This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #58 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was sudan.

Topics

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

When this matter was last before the House, the hon. member for Mississauga South had the floor. There were five minutes remaining in the time for questions and comments following the hon. member's remarks.

I therefore call for questions or comments. The hon. member for Windsor West.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to ask my colleague a question in starting the debate this morning.

One of the things that is important to remember about Bill C-24 and the subamendment from our colleague, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, is that this affects a whole series of trade agreements with ourselves and the United States.

Does the hon. member believe that this sets a precedent? What we have here is basically the hijacking of a trade agreement that we have with the United States where a set of rules have been put in place and those rules are now being altered unilaterally by one side and now, with complicity, the government.

Does the hon. member feel that it will affect future trading relations under this current agreement?

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I tend to agree with the member that what has happened on the softwood deal, where we have a minister in the previous government being the same minister in the current government on one side he was fighting to the finish utilizing the NAFTA and WTO rulings as well as relying on the dispute resolution mechanism to help us to deal with these.

Now he has abandoned it totally and he has abandoned the industry. What is worse, now we have a situation where not only has he threatened those who have not signed on to the deal, he has also said that the government will make their lives uncomfortable. We have also found out that if others choose to pursue their legal rights, this may jeopardize the current deal.

Therefore, I would think that this whole softwood sell-out has been a boondoggle right from the beginning. The government should be ashamed of itself for not standing with the softwood industry rather than threatening it.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate having had the opportunity to listen to the debate over the last number of days on Bill C-24, the softwood lumber agreement. A number of members have spoken about the impact on their own communities of job losses and the impact on their local economies. This is something that needs to be brought to the forefront.

One of the concerns we have about the bill is that it is not based on any kind of coherent industrial strategy. We have an agreement that basically violates all the procedures and processes that we have in place under our trade agreements and it puts people's backs to the wall in terms of signing it, but it is not part of any coherent strategy that is based on sustainability, on value added jobs and on ensuring the strength of local economies.

I would like the hon. member to comment on that in terms of how this is an isolated agreement that is not connected to a broader industrial strategy that is needed in this country.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I also have some grave concerns about the impact on other trade arrangements. This has obviously not worked because the government has not supported the process.

However, I think it is even worse than that. We all know that the deal was not supported by the industry some time ago and all of a sudden there is a mysterious flip-flop to taking a cash settlement which left a billion dollars on the table to the benefit of the U.S. industry and to the U.S. government.

Could it be that the change of position has to do with the government's preponderance of decisions it is taking, which seem to be following an American policy rather than a Canadian policy, the republicanization of Canadian policy? Whether it be foreign or economic policy, there is a litany of examples. I think it is time the Conservative government was exposed to its beholdenness to George Bush.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to speak to Bill C-24, the softwood lumber sellout deal, as it is known across the country. We have heard a lot of discussion in this chamber about the bill. I would like to first thank my colleague, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, who has done an incredible job and put a lot of hard work into this file as well as other trade files that are important for Canadian jobs, which is what this is about.

This is Canadian jobs, cultures and communities that will be grievously affected by unfair trading practices. This is a trade crime that is being perpetrated on this country and facilitated by the current government.

I will begin by reading a quote from the House of Commons Debates that we had about this issue over a number of years in this chamber:

Most recently, the NAFTA extraordinary challenges panel ruled that there was no basis for these duties, but the United States has so far refused to accept the outcome and has asked Canada to negotiate a further settlement. Let me repeat what I have said before, and let me be as clear as I can. This is not a time for negotiation. It is a time for compliance.

The right hon. Prime Minister made those comments and then he flip-flopped on his position. It is an unconscionable dodging of accountability. We have a Prime Minister who gave his word to Canadians that he would live up to ensuring that Canada and its trade agreements would be effectively moved forward through the negotiation settlement that we had under NAFTA and free trade and he has abandoned that.

It is also important to note, not only for members in the chamber but for experts and panel members abroad, that those who have been affected by this issue have come in and made comments. I would like to read a comment made by Frank Dottori, co-chair of the Canadian Free Trade Lumber Council, an advocacy group representing Canadian lumber companies. He says:

We expect our government to help us fight U.S. protectionist forces, and get our industry a long-term solution.

