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

Topics

Motions in amendmentSoftwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak at report stage of Bill C-24, commonly referred to as the softwood lumber bill. It is with great disappointment that we have witnessed some of the actions of the members opposite trying to make our committee non-functional.

The hon. member said that he liked me, but it is with great sadness that I find that the hon. member is taking me off his Christmas card list. This is not the spirit of the season and I hope he reconsiders.

During the 2006 election of the Conservative Party of Canada it outlined its softwood lumber strategy. In that platform the Conservatives promised to be tough with the American government, defend the Canadian softwood lumber industry, and stand up for the forestry worker and help the struggling communities.

Looking closely at the Conservative platform, specifically the small section on forestry, we see several promises. I would like to take a moment to go through a few of those promises today and how they apply to Bill C-24. One promise was to get tough with the Americans on this file. The Conservatives promised they would: “Demand that the U.S. government play by the rules on softwood lumber”.

I do not think that anyone who read this promise thought for a second that what the Conservatives really meant was they would turn their back on years of hard fought negotiations, turn their back on the cornerstones of the North American Free Trade Agreement, and turn their back on the sustainability of forestry communities. In their haste to appease the Americans and score some political points they capitulated on issue after issue.

Over the years our previous Liberal government fought time and time again through trade panels and international dispute resolution mechanisms to win battle after battle on softwood lumber. Whether it was at WTO or NAFTA, time and again we won those rulings. Admittedly, time and again the Americans appealed these rulings. Protecting their domestic lumber industry was paramount. One need only look at the Byrd amendment to see the lengths they would go through to secure their industry and by extension, the power of the lumber industry of the United States was going to work against us.

Big lumber in the U.S. wanted to limit access to Canadian softwood lumber into what the Americans perceived as their God-given domestic markets despite NAFTA and WTO rulings. Quite frankly they lobbied, bullied and pushed, and dragged out the process in the hope of maximizing their profits and waiting for someone to come along and give in to their demands. That opportunity materialized in the form of the Conservative government across the floor. So desperate were the Conservatives to get a deal, to show action on this file, that they stormed ahead and committed to a flawed agreement.

This agreement has concerning implications, not only for the softwood lumber industry but for other Canadian producers. Polls show that Americans are in support of free trade in principle. In fact, 66% of Americans are in favour of free trade; however, this support crumbles the second that the so-called free trade is not in their best interests.

This is not entirely surprising, but it does point to the fact that if today we capitulate on the softwood lumber, what will be next? Will it be beef, automobiles or grain? Who knows what is going to be next? That they have given in on this file shows lack of resolve, again for cheap political points. The Prime Minister pointed out some kind of great new bond with the American administration but is, frankly, a travesty.

This brings my comments on Bill C-24 to another promise made by the Conservative Party in its blue book. On page 19 in the Conservative 2006 platform it states that the Conservatives would defend the rights of Canadian producers and demand the “return of the more than $5 billion in illegal softwood lumber tariffs to Canadian producers”. We on this side of the House know only too well that the Conservatives are not that good with the math. In 1993 we inherited their deficit mess and we worked long and hard to balance the books of this mismanagement.

That being said, here we are today, and the Conservatives have lopped off a full $1 billion from their promise. That is $1 billion in illegal collected duties. That is $1 billion of our Canadian economy. To lop this right off and give it to the American administration and to the lumber industry, not only demonstrates the Conservatives are bad at math but they are bad negotiators. It is clear to all but the party opposite that at least half of this funding will be used by the American lumber industry to fund legal and political attacks against our industry.

Can we imagine $500 million of Canadian money being used by the American lumber industry to lobby against us? It is unbelievable. The Americans must have thought it was Christmas back in the spring when this deal was being made, and it will be Christmas again when the legislation is passed.

The Conservatives are throwing away the lumber industry to the wolves. With Bill C-24 they have backed the Canadian softwood lumber industry into a corner, and what is worse, they have given the American lumber industry a stick, a $500 million stick. What is more, after just 24 months, Canada's proud new government has given its opponents an escape clause to walk away from the deal. What shrewd negotiations, they have given away all we have gained through our trade agreement resolution process.

They have given opposing industries in the United States funds to lobby for two years against our industry, at which time they can pull the plug and possibly gain increased domestic and international ports again, financed by our Canadian funds. That is how the government protects its domestic industry. That is how a government fights on the international stage for just treatment.

Recently, the Prime Minister has been going around suggesting that he does foreign affairs differently than the past government. He does it differently all right. He walks a different walk and he talks a different talk indeed. He is walked over by the Americans, has miscommunications with the Chinese, and he ignores the European Union. That is hardly a stellar new approach.

