Mr. Speaker, I do not intend to take a lot of time on this motion as the issue of the softwood lumber dispute and the problems within the softwood lumber industry have been brought up time and time again in the House. They certainly have been raised in question period and emergency debates.
My colleague across the way indicated that the softwood lumber agreement expired in 2001 and that some discussions had been taking place before 2001. Here we are in 2004 and there is no resolution to the softwood lumber dispute. Quite frankly, the motion by my colleague from Etobicoke North is an indication of just how badly the government has failed the forestry workers and the softwood lumber industry throughout Canada.
I recently had the opportunity of being in the U.S. and I listened to a number of discussions that were going on in the U.S. legislature relating to patent drug legislation. I could not help but note the similarities. Canada had to change the way it did business. We had to change our legislation. We were told by an outside group that they did not like the legislation that we formed in our democratic institution, the Parliament of Canada. They did not like what Canadians said about how they wanted patent legislation. The government had to buckle under to a WTO ruling that said we had to change our legislation because they did not like it. Quite frankly, that is an intrusion on the sovereignty of a nation. It is an intrusion on a country being able to best represent its people.
It is the same situation within the softwood lumber industry. When I hear comments such as “When we successfully reform our forest policy” it says outright that Canadian provinces have not been doing things right. It says that they have been bad, that they have been wrong in the way they have been doing business. It is an intrusion by the federal government on the provinces by allowing this type of attitude to be put out and to hear it from members across the way.
Each and every province should have the right to deal with its lumber resources as it so chooses. On the east coast there are private lumber companies. Saskatchewan, B.C. and Manitoba have crown lands and they chose to put in place certain licensing agreements for forestry companies to log. They are being told that they are wrong, that they do not have the right to do that or to sell the product at what they think is the right price. For all those who believe in the free market system, I guess the free market approach is only okay if it means that a private company gets to sell off something the way it wants, but it is not okay for a province to do that.
In the case of my province, I am very conscious of the fact that our lumber resources and all of our resources in a good many areas are jointly owned. I say owned because they fall within lands that belong to first nations. We have tried to work out a process where first nations communities have access to benefits of resources.
When we start to allow another country to impose and tell us how to do business, it may affect all those different facets that we have to work into our way of doing business in Canada. It has been extremely disappointing to hear my colleagues on the governing side accept the approach that somehow Canadian provinces are wrong in how they do business.
Although it is not perfect, we have one of the best forestry practices in Canada. Reforestation takes place in the areas that are being logged. As I said, it is not perfect. From an environmental perspective improvements could be made and there are those within the environment community who want to see changes happen. However, overall, we have done far better than the U.S. companies have done. They do not have the same type of resources we have and as a result, they are moving in.
Some of those companies in the U.S. that want our lumber have the same company operating here. They want to be able to work things so they get the benefit on both sides of the border.
Much more is involved in this than a simple trade deal. Quite frankly, the basic principle we have to abide by is that as a country we should be able to produce a product and the provinces should be able to put in place whatever practices they want. We should not have to worry about the bullying by Americans just because they want things done in a way that will benefit them the most. They actually do not want inexpensive lumber going across the border because it will bring down their prices, which will result in large lumber companies in the U.S. losing out.
However, those companies that would benefit, as another colleague mentioned in the House, are organizations in the U.S. that are fighting for affordable homes. The nerve of a group in the U.S. to have a lobbying group to try and get affordable housing for the people in the U.S.
That group is one of our biggest allies in Canada in being able to continue with their business. The Government of Canada has not been our ally. The government has been looking at ways to change everything to satisfy the U.S., instead of standing firm and saying that as a nation we can do business.
I recognize that the Americans are our neighbours and friends but we do not want an in our face kind of attitude all the time. I was extremely pleased to hear Senator Kerry, a Democrat and U.S. presidential candidate, say that the U.S. had not been fair and done good by its northern neighbour, and that has to change.
His comment was a recognition that not all Americans are happy with the way the U.S., under the present government, has done business with Canada. It has been bullying in the area of softwood lumber and even in the crisis in the beef industry. This type of an approach has appalled a lot of Americans.
What do members think beef prices are like in the U.S. now that they cannot buy Canadian beef? Last summer a New York paper stated that it did not expect the beef issue to be settled because it would lower the price of beef in the U.S. This type of practice has been taking place for centuries. The bottom line is that it is annoying when a country suggests that it wants free trade but then puts in place roadblocks every step of the way.
I acknowledge my colleague's motion as being an effort to resolve a situation but what we need is a firm commitment by the government to stand behind our Canadian industry as we see fit as a nation as to how it should be. We need the government to put in place good enough supports for the industry.
If we had a national housing policy and a real all out effort to get behind it, it would not have saved the industry or accomplished everything that needed to be accomplished, but it would have given the industry much needed support.
I heard someone say that $350 million had been given to the industry. That is a lot of money, and I acknowledge that, but when I compare the boasting of $350 million to $100 million being wasted over an ad situation, it brings it into perspective. We can waste $100 million here and we will only be given $350 million there. That is when it is not acceptable.
We must put our priorities in line and it is time the government either got those priorities in line or packed it in.