I have another comment by BMO Nesbitt Burns analyst, Stephen Atkinson:

Why would you give 22 per cent to your competition? This money belongs to the companies and their shareholders, and the Canadian government is giving it away.

It is a broad range of people in Canadian society, whether it be the workers who are affected, whether it be industry analysts or whether it be advocacy groups that are rejecting this deal.

It is important in the context of our greater trade relations with the United States.

When I first came to this chamber in 2002, I remember participating in a softwood lumber lobby. We went to Washington to talk with a number of different analysts, advocacy groups and organizations, as well as different members of Congress and of the Senate about the harmful practice this was having on the Canadian industry and how unfair it was.

People need to understand, going back to that time then and to this date now, that many groups and organizations support the Canadian position. The Canadian position that should be from the House of Commons is that of a fair trading relationship with the United States and we have an injurious affection. However, it has been the high-powered ranking lobbyists, a select few from Congress and the Senate, who have driven the White House in this direction. We have many American friends who understand this is hurting both of our nations.

I do not care if the current Minister of International Trade is a Liberal or a Conservative and whether his position flip-flops just like he does on parties. What we need is a cessation of this legislation, the introduction of supports and the continuation of a fair settlement. This is not just about what we gave up in the past, which I will discuss later, but also where we go in the future with our trading relations and how it affects Canadian jobs.

I come from an area of the country that has flourished in many respects but which has struggled in relation to the auto industry. In 1965, Canada negotiated an auto pact with the United States that was based upon fair trade between our countries. It was one that benefited both countries and one that had a lot of strengths that developed, not only the automotive industry in Canada, across Ontario and other parts of our country, but even in American counterpart jurisdictions like Michigan and a whole series of other states. It also led to other industries, for example, the tool and die industry, the mould making industry, all of those technical innovation industries that are responsible for Canadian economic development. It was a fair trade deal that was set up with rules and those rules were respected.

What ends up happening? We enter into NAFTA, and the free trade agreement later on, and we lose a ruling that kills our auto pact. Since that time we have struggled. We have diminished market share. We have had a whole bunch of obstructions put in place that are difficult to compete against. We have lost a very good trade agreement that was a great success for Canada. It paid millions into our coffers on an annual basis through taxation, it provided good jobs for families and it provided innovation in our schools and universities. We gave that up because we played by the rules.

What do we have now? We have an agreement where the Americans have decided unilaterally that they will not accept panel after panel rulings in favour of Canada. We have continued to have success through this difficult process, a process that has required Canadian politicians and governing bodies to support the industry during these harmful times, but one with the goal at the end of the day of having a fair trade agreement and a settlement that makes sense of the trade agreement we have signed.

What the government is saying right now is that the Americans do not have to play by the rules because if they are tough enough and their lobbyists are powerful enough, Canada will capitulate, not just in terms of a settlement that has a series of clauses that are harmful for communities and industries across this country, but also in cold, hard cash. Canada is giving away over a billion dollars.

Some of that money will be given directly to American lumber associations so they can compete against Canadian companies. Other money will go into a discretionary fund at the White House that does not even have to go back to Congress for it to decide how it will be spent. It is unconscionable. The money should go back to the people who paid it out, and those are our companies in the industry that have been harmfully hurt during this practice.

The government's response to those who have been critical of this has been unacceptable. Basically, it has used strong arm tactics and it has made sure that those who are speaking out will be injuriously affected. It will not provide loan guarantees and it will not assist companies to move their rights through the court process, which they are entitled to do under this agreement. It is unacceptable.

I am greatly concerned as to where the minister is going in terms of other international agreements and trade policies.

I know the trade committee met this summer because we were concerned about what the minister was doing on the fair trade with Korea file. There is nothing fair about that file. We have been objecting to it since day one. We are hoping other members join us in that fight.

However, back in June, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster tabled a report in committee showing that if we were to go ahead with this particular agreement we would lose more auto jobs. It is not just the fact that the minister has a bad deal set up for Bill C-24, it is also his competency and his motivation in where he is moving. It gets to a broader picture of this.

Why are we actually doing these things? The study, which the committee was asked to table, did not come out until three months later. It was not until the CAW published its own studies on Korea free trade and how it would affect the industry that the government finally released the report that shows there will be major injurious effects from both files. This file right here shows it is not healthy and that it is not a good trade agreement for the Canadian government.