Realizing my time is short, we could talk all afternoon on the travesty done here. I want to finish my comments by remarking briefly on the excellent work of my colleague, the Liberal critic for international trade, the member of Parliament for Beauséjour.

In the House we are all aware that Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador traditionally receive what is called the Atlantic exclusion. This exclusion recognizes that the lumber industry in Atlantic Canada is different because it is primarily conducted on privately owned land. The Americans have perceived this to be more in line with their domestic market and have therefore waived the tariffs that they impose on the softwood lumber imports from the rest of Canada.

When the recent softwood lumber deal was struck, the exclusion was in that agreement. However, when Bill C-24 was tabled in the House of Commons, the legislation did not have the same language. The Maritime Lumber Bureau raised these concerns with the hon. member for Beauséjour and other parliamentarians. The result was an amendment which was passed at committee to make the language more clear to ensure the continuation of the Atlantic exclusion.

I want to applaud my colleague's work on this amendment and his efforts to work out a deal so the new wording in the bill could be included and the exclusion maintained in exchange for our cooperation with some of the amendments put forward in committee.

We hope that the government resists the urge to roll back these improvements that are part of the report stage amendments. This betrayal will be noticed by the provincial governments, and must make members, like the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, very happy with the changes in these rollbacks.

Despite this agreement at committee, I want to be very clear that our party does not support Bill C-24. It is flawed legislation brought back by the Bloc and the Conservatives where possibly they tried to make improvements such as the Atlantic exclusion. The reality is that we have been duped. We can only hope that our interventions here at report stage will make members in the Conservative Party come to their senses and pressure their leaders to have the bill withdrawn from the House and negotiate a new deal for the betterment of all softwood lumber producers.

Motions in amendmentSoftwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I do not know how to take the intervention of the member for Sydney—Victoria.

The Liberal members on the committee rammed through Bill C-24 and refused debate on most of the bill. Aside from the section on the maritime lumber exemption, which we in the NDP supported, the Liberals rammed through every section. Now the member for Sydney—Victoria stands in the House and says that the Liberal Party is opposed to Bill C-24.

The reason Bill C-24 is in the House today is because of the Liberal Party. The Liberals were the instigators. They were the ones who pushed this bill along. It would still be in committee and we would still be looking at changing some of the most egregious errors that were made had it not been for Liberal members ramming it through.

I do not know how to take the member's intervention. Is it possible that he has finally realized that the Liberals made an egregious error and they are apologizing to Canadians from coast to coast to coast for having rammed through Bill C-24 and having done the Conservatives' dirty work? I hope that is the case but I think it is another example of Liberal double-talk. The reality is that the bill is in the House today because of Liberal support.

We know the bill is bad for Canadians but it is the Liberals who forced it through. The bill is here in the House now, after being rammed through at record speed, because of Liberal Party support.

The NDP has been the only party actively standing up and saying that with the thousands of lost jobs that have resulted since the bill was rammed through provisionally a month ago, with the billion dollars that we are giving away, despite a court decision that says we do not need to give away a single penny, with the export tax that is leading to job losses and shutting down value added production in this country and the fact that this deal stimulates raw log exports, we must ask why the Liberal Party forced this bill through.

Motions in amendmentSoftwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

Mr. Speaker, that is quite a question. The reality is that the committee was becoming quite dysfunctional. Mostly because of the NDP filibustering, the committee was not going to get past the first clause.

We all knew that the Bloc and the Conservatives would push the bill through committee. We, being the wise Liberals, the party of the centre, we tried to get some amendments in at committee that would help the lumber industry, not only in Atlantic Canada but right across Canada. We made the best of the situation. We cancelled the filibustering that was going on by the NDP and the rhetoric that was not making any sense.

Yes, we pushed some amendments through because, at the end of the day, the Bloc and the Conservatives were going to push the bill through and we needed to make some constructive changes to the bill. Those are the changes we are pushing for and the changes we still want to see but we are adamantly against Bill C-24.

We wish that in the future the NDP could be a little more cooperative at committee and make things work. It is the season and I am still waiting for my Christmas card.

Motions in amendmentSoftwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I heard that response but I can see that he is almost blushing after saying that.

The member talked about not wanting to listen to a discussion that was not constructive. Why was it that the Liberals were not interested in hearing from people across Canada? Is it that Canadians from across Canada might have something to say about this that he says we were filibustering and wasting the Liberal's time.

The member can talk to his own colleague from Thunder Bay. The committee would have had hearings in Thunder Bay but the members from the Thunder Bay area support this agreement.

For the member to stand up in the House and say that the Liberal Party adamantly opposes the agreement is not true. Because the Liberals cancelled the hearings across the country so people could not have input, is he saying that the people of Canada would be wasting the Liberals' time by giving their concerns?

