House of Commons Hansard #61 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was deal.


Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

10:05 a.m.


Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to represent the New Democratic Party and the people of Timmins—James Bay who are very dependent on forestry products and the forestry industry for the economic viability of our region. I am pleased to be speaking on their behalf on this bill.

The House of Commons is somewhat like a surreal theatre because we have on any given day, on any given number of bills, 300 people in the House, half of whom act like Chicken Little, that the sky is falling, and the other half who say life has never been better.

Then, of course, we accuse each other of all sorts of calamity, and perfidious behaviour, that if the bill is allowed to go through it will undermine the very future fabric of our country.

With that being said, there are occasions when a bill is brought before the House that does have profound implications, it must be challenged. In terms of this bill and what it is proposing to do, it has sold out the rights of our resource industry. On top of that, the predatory nature that the government is imposing toward our softwood producers who are not knuckling down, and the pressure that the House is being asked to bring to bear upon our own industry is certainly one of the more egregious examples I would think in our nation's history of a government acting against the interests of its own people.

Being from a Scottish background I would think of what my grandmother would say now. She would talk about Such A Parcel Of Rogues In A Nation:

What force or guile could not subdue,
Thro' many warlike ages,
Is wrought now by a coward few,
For hireling traitor's wages.
We're bought and sold for English gold-
Such a parcel of rogues in a nation!

There is a fundamental difference between the parcel of rogues who sold out Scotland and the parcel of rogues that are selling out our resource industry right now. At least the chieftains who sold out their own people in Scotland got some money for it.

We are being asked in Parliament to pay money, so that we can sell ourselves out. I think that is an unprecedented situation. We are seeing that the communities I represent no longer matter to the government. They are being written off the political and economic map of Canada, communities such as Smooth Rock Falls; Kenogami; New Liskeard, where they have lost jobs; Red Rock; and Ignace.

They are being told to fend for themselves because when industry came back to the government after the deal was presented, it said the deal was bad and that it could not go forward with it.

What did the government tell our own industry? It said, too bad, sign it because the government would sign it regardless. When the industry did not buckle down, the government came forward with a number of clauses that I will get to in a moment where we are actually going after the economic viability of any company that has the guts to stand up to this venal sellout of our resource industry.

What did we get out of this deal? We are giving $1 billion to our competitors, $500 million that will be used against us in the competing communities and against the coalitions that have been actively pursuing these wasteful legal actions against us. There is not a cent being put into any forestry community in the country suffering from job losses as a result of this battle.

Instead of the 10% softwood deal, we are being asked by Parliament to impose a 15% tariff on our own producers in order to win peace with the Americans.

Instead of fair trade and open trade, we are now being given a crippled market, a market with a narrow window for our own producers to work within. If the market goes south at any point, more restrictive tariffs will be imposed.

What kind of investments are softwood producers going to be willing to make in Canada because they cannot ramp up the market? It will become a static market. There will be no incentive for a company to invest in Canada under this deal.

In fact, we are seeing that the companies that are investing, that have plants in Canada, are investing south of the border. I could name numerous Canadian companies that are already setting up down in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina because it is a better climate for them down there. Perhaps they will be making use of the $500 million that was taken out of Canadian companies and sent down to our Canadian operations in the U.S.

What kind of peace did we get out of this deal? Would we have sold a billion dollars of our producers' money to get a seven year deal of peace? Perhaps. For five years? It would have been iffy. For three years? We have a bare 18 months, and the escape clause for the Americans is that they can terminate it anytime they feel that we are not playing by the rules, and guess what? Within the last week, we have the U.S. lumber interests already saying that they are gearing up to come after us with full guns blazing. No wonder they are getting ready to gear up. They have $500 million of our money to come back after us once this deal is signed.

Those are the well known facts, but less well known. This is what needs to be heard outside this House and it needs to be heard in every resource community across this country, particularly the clauses the government is bringing to attack our own industry, and to feed on our own industry. The political version of the pine beetle is what we see with this Conservative Party.

Clause 10 will call on Parliament to impose a 15% tax on our own producers who are using fair and open trade. We will be imposing a tax on them.

Clause 18 is the real kicker clause. The government is going to impose a special tax on companies that do not knuckle under and give up their legal rights. I ask this House, has there ever been another case where a government has imposed a tariff on its own producers to punish them for not bending down and kissing the ring of the trade minister on this deal? Now we are looking at tariffs upward of 37% being applied against our own companies in order to force agreement on this bill.

Clause 48 would require a six year burden of record-keeping for these companies. This is another administrative burden that the government is imposing on our own producers.

Clause 77 states that the government does not even need a warrant to enter the premises of our softwood producers.

Clause 89 gives a blank cheque to the minister to demand payment from these companies at any time. I need to put this in perspective because our producers are suffering from a major financial crisis at this moment. The government knows this. The government knows that many of the stalwarts of the softwood industry are on very weak financial legs.

What chance would any of these companies, that are wishing to maintain their legal rights, have of going to the bank to renegotiate overextended loans when the government is asking this House to impose measures that will demand money from those producers? We are applying a 37% tariff against our own companies. We can go in and check their books. The government can audit them, can go after them, and can take money from them.