What is the motivation? I think the motivation is simply politics. It is politics to appease the American side so that the government can claim that it is close to the United States and actually get results, despite what it sells off to them, but also on the Korea trade file, it is politics when it is showing that the government will get a trade agreement with Korea at the expense of Canadians.

I know I am out of time but I do want to impress upon Canadians that this is a precedent setting thing. It is not just about softwood. Even if some communities do not have a softwood industry, they will be affected in the future because this gives a green light for the minister to sell out other industries. Whether it is auto, steel or farming communities, it allows the rules to be taken out of the equation, not just by those who are perpetrating against us but by our government that is supposed to be protecting us.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

John Cannis Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday I read in one of the papers that the EDC was asking the recipients of the duties that were held to have them signed over to the EDC as part of this deal. What does he make of this? Does he not feel, as do other Canadians, that there is something suspicious about this? The EDC wants the lumber people to sign over their receivables so that it can continue this process. Is there a hidden message there somewhere?

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the government has asked the companies to put a gun to their head. Now it is asking them to load it. It is unacceptable.

The EDC does not support what should happen, and that is the facilitation of our trade. It is just another good example of the fact that there is no support for the industry. The strong-arm tactics of the government have been reprehensible. We are talking about a government that is supposed to be business friendly. To use these tactics is deplorable. It is not acceptable and it sends a bad message for other industries.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Windsor West for his historical comments. It is worth remembering what happened around the auto pact. Canada played by the rules and lost the auto pact as a result of that, and we saw the impact.

There are a lot of ironies in the softwood lumber agreement. Originally, the NDP did not support NAFTA, but we believe, since it is in place, that we should play by the rules. We would like to see that change, but those mechanisms exist for dispute resolution. Yet we have a softwood lumber agreement that is completely negating those rules.

Could the member for Windsor West elaborate on the impact on the loss of jobs? I know he is experiencing that with the auto sector in his community. Now we have a whole new chapter, the lumber industry, which is about to stamped on. Thousands more workers stand to lose their jobs as a result of a very bad agreement and the fact that Canada capitulated and allowed the agreement to go ahead.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member for Vancouver East brings up a very important point. At the end of the day, this is about jobs and communities. These jobs and communities are often very much dependent upon each other for success. We have seen this all over the country, where we witness towns and communities in crisis.

It is important to note that the government still has yet to come forward with a sectorial strategy on anything. The previous administration talked about it for the auto, aerospace and textiles industries, but never did anything. Now the current government, with this deal, is saying that if the U.S. does not want to play by the rules, Canada is going to agree. It is not going to play by the rules. By not doing so, there will be injurious effects to the industry and the communities. There is no sectorial strategy. Why is there no strategy for the communities that will be affected? Why is there no plan to help?

The very least the government could do is set a sectorial strategy for the industry to help those who will be punished by its bad decision. Instead, the government is saying that this is the deal, live with it and it will move on. It may be good for the government, but it is bad for others. That is not acceptable.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is some fine print with regard to the deal, particularly with regard to those softwood lumber producers who still wish to pursue their legal right, their recourse through the courts. It appears there is a possibility that they may in fact scuttle the deal. This is a question that has not been answered directly by the government.

Why do we proceed to debate the ways and means motion, which may not be relevant if the reports are true? Maybe the government should be called upon to explain what the delay is in the payments and whether there is any basis to the allegations that producers, who wish to pursue their legal rights, may kill the deal.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has it exactly right. It is a significant problem and it perplexes me as to why the government would want to pursue it in such a hostile fashion.

I think it is part of a larger agenda to get some political points, whether it this one, or dismantling the Wheat Board, or attacking the auto and shipbuilding industries by coming forward with a creative free trade deal. All those things are thrown up in the air to confuse the public and to move forward for the government's own political agenda. At the same time, it is not dealing with the outright facts. It is not even answering a simple question. Is this all for not because the courts are going to decide?

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak, as one of the NDP members, in opposition to Bill C-24.

NDP members have been very active in this debate. A little earlier the government brought forward a motion to cut off debate on an amendment and the main bill. This is a further indication that it has complete contempt for this place. It is a important bill and an important agreement, which will affect every region of our country. It will affect individual workers, business interests and the economy of local communities. One would think that a bill of this magnitude would have a full and democratic debate in the House, yet the government House leader pulled a tactic today to basically censored and cut off further debate on the bill.