Motions in amendmentSoftwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am glad the hon. member spoke about the member from Thunder Bay.

Whether it is in our rural caucus or any discussions in our caucus, the member from Thunder Bay is out front and centre for the industry. He is trying to make the best of a bad situation brought about by the Conservatives.

The NDP members are trying to take this issue on as though it is their cause, that they are protecting the workers and the industry. All our great citizens need to do is to look at the blues from the committee to know that the NDP members wasted the committee's time many times by filibustering.

I hope there is some sensibility here and that some of the amendments pass so we can get on with the show.

Motions in amendmentSoftwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Bloc Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will first state the position of the Bloc Québécois on the proposed amendments to Bill C-24, Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006, and, then, outline the position of the Bloc Québécois on Bill C-24 per se.

The Bloc Québécois is opposed to the following amendments.

Under Motion No. 4, the government would not be required to enforce the act; that does not make much sense in the context of fiscal legislation. Motion No. 25 greatly complicates the collection of export taxes and the enforcement of the act. We understand that the New democratic Party does not want the act to come into force, but Quebec lumber companies want it to.

Motions Nos. 83 and 84 would have the act become effective as of November 1. The fact of the matter is, however, that the anti-dumping duties were removed on October 12. Adopting these two motions would mean leaving the lumber trade unregulated for two weeks, which is contrary to the terms of the agreement.

To help members understand the position of the Bloc Québécois on the thorny issue of Canada-U.S. relations with respect to softwood lumber, I will describe once more our party's approach.

It is important to understand that the Bloc Québécois is unenthusiastically supporting Bill C-24.

This bill allows the implementation of the July 1 softwood lumber agreement between Ottawa and Washington by: setting the terms and conditions for the return to Canadian lumber companies of countervailing and anti-dumping duties representing 81% of the money currently held by Washington and about 65% of the amount that these companies have paid, taking into account variations in the exchange rate over the past four years; setting the terms and conditions for the return to Washington of the billion dollars that companies have to leave on the table; setting trade barriers that will govern the softwood lumber trade between Canada and the United States, including export taxes and export permits; and authorizing the payment of export tax revenue to the provinces.

The industry has stated nearly unanimously that this agreement was not satisfactory. It has, however, concluded that it was better to accept this bad deal than to continue fighting. In a word, the industry is at its wit's end.

The attitude of the federal government, be it Conservative or Liberal, has left a bitter taste. By refusing its support, it has considerably weakened the industry, forcing it to accept this agreement for fear of seriously jeopardizing its future.

The Bloc Québécois, after consulting the industries and workers in the forestry sector during the summer, came to the conclusion that it had no choice but to support the agreement because the industry, with its back to the wall, could not wait any longer. To act otherwise would not have been irresponsible.

The Bloc insists, however, on stating clearly that although the bill must be approved, the government cannot claim to have settled the problems the industry is facing. The industry is dealing with structural problems and the softwood lumber agreement does not solve them.

That is why the Bloc Québécois is calling for the government to implement a series of measures this fall to assist the forest industry, which is facing serious difficulties at the very moment it has been weakened by a lengthy trade dispute.

We want an income support program for older workers, an economic diversification program for communities that depend on the forests and special tax status for the 128,000 owners of private woodlots in Quebec.

In addition, we want an increase in funding for the Canadian model forest program of the Canadian Forest Service, and special tax treatment for the $4.3 billion in countervailing and anti-dumping duty that will be refunded by the American authorities to recognize the losses incurred by companies. We also want accelerated amortization of equipment; a program to stimulate innovation and improve productivity within the forest industry; a market diversification and wood marketing program; and, finally, financial compensation for maintaining forest access roads.

Some of these measures will become meaningless if they are not introduced this year, a pivotal year for the industry. The Bloc Québécois is counting on the Minister of Finance to properly respond to these needs when he makes his financial and economic update announcement.

Bill C-24 contains legislative measures to implement the softwood lumber agreement of last July 1 between the governments of Canada and the United States.

All of the provisions take effect from October 1, 2006. Since the bill was not yet approved on that date, the measures that it contains will be retroactive to October 1, 2006.

It introduces an export control system in the softwood lumber sector, which I will now describe.

Ironically, this control still takes the form of amendments to the Export and Import Permits Act. This act is normally used to control trade in arms and dangerous substances or to limit trade with particular countries under economic or military sanctions. Here, though, it is the products of Canadian firms that are being hit by the restrictions in the act.

In provinces like Quebec that choose to be subject to a lower export tax but have a ceiling placed on their exports, the bill provides that exporters must acquire a licence, which is a kind of export permit. It will enable Ottawa to ensure that companies cannot exceed the quota allocated to them under the agreement.