What producers will be able to secure financing from the banks through this period? Yet, that being said, they still have not buckled under to this deal, have they? We still know that industries are saying that even if they are on their last legs, this deal is a bad deal because it is a bad deal for the long term viability for the resource industry of Canada.

The other aspect of this deal in terms of a venal sellout of our national interests is that we are allowing the U.S. lumber coalitions to set and to have a say on our own domestic provincial policies in terms of forestry management.

Once again I return to the notion of the rogues that sold out this nation. At this point I really feel it is incumbent upon me to speak to our friends from the Bloc Québécois. Here is a party that stood up in this House and opposed a national plan for pesticides because it would interfere with the rights of Quebec. Here is a party that opposed a national child care plan because it did not want any intervention at all in the rights of Quebec. Here is a party, when we had our debate on an Alzheimer's national strategy, that said it would not support to any degree a national Alzheimer's strategy because it interferes with the rights of Quebec.

Yet, this is a party that stands up in this House with its kissing cousins, the Conservatives, and says that it will allow the United States government to set forestry policy in Quebec. It will allow the Conservative Government of Canada to come into Quebec to check and ensure that its producers are complying.

That is the level of interference that the Bloc Québécois members are sitting back and allowing. It is fascinating. It is unprecedented that they, along with the government, are selling out the long term interests of our resource sector and our provinces' ability to set resource policy in this country.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

10:15 a.m.


Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I had not intended to ask a question, but I feel compelled to with the extremely effective and accurate case that the member has put forward, and I compliment him on that.

The position has been put forward by the government that the only other course which has been recommended by the government and which the member has criticized, and effectively as I said, is a continuation of the legal process that would not benefit the industry. The government members have laid out chapter and verse how they feel that a lack of benefit would result.

It was my recollection that while we had won in every international forum set up through the WTO our cases with respect to the softwood lumber issue, that the government was still on the tangent with respect to the bill.

It was also my recollection that one of the opportunities we had was to pursue this through the American courts to seek justice which had been given but denied in terms of the course that the government has decided to take.

I would like to ask the member this question. In view of the fact that there is this huge paradox that he has indicated, not only for the industry and sections of the industry but with the position taken by the Bloc Québécois, what other course, given what the government's rationale is, would he have suggested that the House should take?

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

10:15 a.m.


Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for pointing this out. It is a very interesting question because we were looking at the final stages, the final two legal hurdles. We have won in every court dispute. We have the legal precedents behind us.

Our Prime Minister said we were looking at seven more years of litigation. That is not true. With the Tembec case, we were subject to one final appeal. In the extraordinary challenge committee judgment that would have come out in August, we would have been in a position where we would be winning the final last two non-appealable judgments. They were going in our favour. That is why industries are still not signing on because they are being asked to give up those legal precedents.

The question is, why not wait? Why not allow our industry to secure those legal judgments? I would submit to the House that what we are seeing here is once again an exercise by a government that is more interested in cheap slogans and photo ops. It is preparing to bring the House down perhaps this spring than actually securing the long term interests of our industry and our resource dependent communities.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

10:15 a.m.


Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his insightful analysis of an issue that has not had sufficient analysis or time. I would like his comments on the consultation process.

We hear from people who are producers and certainly people who are working in the field that they were not listened to or talked to. In fact, we asked the government to provide a list of who it consulted. It is in a locked box and there is no key to that box. Obviously, we are having to go by the terms “just trust us”.

Many people have been concerned about the process and I would like to get my colleagues comments on the process of consultation for this sellout.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

10:15 a.m.


Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, the consultation process was very clear. This is a government that said to the United States, “Look, we want a quick and dirty deal. What do we have to do?” and the United States said, “Here, sign this”. That was the end of consultation.

We asked the industry, where were they? They were not at the table. We have talked to representatives of industry. Representatives of industry have phoned us. We have met with them. They said again and again, “We went to this government and we said this deal is a bad deal”.

They were all over the media saying that this was a bad deal. Not only has the deal not improved since industry first spoke up, but the deal has become worse in the meantime. There was no consultation because the government was not interested in the long term interests of the resource sector.

The government will give $1.5 billion a year in subsidies to the Alberta oil and gas industry, but we have had community after community right across this country go down. They were begging for loan guarantees and support to see them through. They were starved of support. There are communities like Ignace, Red Rock, Kenora, Opasatika, Béarn and Malartic that have gone down, and the government has sat back and watched them go down.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

10:20 a.m.


Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, we often hear from the Conservatives that the industry and the local communities support this deal. The reality is that some of them have said they are going to support the deal because the Conservatives have said they will not support the industry if the deal is not signed. How could the forestry industry in Canada possibly continue this countervailing duty fight without the support and encouragement of the federal government? It just would not work. U.S. producers are bankrolled extremely well and the precedent has already been set.

We have to help the industry. That is why our party has said we would reject the deal. It is contrary to NAFTA. We would provide some bridge financing, some support to the industry, some loan guarantees. That would not be countervailable because we have won at every single panel.