I will about public hearings a bit later, but I feel ashamed that the government pulled this tactic today to prevent members of the House from speaking their minds, from communicating the real concerns of their constituents about this bill. As long as the debate on Bill C-24 lasts, we will use every minute to continue debate. We feel deeply and strongly that the bill, which embodies the softwood lumber agreement, is a bad deal for Canadians and the industry.

I want to thank the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster, who is our trade critic and who has lead our debate on this, for his incredibly tireless work in committee, in the House and out in the community over the summer. Our trade critic was successful in getting the committee to meet over the summer to take up this important matter when the House was recessed. We want to thank him for his attention to the details in this massive agreement. He has brought forward to the public what this deal is all about, what is wrong with it and why it should be voted down. I will briefly go through some of those reasons.

First is the falsehood that the softwood lumber agreement is based on the idea that Canadian softwood lumber industries are subsidized. The Americans have peddled this idea far and wide through every legal case they could and through every political means they had. It is even at the point where Canadians are beginning to believe that the Americans have a legitimate point.

The falsehood of Canadian softwood lumber industries being subsidized has been exposed and rejected in every NAFTA and U.S. commercial court ruling. The courts have clearly sided with the Canadian industry. The myth about the subsidy has been used by the U.S. as a political weapon against Canada and to whip up its own industrialists south of the border. This myth is based on a completely false premise. Despite the unequivocal dispute settlement decisions and trade court rulings, the U.S. clearly does not want to play by the rules. What is really dismaying to us is that the Conservative government is allowing the U.S. to abandon the rules at the end of the game.

Canada won those major legal battles under the North American Free Trade Agreement in U.S. commercial courts. In fact, by using the legitimate mechanisms available, Canada was just a few months away from winning the two final legal cases, which would have voided the dispute and refunded every cent of the $5.3 billion that had been collected in illegal levies. What did our government do? It wanted to make a deal, apparently at any cost. Now we are rushing the bill through the House.

Second, the deal gives away $500 million in funds owned by the Canadian softwood industry to subsidize the U.S. Coalition for Fair Trade Lumber Imports. It is unbelievable that, as part of the agreement, we would give money, which legitimately belongs to Canadian companies, back to a U.S. coalition, a coalition that will continue in developing its arguments, its campaign and its interest against the Canadian industry.

Third, it will also provide $450 million in funds to the Bush administration, which it will use at its discretion, apparently without Congress approval or any accountability.

Fourth, what is of concern to us is that we are being told this is a great deal, it is the best that can be done and it will provide peace in the woods, et cetera. The fact is this deal can be cancelled unilaterally at any time. It does not provide the stability and the predictability for which I think the Canadian softwood industry was looking. Those are obviously very key elements. We have had this ongoing dispute. It is important to have stability and predictability. While we are being told that it is contained in the agreement, when we read the fine print and the details, we can see that it is not the case.

Further, the agreement constrains trade unreasonably by applying punitive tariffs and quotas that hinder the flexibility of a Canadian softwood agreement. This makes it difficult for the industry to plan its business and predict cash flow, for example.

Many of the industry leaders across Canada expressed, at the trade committee hearings this summer, their concern that the softwood lumber agreement would destroy their industry and communities. This is coming from the industry itself. We should be very concerned about that.

As we heard from the member for Windsor West, the agreement sets a very bad precedent, not only for softwood lumber, but for other industrial sectors in Canada. It opens the door for the U.S. to attack other Canadian interests and industries that it wants to target with illegal tariffs. Why? Because the U.S. knows it can get away with it. It knows it will not only get away with it, but it will be rewarded for it.

The NDP sees this as the slippery slope, as a very bad precedent. So much has been vested politically in this agreement that it will now be harder and harder to fight against other campaigns that develop politically and are targeted at Canadian interests.

We have heard quite a lot in the House about how it can trigger significant job losses. I have been asking questions of other members about this. One of the concerns I have is that the agreement is not based on any kind of industrial strategy, a strategy that we can look at and say, yes, that we understand it is about building productivity and the Canadian economy, that it is about creating good jobs, decent labour standards and sustainability. However, it is not based on any of those things. In fact, we seem to be wiggling away our strategy sector by sector.