The methods of allocating export quotas are not specified in the act. This will be done later by regulation. The Government of Quebec has suggested that 94% of the quota should be allocated to companies on the basis of their past exports, with the remaining 6% available on a first come, first served basis.

The Quebec industry was concerned that the agreement provided for quotas to be allocated on a monthly basis—one-twelfth of the annual quota—and that the possibilities of exceeding this monthly quota in case of especially large deliveries were so limited that companies would be unable to honour their contracts or even reach their full annual quotas. We must remember that the construction industry is cyclical and lumber deliveries tend therefore to vary considerably from one month to another.

This issue still has not been resolved, and the government has not made any specific promises. At the most, the binational group responsible for ensuring that the agreement works well will deal with the problem. The Bloc Québécois hopes that the government will try through this binational group to make the monthly export ceilings more flexible. In order for this to be done, the bill already provides all the latitude needed to accommodate greater flexibility because things are done through regulation.

I could go on explaining the entire bill in this way, but I will stop here, Mr. Speaker.

Motions in amendmentSoftwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciated the member for Gatineau's speech, but I do not understand. I do not understand the Bloc Québécois' position at all.

Since the provisional implementation of this agreement, 2,000 jobs have been lost in Quebec. Jobs have been lost in Abitibi-Témiscamingue, plants have been shut down in Abitibi, and jobs have been lost in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean and on the North Shore. In short, more jobs have been lost in Quebec than elsewhere in Canada. Yet the Bloc still says it will support the agreement. It will support the bill even though we all know it is a bad deal and not at all in the best interest of Quebeckers.

We also know that this agreement has an anti-circumvention clause, which also appears in the bill, that directly affects Quebec's power to act. This clause forces the Government of Quebec to go to Washington if it wants to change its forest policy. The province has to get approval from the Bush administration for any changes even though forest policy falls exclusively under provincial jurisdiction. Even though it is within the purview of the Government of Quebec, we have just ceded the Government of Quebec's sovereignty.

The Bloc's policies in this House are inconsistent. The Bloc is not defending the Government of Quebec's right to make changes to its forest policy, nor is it fighting for all of the jobs that were lost because of this bad deal.

Why?

Motions in amendmentSoftwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Bloc Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from the NDP.

First of all, let us look carefully at this issue. The Quebec softwood lumber industry is asking us to pass this bill because it is under the gun. It is in a terrible position. The longer we wait, the harder it will be for the industry to get back on its feet. As for the anti-circumvention clause, it specifies that a country cannot act in such a way that circumvents the agreement. It is very important to understand this.

Thus, Washington could not try to limit access to its market any more than what is specified in the agreement. Compared to the years in which no further trade was possible without the Americans imposing an appalling tax, the situation will at least allow the industry to start fresh on a basis that will finally resolve this issue. This is what the industry wants, as well as the unions representing industry workers.

Motions in amendmentSoftwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, since the beginning of the debate on Bill C-24, I keep hearing the member for Burnaby—New Westminster continually bring up the position of the Bloc Québécois on this bill. Time and time again, my colleagues from the Bloc Québécois who spoke on the bill have explained the situation of the forestry industry and the people who depend on it, with respect to the softwood lumber issue and the agreement with the U.S.

Time and time again, we have said that our industry in Quebec literally had a gun to its head; time and time again, we have said how many sawmills in Quebec had to be sold to American interests; time and time again, we have repeated that we in the Bloc Québécois stand up for our Quebec industries. We are the voice of the industries and people of Quebec in this House.

On many occasions, however, I have seen colleagues from the NDP put forward all sorts of arguments that did not take into account Quebec's position.

Why is the NDP defending the Canadian position so strongly today? Why is it shouting from the rooftops that this is not a good bill and that—

Motions in amendmentSoftwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I am sorry, but the hon. member for Terrebonne—Blainville has run out of time.

The hon. member for Gatineau now has the floor.

Motions in amendmentSoftwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Bloc Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her remarks.

What we have here is, on the one hand, populist demagoguery and, on the other hand, a party called Bloc Québécois which is a responsible political party. Faced with the situation the softwood lumber sector is finding itself in today, the Bloc Québécois is taking a courageous and responsible position, in cooperation with the industry and the labour unions representing the workers in that industry.

Motions in amendmentSoftwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Simcoe—Grey Ontario

Conservative

Helena Guergis ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure to rise in the House today to report on the deliberations in the Standing Committee on International Trade on Bill C-24 to implement Canada's obligations under the softwood lumber agreement.

I would like to start by thanking the committee for its close study of the bill. The members worked hard across all party lines to put forward amendments that took into account the concerns of industry and the pressing need to implement the bill in a very timely fashion. It was truly a team effort. I know I speak for all members on this side of the House when I express our gratitude for the energy and ideas brought to bear on the bill. I am confident that their collective contributions and amendments have helped to clarify important elements of the bill.