This is not about subsidies. Anyone who thinks this is about subsidies is not dealing with reality. This is about protecting inefficient U.S. producers. They are not as efficient as Canadian sawmills. In terms of total factor productivity, they are about 40% less productive.

Most of the forestry land in the United States is private land. As soon as U.S. producers launch countervailing duty claims, the private lands are revalued upward because the U.S. has a protectionist policy in place. Who wins? Shareholders of big companies like Georgia-Pacific, International Paper, Boise Cascade and all those companies, they win. Do homeowners, homebuyers and developers in the United States win? Of course not, because the price of a house goes up by about $1,000 to $1,500 a year. Who else wins? We know who else wins. Lobbyists and lawyers in the United States are big winners because this is a big gravy train for them.

The deal perpetuates the lie that Canada's softwood lumber industry is subsidized. That argument has been defeated many times by objective panels, which have had U.S. representatives sitting on them. This is a sweetheart deal between the Conservative government and the Bush administration. If we scratch the surface, we find that it is not such a great sweetheart deal for Canada, but it is a sweetheart deal for the United States.

We have debated in this House to a great extent on why this is not a good deal, so I will not get into all the specifics today. I want to branch out into a different line of attack.

The president of the United States had the opportunity to reject the appeal that came to him in the White House, the extraordinary appeal, when the panel said it wanted another appeal. The authority to reject that appeal was in the hands of the president of the United States. He could have ended this countervailing duty case. It would have meant that the $5.3 billion would have come back to Canadian producers and the countervailing duty action would have ended. What did he do? He said no. He said to do a deal but that he still had to give U.S. producers their ability to appeal, even though panels consistently said there was no subsidy.

The United States has said our timber is underpriced. What the Americans are really saying is that we do not have a full auctioning system in Canada because most of our forest land is crown forest land. There is some private land, but most of it is crown forest land. A lot of the forest land in the United States is private land, so the private timber is auctioned.

However, what has happened in the United States? I think we should pay some attention to this. Maybe timber in the United States is overpriced. I will tell the House why that is the case. I know this to be a fact.

In the Pacific northwest in particular, there has been speculative pricing. People are bidding forward in terms of forward pricing. Twenty years hence, they will have to harvest this timber and in many cases they have found it is not economically sound to do so. The U.S. Forest Service also puts a lot of timber up for auction. When companies deliver on their auction price, the economics do not work and the U.S. government lets them off the hook on their auction price. Is that an auction system? I do not think so.

The U.S. Forest Service also provides huge amounts of subsidies for road building and other aspects of forestry in the United States. Does that ever come into the equation? Of course not.

As well, what about the subsidies at the state and local levels? I worked in the forest industry, and I can tell members that in Tennessee, Arkansas and Georgia if anyone tries to put up an OSB mill, a lumber mill or a pulp mill, the state governments and the local governments will be there writing cheques like we would not believe.

Does that come up in the debate? No, because the process is skewed. All we can do is try to defend our system. In our system, because of a public policy preference in Canada, most of our forestry is on crown land. We have a very good and very efficient system.

If we move to more of an auction system in Canada, the presumption is that it will push up delivered wood costs in Canada. I submit to the House that this is not going to happen. In fact, it could end up being exactly the reverse, and that by putting more timber up for auction, the delivered wood costs will go down. What would be the case then?

If the U.S. producers were sincere about their concern about our delivered wood costs, which of course they are not because they are only concerned about protecting their inefficient sawmills, if the Americans were really interested, that would be a concern to them. If we move to more of an auction timber system, then delivered wood costs to the sawmills will go down.

Why would that happen? I know there are some mills in British Columbia that have a mix of what are called small woodlot operators and crown timber. In their mix of timber, a lot of the wood they get on the auction system is cheaper than the price of the timber they are getting from the crown land.

As for this panacea, first of all, this is philosophical in nature. Because the United States has mostly non-crown forest land, then that must be the best system, so we in Canada have to go to auction timber. I would contend that this is robbing us of our sovereignty in terms of Canadian public policy.

We have the anti-circumvention clause within this so-called softwood lumber deal, which not only will attack moves by our federal government or the provinces to lay out good, sound forest policy in Canada, but also will rob us of our sovereignty. It fails to recognize that we have a different approach to things here in Canada. Why should we submit to the U.S. approach and policy when it comes to the way it deals with its forest companies?

This deal is not really a deal. It perpetuates the lie that Canadian softwood lumber is subsidized. We know for a fact that is not the case. It basically says to us that if we do not have an approach to forest policy that is similar to or the equivalent of what is done in the United States, then we must be wrong and the U.S. must be right.

I am a great believer in the power of the market. A market tells us a lot in terms of what is economically viable and what makes sense. But to have a functioning market, there has to be a fair market, a free flowing market, with knowledgeable buyers and sellers, and the market has to stick with the agreed upon prices.