I remember the member for Western Arctic stood up last week and spoke about this. He used the example of the oil and gas sector, where again we have no industrial strategy. Nor do we have an industrial strategy in the manufacturing sector.

The member for Windsor West talked a bit earlier about the auto industry. He said that there was no pan-Canadian auto industrial strategy.

When all of that is put together and we add on this agreement, it leaves a really bad taste. It leaves a sense that the government is not interested in developing in producing that kind of comprehensive look. For that matter nor was the previous government because there is no industrial strategy.

It is appalling that in the summer the trade committee, by a majority, agreed to hearings on this agreement in three communities, in Thunder Bay, Vancouver and the Saguenay.

Recently the committee completely flip-flopped on that. Unfortunately the Liberal members allowed the review of a motion to hold those hearings and then voted against having them. We were set to have hearings in those very seriously affected communities and all of a sudden, the hearings have been undone. I really wonder where the Liberal members are on this, because it seems to me that having hearings outside of Ottawa in communities that are affected is a very important aspect of this debate.

I am in opposition to this agreement, as are other members of our caucus. We will debate it as long as we can to try to prevent it from going through.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

11 a.m.

Liberal

John Cannis Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed very much listening to the comments from the member for Vancouver East. She was very eloquent in presenting the facts.

Throughout the exchanges and agreements and potential signings, people keep sticking to the figure of $5 billion. We have been talking about this for eight or nine months. If an individual had $5 billion in the bank, would there not be interest accruing? It seems that the figure is stuck at $5 billion. As I understand it, it is $5 billion of Canadian money that is supposedly being held somewhere in trust. I do not think it is being held in a closet or in a drawer. It is somewhere accruing interest. Does the member have any knowledge on that?

Next, it is my understanding that the companies in Canada that choose not to sign onto this deal will be penalized by the government with a levy of 19%. I would like her to comment on that.

In closing, it is a bit unfair in terms of her comment about the Liberal side. I think the nation out there knows as people follow this debate that we have been fighting this deal vigorously because we believe it is unfair for Canadian industry, for Canadian products and for Canada as a country.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

11 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is disappointing that the Liberals changed their minds in committee, especially after what has happened today in terms of the debate being cut off. I would hope that the Liberal members might reconsider their position about how important it is to have hearings in those three centres across the country. There are lots of people who need to be heard and want to be heard.

In terms of his questions, the issue of the $5 billion has been raised time and time again. In any other business accounting practice, interest would be a part of the financial reconciliation at the end of the day, but somehow this has gotten lost in the shuffle. It is not just a question of $5 billion and the fact that $1 billion is being left in the U.S. It is also a matter of the interest not being calculated.

In terms of the 19% levy, which is in effect a double taxation, a punitive taxation on those companies that do not sign on, this just seems to be the most alarming precedent, that the government produces an agreement and then basically aims a shotgun at companies and tells them that if they do not sign on they are going to face an extra levy. That is fundamentally undemocratic by any perspective and it is one more reason that we should not allow this deal to go ahead.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, the situation has changed quite remarkably with this deal over the last few days, in that the government has now postponed it again for 30 days.

To my mind the postponement would give the government, which claims it has all kinds of support for this deal, a great opportunity to go out across the land and conduct public hearings in three locations to actually hear what Canadians think about it. We could hold off on this vote until the government went out there to prove its case and show the public across the country that the government has support for this deal, that the supporters are willing to stand up in public hearings and express their support and give parliamentarians direction.

Does my hon. colleague feel that this would be a great opportunity for the government to prove its case?

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member is entirely right. It really begs the question of why the government is so intent on rushing this deal through by what it did today and in not allowing hearings. I think the Conservatives are in a bit of a spin. They are no doubt worried that the momentum they thought they had is not moving forward and is actually falling apart. Now we see a delay until, I believe it is November 1 and there may be further delays beyond that.

It would be very good for the government to stand the test and hear from Canadians. What is it afraid of? Why is it not willing to hear from people in some of the key affected communities? If the government thinks this agreement is so good, it should listen to what people have to say. There is nothing that says time would not allow that to be done.

We ask the government and other parties to reconsider this idea and support the need to have hearings in those affected communities.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government has sold out the Canadian softwood industry with this deal. We are voting down the deal because it is a bad deal.