Today I would like to update the House on the amendments approved by the committee.

The first amendment stems directly from a request from the Maritime Lumber Bureau. The bureau represents lumber companies throughout Atlantic Canada. As members know, the softwood lumber agreement already excludes Atlantic provinces from an export charge. This reflects a long-standing history whereby these provinces have been excluded from U.S. trade action.

Bill C-24 included provisions respecting the exclusion of the Atlantic provinces. However, the bureau wanted to ensure that this exclusion was further clarified in the bill. Therefore, led by the government and in particular the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, the committee discussed and passed this important amendment.

This clarification leaves no doubt that exports from the Atlantic provinces are excluded from the export charge and that a charge will only be imposed if there is a circumvention of the agreement. It also brings other exclusions, those of the territories and the included companies into the same clause. To ensure the proper functioning of the Atlantic Canada exclusion, the government will be proposing a few technical amendments to the bill at report stage.

Our colleagues from the Bloc Québécois proposed amendments that stemmed from concerns expressed by the Quebec Forest Industry Council. The first is a proposed amendment to clarify the timing with respect to the date of shipment for exports sent by rail to the U.S. Second is a proposed amendment to further clarify the definition of FOB value, which is the freight on board cargo, in the legislation. As with the Atlantic exclusions, these amendments directly address the concerns of the lumber industry.

The next amendment concerns independent remanufacturers. As the House knows, the softwood lumber agreement ensures that independent lumber remanufacturers will not have to pay an export charge on the value added component of their products. In fact, this was an essential component of Canada's position throughout the negotiations and in direct response to industry requests. However, the industry asked for further clarity. Therefore, the bill, with the government's amendments at report stage, will make clear how the independent remanufacturer will be treated and certified.

The government also put forward a number of amendments to reflect the agreement's entry into force date of October 12, 2006.

These proposed amendments, while relatively minor in nature, will give our lumber exporters an added measure of certainty and predictability to go forward and plan for the future. Indeed, time is of the essence for the bill. Canada's lumber industry is facing a number of challenges. Lumber prices are at the low end of their cycle and production costs are rising. Combine these challenges with the continued strength of our dollar and we can begin to understand what our industry is up against.

That is why, as the amended bill makes it through the House, we should remind ourselves of the importance of moving it through in a timely manner. Our lumber companies need the stability, predictability and cash that the agreement provides.

The agreement eliminates punitive U.S. duties. It ends the costly litigation, which has gone on for far too long. Under the agreement, the U.S. will immediately dismiss all trade actions against our companies. It takes our lumber producers out of the courts and puts them back where they belong, in communities across the country, growing their enterprises and contributing to Canada's economy. It provides stability for industry hit hard by years of trade action and drawn out litigation.

For the next seven to nine years, no border measures will be imposed when lumber prices are above $355 per thousand board feet. When prices drop below this threshold, the agreement gives provinces flexibility to choose the border measures that most benefit their economic situation. I should add that all export charge revenues collected by the Government of Canada through these border measures will stay in Canada and not end up in the U.S. treasury, which was the case before.

The agreement returns more than $5 billion Canadian to companies, a significant infusion of capital for the lumber industry and the workers in more than 300 communities across Canada who depend upon it.

I am happy to report that the Export Development Canada duty refund mechanism, which we developed to expedite refunds to companies, is ahead of schedule. More than $1.8 billion has already been dispersed to companies, and Export Development Canada will continue to make expedited refunds over the coming weeks.

While the money is good news in itself, we must also consider what this money represents for the forest workers and the communities. The badly needed cash provided by the agreement will help our lumber producers reinvest in their enterprises, improve efficiency and weather the current downturn in lumber prices. Most important, it will let them do so in a stable and predictable trade environment.

We cannot overestimate the importance of this kind of stable environment to our lumber industry. Along with the refunded cash, the stability and predictable environment created by the agreement will allow lumber companies to make long term plans and grow. It will also put us on the right path toward fostering further development and integration of a stronger North American lumber market, one where Canadian companies can play an essential and leading role.

Contrast this positive new environment with what life was like before the agreement. Our lumber producers have spent the better part of the last two decades engaged in a number of drawn out legal battles with the United States. They know that just because we win one battle, it does not mean we win the war.

Our victories in a number of trade courts, including NAFTA and the WTO, were simply appealed by the U.S., costing millions in legal fees and creating much uncertainty for the industry. In fact, some estimates pegged the total cost of fighting these battles for governments and individual lumber companies alike at over $300 million since 2002. The enormity of these fees stands as a testament to the high price of continuing with the strategy built entirely around litigation.