As I said earlier, we have instances in the United States on auction timber, because there is this frenzy of speculative pricing into the future, where the pricing becomes disassociated with the economics. There is the case of the U.S. Forest Service, which has let some of these companies off the hook downstream in terms of their bid price. Is that what we would call an auction system? I do not think so. In an auction system there is a bid and, come hell or high water, we are stuck with that bid. It is not functioning like that in the United States.

In the U.S. Pacific northwest, we have seen the impact of the environmentalists. The famous spotted owl has taken huge swaths and tracts of commercial forestry land out of production. Is that the right environmental approach or not? I am not here to debate that. What I am saying is that it has taken huge amounts of productive forest land out of contention and that has resulted in a huge amount of speculative pricing, pricing that I would contend prices their timber erroneously high. Then our system ends up pricing timber in a fashion that is consistent with our values, our culture and the way we go about forest policy in Canada.

This deal is a total affront to Canadian sovereignty and our ability to set our own course here in Canada. For that reason, this deal should be rejected completely. We should provide the industry the support it needs to fight this countervailing duty right to the bitter end, because we have won and we will continue to win.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

10:30 a.m.


Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member who just spoke has a considerable amount of experience through his former role as parliamentary secretary to the finance minister. I think we can see from his comments and those of the previous speaker that there is concern expressed on two counts. The first is the punitive nature with respect to the application of this agreement on our own softwood lumber industry. The second is the question of precedents, whereby there is no evidence and no adherence to the rule of law with respect to international treaty obligations. On those two counts, our future would be imperilled inasmuch as a great deal of our trade of course is through the WTO and NAFTA.

In view of those two inferences which come from this particular agreement, in particular the one with respect to precedents that would affect future agreements in a wider spectrum of industry, I would like to ask the member how he sees this agreement in terms of that precedent, and whether he can see on the horizon other implications for other industries in other parts of our economic sectors.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

10:30 a.m.


Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is a good question from my colleague from York South--Weston. This is fundamentally one of the major problems with this deal. We have consistently, through objective panels, won the argument that Canadian softwood lumber is not subsidized. Through independent panels that consist of people from the United States, people who are experts in their fields, we have consistently won that battle.

If we have to negotiate in a case where we have been winning every appeal under the NAFTA panels, what does that say for other sectors? I know that the steel industry is concerned. I know that other sectors are concerned. They say they believe they have strong cases as well, but there are very few cases that could be as strong as that of softwood lumber. We have won consistently at every single panel.

I am sure there must be some people in the United States who are now thinking, well, my goodness, if Canada is going to negotiate around softwood lumber where the panels have consistently said there is no subsidy, that gives us a good opportunity, so why do we not take on Canada as well? It sets a horrible precedent. In principle, it argues totally against the notion of NAFTA, free and fair trade, which the U.S. signed on to, we signed on to and the Mexicans signed on to. This is a horrible precedent.

We know this has nothing to do with subsidy. We know that as soon as Canada starts to take more than 30% of the market share of softwood lumber in the U.S. market, the U.S. producers belly up to the bar, bankroll a huge fund and say they are going to launch a countervailing duty action. They know that puts the Canadian industry into disarray because it takes a lot of money and effort to fight these countervailing duty cases.

This is a horrible precedent. I think we should fight it and we should provide support in the communities and the industry. If we are going to fight this, we have to give them the tools to fight it. Many of their balance sheets are not in great shape, so we have to provide the financial support to fight this to the bitter end. We will win it. We have won and we will do so again.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

10:35 a.m.


Dawn Black NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, many ridings across the country have experienced economic impacts from the softwood lumber dispute, but the changes in my riding have been particularly acute.

New Westminster, Coquitlam and Port Moody were once part of the engine of the forest industry in British Columbia, with many mills and ports collecting the harvests of B.C. and sending products out through the Fraser River and on to the Pacific. The quay in New Westminster used to bustle with lumber traffic, but no longer.

Several large lumber mills have closed over the past decade, such as the Fraser Mills plant of International Forest Products Limited, formerly owned by Fletcher Challenge, and the plywood plant at Fraser Mills, which was closed in November 1990. The Flavelle Cedar Division of Weldwood of Canada Ltd. in Port Moody also closed, and Interfor closed its remaining manufacturing facility at Fraser Mills in September 2005. The only lumber mill still running is the smaller Flavelle mill in Port Moody.

I was in the House of Commons when the last Conservative government signed the free trade agreement. It is clear that the Canadian people were sold a bill of goods about the benefits of that agreement.

Mechanisms were supposed to be in place that would stop punitive trade actions of the past. Dispute resolutions and harmonization of trade, we were told, would be the result.

However, this softwood sellout lays bare the results of the FTA and NAFTA. It seems the Americans never intended to play by the rules. Once the going got tough, the Bush administration has found a willing partner in the Conservative government for the sellout of our softwood lumber industry.

This deal is based on a falsehood that Canadian softwood lumber industries are subsidized. This falsehood was exposed and rejected in each and every NAFTA and U.S. commercial court ruling. Each and every ruling has sided with the Canadian industry. Despite unequivocal dispute settlement decisions and trade court rulings, the U.S. will not play by the rules, and the Conservative government has capitulated.