From the start we said that free trade agreements would not work. I remember the long discussions in the mid-1980s. We said that NAFTA would be problematic. At that time we were told to have faith, the trade agreement would work and that Canadian companies would definitely benefit from the deal.

What has happened subsequently is that in my area of Trinity—Spadina, a great number of garment factories have closed their doors. A large number of immigrant women lost their jobs and their livelihoods because of the free trade agreement. In the mid-1980s there was a lot of discussion. We put forward many arguments about what would happen to some of the industries. We were told that there would be some losers and some winners and that we would see the results.

In Trinity—Spadina thousands and thousands of jobs were gone and a lot of factories and entire areas were emptied out. Fortunately, we were able to bring in other industries, software and many others, to help rebuild that whole area. Definitely, the garment industry in downtown Toronto has been almost entirely eliminated. I think the same is true in parts of Montreal. On top of that, right now in the garment industry there are home workers, people who take work into their homes and get very, very low pay. All of this is because of free trade.

At that time we also said that the free trade agreement would not necessarily work because of chapter 11 as big companies could sue different levels of government.

A few years ago the small town of Hudson, Quebec decided to ban pesticides. Some companies said that was not fair, and under the free trade agreement and under chapter 11, the town of Hudson was sued, but thanks to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and many others, the town won at the end of the day. As a result, different municipalities are now able to ban pesticides if they wish to do so.

We were told that the industry would benefit, but look at what is happening. In the softwood deal the whole dispute settlement mechanism will be thrown out. We were told to rely on the courts, that the courts would protect us. Actually they will not any more. This agreement is destroying the NAFTA dispute settlement mechanism by agreeing to give hundreds of millions of dollars to the Bush administration and the U.S. Coalition for Fair Lumber Imports. The message is clear. We will pay the Americans to bully us. The Coalition for Fair Lumber Imports is the main opponent of the Canadian softwood lumber industry. We are rewarding the coalition with hard-earned Canadian cash for harassing Canada, for harassing Canadian companies, for harassing Canadian workers.

I want to quote what is being said about it. One of the columnists in the Toronto Star said that thanks to this deal, we can stop pretending we have a free trade agreement with the U.S. and move on. That is what this deal is all about.

In the Thunder Bay Chronicle Journal, which by the way is in an area where a large number of jobs are going to be gone or are gone already, it said:

How much longer is Canada going to let itself be kicked around by a handful of powerful U.S. senators doing the bidding of their lumber baron constituents to ignore NAFTA's repeated rulings against them? How much longer is George W. Bush going to condone this betrayal of America's best friend? And how much longer is Stephen Harper going to stand for it?

We found that the Prime Minister said not that long ago in 2005, I know I should not have read out his name. I apologize.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Conservative Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Reference was made to a member in the House, specifically the Prime Minister by his name. I believe that the rules state that members of the House should be referred to by either their title as ministers in the cabinet or by their riding names.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

11:10 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

I would ask the member for Trinity—Spadina to not refer to the Prime Minister by name in future.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker. Yes, I admit it. I read that quote and I realize that was the case. I extend my apology. It will not happen again.

Let me read another quote of the Prime Minister from 2005. At that time we were told:

If the U.S. industry is able to pressure the government not to return duties when it has lost its last NAFTA appeal, it will not matter if most other trade is dispute free. If the rules are simply ignored, then the very basis of a rules-based system is threatened and the future of all Canada-U.S. trading relations could be profoundly affected.

We know that because of this deal, if it passes in the House, Canada's future U.S. trading relations will be affected negatively. We are looking at probably steel and wheat. All kinds of deals and trading relationships are going to be negatively impacted because of this deal.

It is also a clear example of how the current government is foregoing the interests of Canadians to appease our big neighbour to the south. All Canadians and all Canadian companies want their interests to be championed by the Canadian government, a government that was elected to look out for the best interests of the people.

Unfortunately, the softwood lumber industry has been given the short end of the stick by the government. The softwood lumber industry is not being subsidized by the Canadian government nor is it being protected from the onslaught of American companies in coalitions.