When I hear calls to continue litigation, I remind people of the steep price of taking this path and the extremely uncertain outcome waiting at the other end. This is a case where there is simply no trade peace waiting for us. There is only continued litigation, crushing legal fees and punishing U.S. duties.

Therefore, I would ask all members to carefully consider the cost of turning our backs on this agreement. Ask the lumber companies that are getting over $5 billion Canadian back to reinvest in their enterprises and weather the tough economic times in which they find themselves. Ask the major lumber producing provinces that join the overwhelming majority of industry in supporting the agreement. Finally, ask the hundreds of thousands of people in lumber producing provinces across the country who rely upon a stable and predictable trade environment for their livelihoods. Ask them if they would like to turn back the clocks to a time when this agreement did not exist.

The government believes our lumber communities have suffered long enough. We believe they need the stability and resources that the agreement provides. We believe the agreement is the single best way forward for our softwood lumber industry and the over 300,000 Canadians who rely upon it.

I am confident that the majority of parliamentarians agree with this assessment. Therefore, I ask for their support of the amended Bill C-24, and I thank them very much.

Motions in amendmentSoftwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Mr. Speaker, in her comments, the parliamentary secretary referred to some of the government amendments it is seeking to have accepted at report stage of Bill C-24.

By our examination, six of the seven government amendments, which deal with the Atlantic Canada exclusion, reduce or roll back some of the amendments proposed by the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley. In her speech, the parliamentary secretary thanked him for his good work. We believe his amendments, which were supported at the committee by Conservative members, improved the position of Atlantic Canada's historic exclusion. Yet at report stage, we find the government intends to roll back what its member had proposed as an amendment, an amendment supported by the Conservatives at committee stage.

We see the same thing with respect to the definition of independence, which was included with respect to Canada's independent lumber remanufacturers. The committee included this definition in the legislation, supported by some government members. We were surprised at report stage to see the Conservatives trying to turn back the clock, or undo what we thought had been some very positive work done at committee.

Could the parliamentary secretary explain why they have changed their minds?

Motions in amendmentSoftwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Helena Guergis Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would remind the hon. member that he and I agreed yesterday to meet today at 11 a.m. so I could take him through those amendments to assure him that this, of course, was not the case. In fact, the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley is in the middle of a briefing right now to take himself through those amendments to have a full understanding. He also realizes that the clarifications are very technical in nature.

However, there is one exclusion that was amended at committee. When clause 26 was actually approved by committee members, we made an error. The way the clause is worded right now, it would actually affect the industry all across the country. All the industry would be required to go through the Maritime Lumber Bureau. Unfortunately, all industry across the country just cannot go through the Maritime Lumber Bureau and provide their information to them. We do need to change that amendment so that it follows what the softwood lumber agreement has to say.

The softwood lumber agreement talks about the Maritime Lumber Bureau and it provides for the historic exclusion, which we as a government support, but the one very important part of it is that we have a domestic tax policy in Canada and we cannot have an international treaty overriding our domestic tax policy. Many times throughout the agreement there are sections where our domestic tax law applies that actually has not been put into words or even spoken about in the softwood lumber agreement.

I assure the hon. member that we are not doing anything.

Motions in amendmentSoftwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the parliamentary secretary's efforts to vainly defend the indefensible, which is this badly botched deal and this badly flawed bill.

What is interesting, in the exchange with the Liberal member opposite, is that it is quite clear that there was even more botching in the process of drafting the amendments that were supposed to fix the first draft of botches that came in Bill C-24.

The parliamentary secretary said that Canadians needed to think about what life was like before the softwood sellout. The answer to that is very simple: the 4,000 people who had jobs then do not have them now after the signing of the agreement. In the last four weeks, 4,000 jobs have evaporated into thin air. Canadians who think about what life was like before the softwood sellout can think of the thousands of people who are no longer working and the thousands of families that have lost their breadwinner because of the appalling incompetence of the government.

The parliamentary secretary referred to some repairs that were made to this badly flawed bill, Bill C-24. We only heard two witnesses at the standing committee. A number of errors were identified. Why were other clauses, like clause 6, clause 25 and clause 18, not repaired?

Motions in amendmentSoftwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Helena Guergis Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am hearing the usual rhetoric coming from that hon. member. I find it very disappointing, especially because he continues to deliberately mislead Canadians and this House when we are talking about job losses within the softwood lumber industry.

We acknowledge that there has been some job losses but it has nothing to do with this agreement whatsoever. It definitely has everything to do with the previous Liberal government's inability to secure a deal and its inability to stand up for the softwood lumber industry and do something. In fact, it did absolutely nothing.