The Conservative government is allowing the U.S. to abandon the rules when it does not like the results. Canada won major legal battles under the North American Free Trade Agreement and U.S. commercial courts, and Canada was just a few months away from winning the final two legal cases which would have voided the dispute and refunded every cent of the $5.3 billion in illegal levies.

Incredibly, now, we are leaving a billion dollars on the table. The deal gives $500 million in funds, owed to the Canadian softwood industry, to the U.S. Coalition for Fair Lumber Imports, which will no doubt continue to hammer away at our industry.

The sellout sets a bad precedent not only for softwood lumber but for other industrial sectors in Canada. This deal opens the door to U.S. attacks on every Canadian industry the U.S. now wants to target. The remaining industries in British Columbia may now come under further attack because of this unravelling of NAFTA.

The softwood lumber agreement will further downsize the Canadian softwood industry and there will be huge impacts on softwood communities in British Columbia and on workers throughout British Columbia and Canada.

Mill & Timber Products Ltd., which now owns the Flavelle cedar sawmill in Port Moody, is opposed to this deal. It has a long history in our community, but has suffered because of the aggressive and illegal actions of the U.S. softwood lobby.

It seems the only companies that are in favour of this softwood sellout are the ones that are headquartered in the U.S. We know this deal is bad for smaller and older companies, but it is supported by the multinationals. We know that thousands of jobs have been lost in smaller communities throughout British Columbia and other parts of Canada.

What does this deal say about the direction in which our country is going?

Many Canadians have said to me that they feel our country slipping through their fingers. Whether it is on foreign policy, which is quickly becoming a branch plant of the White House, or weakening sovereignty at our borders and our coastlines, Canadians know the government is moving us in the wrong direction.

It is entirely possible, once the money is given to the Americans, that they will decide to unilaterally suspend the deal and we will be back again at square one. Communities and industries will have gone through a huge struggle, and for what? The stability that our industry needs will only come when the court victories we have won are enforced and the Americans begin to play by the rules to which they agreed. We are certainly not going to achieve that result by wimping out and backing down.

We know this deal is wrong because it sells out our industry. We know its wrong because it sells out our communities. It sells out thousands of working families in British Columbia and Canada. We know its wrong because it sets a precedent that allows our largest trading partner to ignore trade agreements and all agreements it has signed with us.

The government will now have to stop any pretense that we have a free trade agreement with the U.S. It is just not there. It is a very sad day for Canada. It is a sad day for our working families, which rely on the lumber industry to feed their families. It is a very sad day for those small communities in British Columbia and across Canada that will feel the very negative impact that the government has achieved by selling out Canadian interest in the softwood deal.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

10:40 a.m.


Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned in a previous speech, I feel very bitter as I rise to take part in this debate.

The situation leaves the Bloc Québécois with no choice, because the entire Quebec forestry and lumber industry—particularly the softwood lumber industry—has asked the Bloc Québécois to support Bill C-24, which has come out of the Canada-US softwood lumber agreement. As I said, not only the industry, but the heads of the two main labour federations that represent workers in the softwood lumber industry have called on us to support the bill. Henri Massé and Claudette Carbonneau, as well as the president of the Quebec Forest Industry Council, Guy Chevrette, have expressly asked us to support Bill C-24.

I have also seen letters sent to Gilles Duceppe by large softwood lumber companies, asking us to support this bill.

The message these people have sent is that they are fed up and want Bill C-24 to be adopted so that they can recover a portion of the duties they paid. A billion dollars in duties levied illegally by the Americans will remain in the United States. The industry is fed up and must recover what it can immediately, or else it will be dead in a few weeks. However, no one told us that the agreement was perfect or even satisfactory.

There is a great deal of ambiguity surrounding this debate. Because the Bloc Québécois has always defended Quebeckers' interests and voiced their concerns, it will shoulder its responsibilities and vote in favour of Bill C-24. Needless to say, the Bloc Québécois will oppose the amendment introduced by the Liberals, an amendment that shows unbelievable hypocrisy on their part, because they are just as responsible as the Conservatives for the current softwood lumber situation and the agreement.

If the Liberals had not opted for what Mr. Pettigrew called at the time a “two-pronged strategy”—negotiation and legal action before the WTO and NAFTA—we would not be in this situation. The Americans have always understood that sooner or later, the Canadians and the industry would cave in and ask for a watered-down settlement. That is what happened.

The Liberals and the Conservatives should have gone through legal channels from the very beginning—especially since we were nearing the end of the process. The Liberals and the Conservatives should have supported the industry and communities affected by the crisis, but they refused to do so. They should have pursued the legal process to its conclusion, and then begun negotiations with the Americans from a position of strength regarding the legal process and with a view to reinstating free trade. But that is not what happened, and we cannot rewrite history.

I find it especially hypocritical that the Liberals' amendment says we should refuse to vote for Bill C-24 because the government failed “to provide necessary support to Canadian workers, employers and communities in the softwood sector”. Since 2003, we have been asking them to provide loan guarantees, to implement programs to help communities affected by the softwood lumber crisis and to implement a program to help older workers. During our opposition day yesterday, we asked them again.

