bills that are in a similar situation, that are really part of an old agenda and have nothing to do with improving free trade or improving the lot of people in third world countries.