Motions in amendmentSoftwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Boshcoff Liberal Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, for the past number of months I have thoroughly examined and outlined the shortcomings of the softwood lumber agreement. We know for certain that it is not close to that proposed by the previous government in August, 2005.

Many of the objections to the nature of the high-handedness are now, regrettably, becoming a trademark of the minority government. The lack of consultations are also of concern. I even had Thunder Bay included on the list of sites for four nationwide hearings during the committee stages.

As to the success of our legal battles, we were winning on the NAFTA and WTO fronts. These are concerns. The fact that the major objection of the United States on subsidization was refuted is something that I outlined previously.

The concern that the $500 million could be used against us still needs to be addressed and the impatience of the government to please the President of the United States are some of the objections that I have outlined since April. They have been well-documented and I have vocalized the concerns of the workers, the families, the communities, the municipal leaders and their associations, the suppliers and the companies.

I have also been in constant communication with all concerned. For Thunder Bay—Rainy River and, indeed, for all of northwestern Ontario, the goal is to keep people working so they can put food on the table, pay their mortgages and keep their families together.

I believe that during the debate and the vote, my message has been consistent and clear. It is to fight hard for what is best for the people of northwestern Ontario, do not let partisan politics create artificial constraints in representing one's constituents and listen to the workers and the companies that employ them. I have done all that. After six months of discussions, hearings, debate and several votes, I have strongly stood up for all concerns.

The companies in northwestern Ontario have been on their knees financially for some time and need the cashflow to keep people working. In fact, if the House will recall, it was the NDP that abandoned the workers of northwestern Ontario by supporting the Conservatives, and people know this. They know it was the NDP that cost all of these jobs. The blame lays squarely on the NDP for destroying the $1.4 billion forestry accord.

Along with the members for Kenora and Thunder Bay—Superior North, and indeed all northern Ontario Liberal MPs and senators, we were able to establish a package of support that also gained support from MPs across the country. A combination of loan guarantees, modernization incentives and environmental cleanups were gutted by the NDP. It is clear that it has no understanding whatsoever of economics.

One of the most despicable, even by NDP standards, public relations stunts recently took place. Inviting members to a debate without the decency of first talking to the members to see if they were available hit a new low. If people thought this was the hallmark of NDP character assassination techniques, one can just imagine its fear in not being able to even send a direct invitation. Many members of the NDP's own caucus and more in the labour movement were embarrassed by this deliberate setup. It was a new low for them.

All members of the House deal with the debate in an honourable parliamentary manner. That the members for Timmins—James Bay and Burnaby—New Westminster would stoop to this subterranean level has revealed their lack of character.

Over my 30 year span in elected office, I have never once seen such action. My record of public accountability and accessibility as president of three major municipal organizations, as mayor, councillor and now as representative of the people of Thunder Bay—Rainy River, speaks loudly and clearly of someone who is known to be fair, reasonable and honourable. Would I ever pull such a stunt like that? Never. It is astonishing that the NDP does not even have enough class to apologize. It is very sad and very lame.

As the first round of cheques have now been deposited and the companies have, with great reluctance, accepted this deal, it is vital that any obstruction or posturing that would delay the flow of further funds would only hurt the workers.

I ask all members to please let us move forward and cease any needless obstruction. If we are doing it for its own sake, then that is not the gesture of this Parliament.

The reason I voted in favour of this agreement, after many months of outlining my objections, was to restore economic vitality. Employees have been calling my office and dropping in to thank me and for that I am very appreciative. When a worker has been laid off and is now working again it means the entire difference. If the people of northwestern Ontario are working it means that northwestern Ontario is also working.

Motions in amendmentSoftwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I hate to interrupt the hon. member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River but it being 2 o'clock, we must move on. He will have five minutes left the next time this bill is debated.

CadetsStatements by Members

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pride and pleasure that I rise today to pay tribute to special young men and women who are part of the many cadet organizations throughout my riding.

For many years, Canada's young people have been involved in sea, air and army cadets. The cadet program challenges our youth to be the best they can be through team work and discipline, and yes, some fun too.

Recently one young man from my riding set himself apart from his peers by receiving a special award. Cadet Warrant Officer First Class James Powell of the 598 Sabre Air Cadet Squadron received his wings as he completed his private pilot's licence. He also was a recipient of the Doug Whitley Award for top cadet.

Recently many cadets took part in thousands of Remembrance Day services across this great country.

I extend congratulations to all the young men and women who dedicate their personal time to getting involved with cadets, to those volunteers who guide them and to the communities that provide so much support.

Boys and Girls ClubsStatements by Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Liberal Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize the important work of the Boys and Girls Club of Peel. Their after school program enhances the skills and knowledge that children receive in a formal classroom setting.