The Liberals always refused to lift a finger unless it was almost election day. But something extraordinary has happened. They have suddenly discovered that loan guarantees were legal after all, even though for months and months, the industry minister at the time had been saying it could not be done. They suddenly found out that they could in fact advance $800 million in loan guarantees over five years because the illegal duties collected by the Americans were actually accounts receivable. They still are.

The Bloc will vote against this amendment and vote for Bill C-24 even though we realize it is not perfect and will cause problems. This is already becoming quite clear, now that the agreement will not come into effect until November 1, rather than October 1 as planned. The Conservative government must not think that Bill C-24 will resolve all of the problems with the forest and softwood lumber industries. This applies to Quebec and all other regions in Canada.

Take, for example, the community of north Lanaudière, in my riding.

I hope the Conservative government will carefully read the report we are currently preparing for all elected members from the region, calling for a support plan for north Lanaudière, which—like other regions—is going through a major crisis as a result of the trade dispute with the Americans. For a number of years now, more than $5 billion in duties have been frozen, which has blocked investment and has taken a significant toll on the liquid assets of the companies affected by the dispute. The higher Canadian dollar has made Canadian and Quebec wood less competitive on the U.S. market.

Energy costs, the price of oil in particular, have also increased significantly. Thus, the cost of transporting the wood from the forest to the plant, and then the final product to the U.S. market is much higher for the waferboard plant in the community of Saint-Michel-des-Saints. All these factors will not just vanish the day Bill C-24 is passed.

We hope the Conservative government has started to give some serious thought to the Bloc Québécois' proposals for supporting the industry, the communities and the workers affected by the forestry crisis. Last month two Louisiana Pacific plants closed in Saint-Michel-des-Saints in north Lanaudière. One is a waferboard plant and the other a sawmill. We hope the closures are temporary, but in the meantime they caused the loss of 322 jobs: 218 in the waferboard sector and 104 at the sawmill.

We have contacted the Louisiana Pacific subcontractors: the person who took care of the electrical system, the person who took care of maintaining the forest roads and the self-employed workers who collected the wood in the forest, are all affected. The loss of these 322 jobs resulted in even more job losses, namely the 229 people working for the Louisiana Pacific subcontractors.

For a community like Saint-Michel-des-Saints, the loss of 550 jobs has a significant impact. People who end up unemployed cut back their activities. They stop going to restaurants and hotels and they no longer buy things like new snowmobiles. Saint-Michel-des-Saints is a region where the snowmobile industry is quite significant. The entire economy has slowed down and that is why 87 jobs were lost last month. In total, 638 jobs have disappeared.

What does this mean for a community such as Saint-Michel-des-Saints, where 1,275 people work? This means that 50% of the people in Saint-Michel-des-Saints lost their job.

We must not be demagogues—as certain people in this House are—because the Saint-Zénon community, which is nearby and much larger, has 482 workers. It also contributes to these activities. Thus, in total 1,757 people are active in the workforce in Saint-Michel-des-Saints and Saint-Zénon, and 510 people lost their job. In total, 30% of the population in the region is unemployed today.

Yesterday in the House we debated a program to help older workers. When Louisiana Pacific reopens its factories—which we hope it does as soon as possible—it will reopen them with fewer workers.

It closed its factories because it was having problems with productivity and competition. I am therefore not expecting—and no one should expect—all 322 workers who lost their job to be re-hired. A support program for older workers, as well as measures to help north Lanaudière diversify economically, is therefore crucial. This is why we asked the government to allocate $50 million a year for the next three years in diversification funds for Quebec.

Businesses must also be supported so that they may continue their research and development projects. At present, tax credits are not refundable, and we know that certain companies have billions of dollars worth. We propose that tax credits for research and development be made refundable. Last year, Tembec invested $80 million in research and development, but also suffered losses.

Thus, the company could not benefit from these tax credits.

I therefore call upon the Conservative government to take very seriously the Bloc Québécois' proposals to help the industry, the workers and our communities, to support them through this crisis, which has been devastating for Quebec.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

10:50 a.m.


Marcel Lussier Bloc Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague from Joliette.

With regard to the delay in the agreement for another month, thus postponing its implementation to November 1, and given the consequences of not having loan guarantees, is there an indication of the number of companies in Quebec that run the risk of going bankrupt or closing their doors?

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

10:50 a.m.


Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, several companies are in trouble at present. Take Tembec, for example, where we are talking about several thousands of jobs.

We already know that the industry has lost a tremendous number of jobs. That is why the government was asked this week to advance a certain percentage of the duties illegally withheld by the Americans and to not wait for the agreement to be implemented.

We are talking about the postponement of the implementation from October 1 to November, but I have been told by many people that it could be postponed to December 1, 2006.

The government had promised to pay most of the duties illegally withheld by the American authorities before Christmas. I hope they will keep this promise, whether or not the agreement is implemented.

We know how much money was withheld by the Americans. Every company knows the amount. We may not know the details but the government could easily advance 50% of the duties withheld by means of a mechanism provided for in Bill C-24, the purchase of the rights to these duties by Export Development Canada in exchange for payment of refunds to companies.

