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House of Commons Hansard #91 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was deal.

Topics

Interparliamentary Delegations

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I have the honour to lay upon the table the report of a Canadian parliamentary delegation concerning its official visit to Mongolia from October 9-15.

Certificates of NominationRoutine Proceedings

December 5th, 2006 / 10:05 a.m.

Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar Saskatchewan

Conservative

Carol Skelton ConservativeMinister of National Revenue and Minister of Western Economic Diversification

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to table this nomination on behalf of the Prime Minister today. It is pursuant to Standing Order 111(1). It is a referral to the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics. It is a certificate of nomination for the Information Commissioner.

Sales Tax Amendments Act, 2006Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Carol Skelton Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-40, An Act to amend the Excise Tax Act, the Excise Act, 2001 and the Air Travellers Security Charge Act and to make related amendments to other Acts.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Gerry Ritz Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour this morning to present to the House, in both official languages, the report on the review of the Canada Grain Act and the Canadian Grain Commission conducted by COMPAS Incorporated, a tremendous body of work here that I am sure the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food will make reference to in his deliberations.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-391, An Act to change the name of the electoral district of Toronto--Danforth.

Mr. Speaker, t he members may know some of the history of Toronto and the long-standing role that both East York and Riverdale played in the history, particularly in the 19th century and early 20th century, in Toronto but there is a vibrancy in these communities that continues.

Unfortunately, however, the borough of East York, one of the last remaining boroughs in Canada, was annihilated by a decision of the provincial government when the megacity was created, much to the chagrin and disappointment of the people of East York who had a strong and deep community spirit.

At the same time, the residents of Riverdale have experienced a resurgence in business, community spirit, historical awareness and community service. All of this now can be recognized by modifying the name of the riding. I have conducted a community consultation on this matter and this is the consensus achieved by that process.

I am very pleased to put the bill forward for the House's consideration.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Supporting Communities Partnership InitiativePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Bloc

Christian Ouellet Bloc Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to present a petition from the Richmond—Arthabaska riding. It comes to us from an organization called Maison Raymond Roy, which provides shelter and counselling services to homeless people aged 18 to 30.

The petitioners expressed their concern about the fact that the supporting communities partnership initiative, or SCPI, has not yet been renewed. They added that they are going to lose some of their front-line workers in the very near future because they will have to go elsewhere if they do not receive some sort of assurance that the SCPI will be extended beyond March 31, 2007.

Age of ConsentPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Tom Wappel Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions. The first one is primarily from people who live in my riding but also in the surrounding areas.

The petitioners pray that the government assembled in Parliament take all measures necessary to immediately raise the age of consent from 14 to 16 years.

MarriagePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Tom Wappel Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, the second petition contains hundreds of signatures from all over Canada, including my riding and other areas of Toronto.

The petitioners call upon Parliament to reopen the issue of marriage in order to repeal or amend the Marriage for Civil Purposes Act in order to promote and defend marriage as the lawful union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

Sri LankaPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition from residents of my riding concerning the unfolding situation of the war that has developed in Sri Lanka. The three week military offensive by the government forces has produced an all out war situation.

These petitioners, several hundred of them, call upon the Government of Canada to send a strong message to the government of Sri Lanka to cease the military offensives and to allow the international relief agencies to enter the Tamil areas to provide humanitarian aid to the affected civilian population, to stop the shelling and bombing of the civilian habitats, as well as to allow the international monitors to investigate the situation.

I know all of us in the House would want to encourage all of the governments, individuals and groups involved to work toward a ceasefire once again and to re-establish the peace negotiation process.

Youth Volunteer ProgramsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Casson Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to table a petition comprised of 2,511 names from across Canada. This petition was put together by the Youth Volunteer Coalition.

The petitioners state that each year several tens of thousands of young Canadians express a desire to serve society as volunteers in Canada or abroad and that a great majority of them are denied this opportunity due to a lack of government funds provided to experienced and competent non-government organizations that offer volunteer programs.

They call on Parliament to enact legislation or take measures that will allow all young Canadians, who wish to do so, to serve in communities as volunteers at the national or international levels.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Louis Plamondon Bloc Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to present a petition on behalf of all youth in Quebec and Canada who wish to volunteer their services to others, either here or abroad.

Our youth are often unable do so, because of a shortage of funding. They are therefore calling on this Parliament to examine the problem and to ensure that the funds they need are made available to them, so they may continue their volunteer work.