I believe that after school programs in my riding of Mississauga—Brampton South and across Canada have a positive impact on our children's study habits, self-esteem and the ability to work with each other.

The benefit that the Boys and Girls Club of Peel brings to our community has been recognized by various foundations. Recently, the RBC Foundation awarded the club a $28,000 grant to support its efforts.

Last week I attended the club's after school visual arts competition and was very pleased at the results that such programs have in developing community spirit. That is why I will continue to urge community leaders and businesses to assist these worthwhile initiatives.

I hope the House will join with me in recognizing the Boys and Girls Club of Peel by thanking everyone for their great work and their contribution to our community.

Government PoliciesStatements by Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, not satisfied with being a laughingstock at the World AIDS Conference, the Conservative government showed, yet again, its lack of compassion at the first nations socio-economic forum in Mashteuiatsh in October.

The empty chair policy seems to be coming all too common with this government. In August, the Prime Minister did not attend the World AIDS Conference and then it was the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development's turn to leave the Mashteuiatsh forum before the issue of social housing was ever discussed.

Lack of housing and a shortage of clean drinking water are third world problems that many first nations communities in Quebec are still experiencing.

I want to remind this government that it still has not announced anything about housing for aboriginals living on reserve, nor any concrete measures to halt the spread of the AIDS virus. The Bloc Québécois interprets this government's indifference as a blatant lack of compassion toward aboriginals and AIDS sufferers.

Softwood LumberStatements by Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, in yet another reaction to the softwood lumber sellout, Western Forest Products, which employed nearly 300 people, is closing its Queensborough mill in New Westminster, B.C. The closing of the mill, which has been in operation since 1914, deals a devastating blow to another softwood community.

With the help of the Liberal Party, the government and its intellectually malnourished Minister of International Trade are ramming down the throats of Canadians a badly negotiated, poorly drafted and punitive softwood agreement. The sellout promotes raw log exports to the U.S. rather than jobs in Canada.

We saw 2,500 jobs lost in just one week after the accord was signed and there have been 4,000 in the last month. As a result of the softwood sellout, we have seen jobs lost across British Columbia, in Alberta, in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and in northern Ontario and Quebec.

Not one Conservative has spoken out against this. Only one political party is fighting this sellout and the giveaway of Canadian jobs and over $1 billion. Only the NDP is standing up for Canada and Canadian softwood jobs.

TourismStatements by Members

November 21st, 2006 / 2 p.m.

Conservative

Bruce Stanton Conservative Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, today we have representatives of the tourism industry here on Parliament Hill meeting with members of all political parties. As someone who has earned a living in this industry, I can certainly vouch for the importance of their message. Tourism accounts for 2.1% of our GDP. It employs 1.6 million Canadians, about 10% of our national workforce.

About 80% of tourism businesses are small and medium size enterprises. I am sure every member of the House knows of a lodging business, a transport company, or a natural and cultural or historical attraction bringing many visitors to their riding.

Canada is part of a global tourism industry, with new and exciting destinations coming online each year. That is why it is important to maintain and hopefully grow Canada's share of the tourism trade, just like Canada's other important export industries.

I ask all hon. members to join me in welcoming the women and men who showcase this beautiful country the world over, Canada's tourism industry.

Government PoliciesStatements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Raymond Chan Liberal Richmond, BC

Mr. Speaker, my constituents in Richmond have many questions for this incapable, untrustworthy, meanspirited, neo-conservative government.

Why did the Conservatives break their promises to Canadians by giving up $1 billion in the softwood lumber agreement to our American competitors; by not conducting a review on the leaky condo crisis in B.C.; by proposing an accountability act that will make the government less accountable; by allowing so many Conservatives to go through the revolving doors to become lobbyists; and by lying about the taxation of income trusts and costing Canadians $25 billion in two days?

Particularly, why are they so meanspirited as to cut a billion dollars' worth of social programs when they inherited a $13 billion surplus from the Liberal government?

Last, why are they now attacking the independence of Canada's judiciary?

Cardiovascular HealthStatements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Merrifield Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, getting a regular health assessment plays an important role in disease prevention.

Today the Canadian Medical Association is hosting a cardiovascular risk assessment booth, where members of Parliament and their staff can chart their 10 year risk of cardiovascular disease. They can also discover their cardiovascular age, calculate their body mass index, and find out their cholesterol level.

I know that due to our busy schedules members of Parliament sometimes neglect their own health, but knowledge is the key to health and our future health is largely determined by taking such preventive action and getting regular health assessments.

The cardiovascular risk assessment booth will be open from 8 a.m. to 12 noon and again from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. today in room 200, West Block. The examination is very quick and results are available in 10 minutes. I encourage all members of Parliament and their staff to take the time to get an assessment. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.