I wish to thank my colleague once again, because his question allowed me to make this additional and, I believe, very important point. The Conservative government cannot just ignore the situation and wait for the implementation of the agreement to assume its responsibilities.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

10:55 a.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think I understand the logic behind the Bloc's position to support Bill C-24. I clearly do not agree with it but, as I understand the Bloc's logic, it is that if we do not support Bill C-24 and put this really distasteful deal into place, companies like Tembec, the corporate side of it, will suffer further casualties in the way of bankruptcies and closing plants, and, obviously, the workers in that industry will continue to be negatively impacted.

I want to put this question to him in all honesty. Given what has happened in the last month or so, where corporations across the country have made it clear that they will not drop their lawsuits, that they will continue to pursue those lawsuits in spite of that being a precondition of this agreement going into place, should the Bloc not be looking at the alternative of bringing in government action on this side of the border to support the industry, to support the workers to tide them through this period of time until we can finally enforce all the orders, the determinations and the decisions that have been made against the U.S. side on this? Is the strategy just not wrong?

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

10:55 a.m.


Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, in the past, the opposition was unable to force the Liberal government to give the industry the help that it wanted—that we all wanted.

I remember that in 2003, my colleague from Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques and I proposed an assistance program that they did not follow up on. It is the same with the Conservatives. Since then, companies have been closing. I would like to end by listing some of those companies in the riding of Joliette: Scierie Guy Baril & fils Inc. closed its doors or had to cut jobs; Les Bois Dumais Inc.; Les Bois Francs Benoît Inc.; I have already mentioned Louisiana-Pacific Canada Ltd.—Louisiana-Pacific waferboard; Simon Lussier also closed its factory; Adélard Goyette & Fils Ltd.; and Scierie Montauban Inc. We cannot wait any longer.

The Liberals are, in large part, responsible for the current situation. I have another full page of companies that have had to close their doors or cut jobs over the past few months.

Personally, I do not want to be responsible for further job losses. I am very aware that this battle is far from over and that Bill C-24 is just a token gesture of help given the magnitude of this crisis, which is affecting all regions of Quebec. I know that my colleagues are all working under the same constraints as I am. If a single person in Quebec had spoken up to say that we should vote against Bill C-24, things might have been different. However, nobody in Quebec spoke up to ask us. So, as proper defenders of Quebec's interests—

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

10:55 a.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Statements by members. The hon. member for Crowfoot.

Growing Alberta Leadership AwardStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Kevin Sorenson Conservative Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am proud of one of my constituents, Acme, Alberta resident Doug Miller, who has won the annual Growing Alberta Leadership Award for community spirit.

Doug Miller provided leadership, communication, dedication and encouragement to his community. He was the constant guiding force in rebuilding the Acme Community Centre after it was destroyed by fire. Acme is a town of just over 600 people. Doug and his team rebuilt this $1.9 million facility debt free in only nine months.

Doug is sharing the credit for this award with the town of Acme, the Alberta Barley Commission and others on the team. They include: Jim Northcott, who did the fundraising: Phyllis Deines, who did the paperwork: Viv Hannah, who liaised with the construction crews: Jane Allen, who kept the website up and running; and Acme Mayor Glen Rieger, who played a huge part. All of these folks were directly involved, but the people of Acme raised the cash and exemplified the spirit it took to get the job done.

This success story is a reflection of the passion and perseverance that rural Albertans have come to know in an industry that has known its share of obstacles.

Congratulations, Acme and congratulations, Doug.

BulgariaStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Ken Boshcoff Liberal Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in Parliament to speak to the fact that each year approximately 2,000 Bulgarian citizens apply for Canadian visas. In the past 15 years over 20,000 Bulgarians have immigrated to Canada.

However, there is currently no Canadian embassy in Bulgaria. As a result, citizens of that country are required to journey over 400 kilometres to Bucharest, Romania to arrange documentation. It is a 12 hour return trip. Clearly, this situation should be rectified.

We must show our support for the large number of Bulgarians wishing to make Canada their home. This Parliament must also recognize the needs of Bulgarian Canadians. We need to establish a permanent embassy in Bulgaria's capital, Sofia, as soon as possible.

I am now asking the Prime Minister to address these concerns. Bulgaria will join the European Union on January 1 and we should have a Bulgarian ambassador in Canada shortly.

Mascouche Art ShowStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Roger Gaudet Bloc Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to draw attention to the 18th annual Mascouche art festival whose theme this year is “Autumn Rendez-vous”.

Since 1989, this art festival has given gifted artists from various areas an opportunity to showcase their talent. It also gives the general public an opportunity to learn about the diverse forms of visual arts. The festival's guest of honour will be Mr. Jean-Guy Desrosiers, a talented Quebec artist who has been creating art for over 50 years.

I wish to congratulate Mascouche and its volunteers for this successful event which brings the attention of the entire province to the town and the Lanaudière region.

I invite you to attend the art festival to be held October 7 to 9 in the Mascouche council chamber at the René-Lévesque centre and Le Prélude Secondary School.