Age of ConsentPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Dawn Black NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition in the House of Commons today that calls upon Parliament to protect our children from sexual predators. The petitioners talk about the ages of 14 to 15 being very vulnerable to sexual exploitation and ask the House of Commons to raise the age of consent from the age of 14 to the age of 16 years. It is signed by many people in British Columbia.

TaxationPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Dawn Black NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, the second petition asks Parliament to establish peace tax legislation and something that is called the conscientious objection act which recognizes the rights of conscientious objectors not to pay for the military portion of their taxes.

AfghanistanPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, this petition has been submitted by individuals from across the country, particularly Quebec, with a concern about Canada's role in Afghanistan. In particular, they are calling upon the Government of Canada to withdraw Canadian soldiers from Afghanistan and the mission that is taking place there. I present this petition to members of the House.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Canadian Wheat BoardRequest for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The Chair has received an application for an emergency debate, under Sanding Order 52, from the hon. member for Malpeque.

Canadian Wheat BoardRequest for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I have given notice with respect to a request for an emergency debate on the activities of the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board with respect to the Canadian Wheat Board.

This is an urgent matter requiring immediate discussion based on the minister's efforts to fire the CEO of the Canadian Wheat Board without cause. The CEO is the chief salesman for the board abroad, has a sound international reputation and is responsible for the sale of $6 billion worth of grains to some 70 countries.

Briefly, the issues that have occurred, which must be addressed on an emergency basis, are the following. The minister has compromised the reputation of the Canadian Wheat Board by his action of November 29 in issuing a preliminary letter on the firing of the CEO and president of the board. This has been done without cause and sends a signal internationally that the Government of Canada no longer has confidence in the board. However, members of the board of directors have sent a letter to the government saying that they do have confidence in that chief executive officer. In fact, he was recently reappointed to the position.

This matter must be addressed in the House by the government and it must explain itself fully in the course of debate. The action of the minister, coupled with previous actions in dismissing members of the board of directors, of utilizing, in an extraordinary manner, orders in council to prevent the Canadian Wheat Board from representing itself, the unprecedented interference by the minister in the process of the Wheat Board's election of directors and the growing opposition to these undemocratic processes, require the House to pronounce itself immediately.

Mr. Speaker, as I said a moment ago, members of the board of directors of the Canadian Wheat Board sent a letter to the government expressing their support for the CEO. Our international reputation is at stake, our farmers' livelihoods are at stake and in fact the very principles of a democratic country are at stake in terms of the minister's action with regard to this issue.

Canadian Wheat BoardRequest for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I note that the member made a request for an emergency debate in respect of the Canadian Wheat Board in October and I did refuse it at that time. I will take the hon. member's submissions into consideration and get back to the House in due course with a decision on this matter. I thank him for his submission today.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Vancouver Kingsway B.C.

Conservative

David Emerson ConservativeMinister of International Trade and Minister for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics

moved that Bill C-24, An Act to impose a charge on the export of certain softwood lumber products to the United States and a charge on refunds of certain duty deposits paid to the United States, to authorize certain payments, to amend the Export and Import Permits Act and to amend other Acts as a consequence, be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, judging by last night's 12 votes on softwood lumber related matters, all members of this House are starting to suffer a little bit of softwood lumber fatigue. Hopefully, they are beginning to understand the kind of fatigue that the softwood lumber industry is experiencing after the better part of two decades of protectionist attacks and trade disputes dealing with softwood lumber.

It is a great pleasure for me to rise in the House today to begin deliberations on third reading of Bill C-24, an act to implement Canada's commitments under the softwood lumber agreement. Once again, I ask that all members of the House support this bill.

To begin, I would like to thank all members of the House and particularly those members of the House Standing Committee on International Trade for their close study of the bill and their proposed amendments.

Much has happened since this bill was first introduced in the House on September 20. On October 12, the softwood lumber agreement officially came into force. Three weeks after that Export Development Canada commenced refunds of duties to sawmills and producers in many of the more than 300 communities in Canada that are dependent on the forest industry.

This has been a much needed infusion of cash for this sector at a time of very weak lumber markets. Thanks to the accelerated process we developed through Export Development Canada, over 93% of lumber companies participating in the accelerated refund mechanism have now received their refunds.