We know this deal is going to be bad for jobs. In many ways it is going to be terrible. We at the the time said to thousands of workers who lost their livelihoods over the past five years that there would be a light at the end of the tunnel because we kept winning these various disputes. At the end of the day, when we win all of the various court cases and there is one last one, the $5 billion will be returned to the companies. The companies will then be able to invest in their industry. Then the Canadian workers would be able to benefit. We said to them, “Let's just keep going”.

Unfortunately, this agreement is very unfair to individuals and their families who still work in the softwood lumber industry because there will be continuing instability and unpredictability within the Canadian softwood lumber industry. There will be less money to reinvest in the companies to upgrade and there is no money to streamline and no incentive to do so.

It will probably also mean more sellouts to raw log exports and the industry will be harmed because of it. We will be noticing that there will be restructuring of the softwood lumber industry because there will be a lack of a competitive edge with American competitors and that is why there will be a problem of jobs lost. With limited flexibility in the softwood lumber industry through quotas and taxes, it will make it difficult for the industry to plan its business and be competitive.

It is also going to be a problem for big cities because we will end up, especially Americans, having higher prices in terms of building homes.

That is why we are going to be voting against this very bad deal. It is bad for workers and bad for the industry.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

11:15 a.m.

Wellington—Halton Hills Ontario

Conservative

Michael Chong ConservativePresident of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada

Mr. Speaker, my question for the member for Trinity—Spadina is, why can she and her party not support this agreement?

This is an agreement that has the support of all major softwood lumber producing provinces. The province of British Columbia is lending its support to this agreement. The province of Ontario is lending its support to this agreement. The province of Quebec is lending its support to this agreement. In addition, this agreement has the support of a vast majority of companies in the industry. An overwhelming majority of companies in the industry support this agreement.

How can she not support this agreement when the three major lumber producing provinces and the vast majority of companies in the industry support it? How on earth can she stand in her place in the House and not support an agreement that has the support, both from the provinces and the companies in the industry?

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, the answer is very simple. It is called $1 billion. It is called Canadian cash. It is Canadian sovereignty. If we were to support this deal, it would mean handing over Canadian cash of $1 billion to the U.S. The only people who are happy with this deal are the Americans who know they are walking away with this money after they have bullied us for many years. They will use this money to continue their attack on our industry.

Since this agreement was first announced, 112 Canadian companies have filed lawsuits against the Canadian and U.S. governments in reference to preserving the integrity of chapter 19 and securing the refund of 100% of the duties illegally collected by the U.S. treasury. The fact that there are that many Canadian companies filing lawsuits tells me that many Canadian companies are not happy with this deal.

The $1 billion being left behind is, in my mind, the result of trade crime and every penny of it should be returned to hard-working Canadian taxpayers.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

John Cannis Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened very carefully to what the member for Trinity—Spadina said. She talked about a lot of things aside from the lumber trade deal but she also said that trade deals will not work. She generalized it and I think it was a bit of an unfair statement to make as we would not have had the prosperity we have enjoyed in the last 10 or 12 years, the longest uninterrupted economic growth in the history of our country.

Is she suggesting that we do nothing? Today our trade surpluses have grown and, as a result, created over three million jobs. She talked about lost jobs in the last five years. Canada has been growing in terms of jobs.

She talked about the garment and textile industry. As the former chair of the international trade committee, I remember people coming before the committee who knew that this industry was going through changes, for example, in supporting the LDCs that I know the member is not aware of. They learned to adapt and we learned to be more competitive and change our methods.

I will close with this question. Is she simply saying that we should not have international trade agreements, that we become an esoteric country and not deal with anybody? What is she really saying?

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, what I am saying precisely is that the dispute settlement mechanism is gone. Under the agreement we have this mechanism and we keep winning it. We win it in the courts and yet this deal is going to set a precedent.

Yes, we do need trade, but it has to be fair trade. It is not just about free trade. There is nothing free about this when we lose $1 billion. There is nothing free about it when Canadian companies are being harassed by American coalitions. What is so free about it when we have no rights left?

The fact is that trade with the U.S. is not the only route. We should start focusing and spending a lot more energy and effort in looking at trade with China and India, which we are doing somewhat, but nowhere near enough in terms of encouraging small businesses, for example, to connect and find ways to trade with other countries.

I was talking about the dispute settlement mechanism and the fact that we keep winning in the courts. Yet, we are signing a deal that will end up leaving $1 billion on the table.