Liberal Leadership CampaignStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, we are learning today from the media that the ballots are being counted again from super weekend in Quebec. Let us see how super it was.

In the last convention the Liberal Party claimed 500,000 members. Now the party is claiming 200,000 members. The fascinating thing is when we look at the details in that story that only 10% of Liberals in Quebec even bothered to come out and support. When the Liberals are talking about a mandate of 30% for one frontrunner, 20% for another and 17% for the third, are we not talking about 3% of Quebec Liberals and 2% and 1.7%?

I ask myself why? It is because that party remains habituated to ethical lowballing. One leadership candidate is parachuting jobs into the public sector. There are two--count them, two--leadership candidates who are signing up the dead. And don't get me started on kiddygate.

What I would like to say is that the nation is watching and what are they seeing? They are seeing the ethical floaters in the Liberal toilet that just will not go down no matter how much they claim to flush.

Sight First CampaignStatements By Members

11 a.m.


James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am a Lion and proud of it. Yes, I am member of the Teulon and District Lions Club, a community-minded service organization.

Today I want to draw attention to the Lions International Sight First campaign. I am wearing a purple and yellow band that recognizes the Lions campaign to help others see.

Lions are recognized worldwide for their service to the blind and visually impaired. This service began when Helen Keller challenged the Lions in 1925 to become “knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness”.

Today, in addition to their local community service, Lions operate the International Sight First program. Lions extend their commitment to sight conservation through countless efforts.

Lions provide thousands of people around the world with free quality eye care, eyeglasses, Braille writers, large print text, white canes and guide dogs, and operate an eye bank.

I encourage everyone to ask Lion members on how they can support our Sight First campaign. We serve so others may see.

New BrunswickStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Charles Hubbard Liberal Miramichi, NB

Mr. Speaker, on Tuesday of this week, a new government took office in New Brunswick. The people of New Brunswick are excited with Premier Graham's new approach to government, a can-do approach, a government committed to improving the economy of our province.

Within hours of assuming office, the new premier fulfilled several of his campaign promises: financial assistance to students, assistance for seniors, a removal of part of the excise tax on gasoline, and moneys for the Saint John harbour cleanup.

Yesterday in Saint John, New Brunswick, the Irving Group announced that they were studying the building of a new refinery with a cost of $5 billion. It would make Saint John, New Brunswick the centre of energy for eastern Canada and the eastern seaboard in the United States.

Yes, New Brunswick is now led by an aggressive, dynamic premier. He will build a new New Brunswick. With it, he needs partnering with other groups. I am sure he will work with all interests to improve the province of New Brunswick and its economy.

FijiStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Deepak Obhrai Conservative Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, on October 24 and 25, 2006, the government of Fiji will be hosting the 37th session of the Pacific Islands Forum in Nadi.

This important gathering brings together leaders of the Pacific nations to address a range of issues of common concern, including environmental issues, economic underdevelopment, promotion of democracy, and anti-money laundering.

Fiji will be hosting the Pacific Islands Forum at a time of renewed hope in the country. The recent democratic elections are ensuring the participation of different stakeholders in Fiji's political life. Local parties and ethnic communities, indigenous and Indian, are working together to build a Fiji that is democratic, tolerant and prosperous.

As one of Fiji's partners in the Post-Forum Dialogue of the Pacific Islands Forum and the Commonwealth, Canada encourages the continued strengthening of democracy in Fiji.

Ariane SanterreStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Marcel Lussier Bloc Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, Ariane Santerre, an athlete from Brossard, is a determined young girl. All summer she trained with members of her club, twice a day, and the results were soon evident.

At the beginning of August, she and her team won the gold medal at the Quebec canoe-kayak championships held at the Notre-Dame Island Olympic venue. Three weeks later, at the Canadian championships, Ariane's team won the silver medal in sprint canoe-kayak, in the highly specialized war canoe category. Ariane has proven talent and determination given that she has been involved in the sport for barely a year.

She has distinguished herself in this demanding sport and was able to win the gold medal with her perfect technique.

I would like to pay tribute to the courage, determination and intelligence of this 17-year-old athlete, Ariane Santerre.

Combat Wounded MedalStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Jeff Watson Conservative Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, recently, Corporal Bruce Moncur, one of eight current Essex-Kent Scottish in Afghanistan, became the first soldier from our region wounded in our effort against global terrorism. After two brain surgeries, the corporal's injuries have left him struggling to remember names. Corporal Moncur's name is one we will not forget for his service to our communities in Essex and to Canada.

While saying thanks to our combat wounded is important, we can do more.

LaSalle resident Murray Sinnott has begun a campaign to see our wounded veterans and soldiers receive an official medal. The Crimson Maple Leaf, as he calls it, would be an enamelled crimson maple leaf set against a white enamelled background, to replace the current blue-gold braid limited to the dress uniforms of those wounded in combat.

Our Essex-Kent Scots, Canadian Forces, and veterans were all willing to spill their blood for the life and freedom of others. I call on members of this House to support the Crimson Maple Leaf medal to honour our combat wounded.