That is more than $3 billion disbursed ahead of schedule and Export Development Canada will clean up the balance of those refunds in the next few weeks. Considering what this money represents for forestry workers and communities, this is a critical period because this industry is facing some very tough times. Lumber prices are in a cyclical low as a result of weaknesses in the U.S. housing market. Energy costs are up and the exchange rate advantage enjoyed a few years ago has now been erased by the strong Canadian dollar.

Cash provided by the agreement will help lumber producers reinvest in their enterprises, improving efficiency and helping to weather that downturn in lumber prices. What is more important, it will let them do so in a more stable, more predictable trade environment, an environment where the rules are clear and where for the first time in years we are not dragging the dead weight of litigation and the crippling attacks of U.S. protectionists.

We cannot overestimate the importance of a stable environment to our lumber industry and now Canadian companies are investing again. They are buying U.S. companies. They are investing in technology. They are assuming the mantle of global leadership in an industry where Canada has historically been a world leader.

What do I mean by stability and certainty? We are talking about seven to nine years, the life of this agreement, during which Canadian forest policies are going to be protected from further protectionist attacks by U.S. interests. If there is a moratorium on trade actions, it would give our industry a sustained period to begin to rebuild and to plan their future.

We have an agreement which provides mechanisms for improving and strengthening the trade framework. We will be improving it through improved operating rules. There is an opportunity to examine exit ramps for further regions in Canada to come out from under some of the remaining restrictions in the softwood lumber agreement.

We have a provision for an examination of the coastal industry in British Columbia which, as members will know, has been in decline for 10 to 15 years now. We will now work with the province of B.C., with the industry, and with our U.S. counterparts to ensure that the softwood lumber agreement evolves and provincial policy and Canadian policy evolves in such a way as to breathe new life into the coastal industry in British Columbia.

We will have an opportunity through this agreement to look at the value added sector and what we can do to improve conditions for the growth of the value added sector here in Canada.

We have a dispute resolution mechanism which is a non-NAFTA dispute resolution mechanism. It will provide for quick, clear, transparent and fairly immediate resolution of disputes arising from this agreement.

In weak markets, which occur regularly in the lumber business, as anyone familiar with this industry knows, we do have a framework which is flexible. We have opportunities for provinces to choose how they wish to manage and react to markets when prices are below certain threshold levels. We have retention of revenues. When we have an export tax in place, those moneys stay here in Canada and the largest portion will be returned to the provinces from where the tax was collected.

When we think about the agreement and members of the House make a decision on how to vote on the agreement, we should think long and hard about the alternative. Our lumber producers have spent the better part of the last two decades engaged in costly and drawn out legal battles with the United States. They know that winning the battle is not the same as winning the war. Our victories in a number of trade courts, both with the NAFTA and the World Trade Organization, were helpful in setting the stage for a negotiated settlement.

However, litigation was never intended to be an end game. The government has not seen it that way. The last government did not see it that way, and the vast majority in the industry never saw litigation as a route to the final solution in softwood lumber. It was always intended to give Canada a strong basis for negotiations. Taken to the limit, litigation has proven to be a sinkhole into which we can pour hundreds of millions of Canadian dollars. It is a ticket to affluence and opulence for U.S. trade lawyers, but it is not a ticket to full free trade in lumber.

Some have suggested that Canada should have held out for the ultimate win in litigation, which they claimed would come some time in 2007 or beyond. Every member in the House must recognize that legal victory is never certain. On any given case, it is never certain. Every member must recognize that the United States, or its softwood lumber lobby, could simply file a new case the very next day.

There is little to prevent the U.S. from changing its laws to erase the basis for our legal victories. Only an agreement, such as the one we have reached, can prevent new cases and a new dispute from erupting immediately. In weak lumber markets, such as we have now, that is the time when Canada is most vulnerable to the most egregious, painful and destructive attacks by U.S. protectionists.

The NAFTA is a good trade agreement, but it was never devised to avoid trade disputes and trade litigation, whether originating on the U.S. side or the Canadian side. Those who reject a negotiated softwood lumber agreement are basically arguing for a sustained attack on U.S. trade law. That would be a war of attrition and I do not think it would be a war that we could win with the emerging and growing protectionist sentiments in the U.S. It is a war that would be fought on the backs of Canadian companies and Canadian workers. In the end, the legal victories would be empiric victories, the pain would far exceed the gain.

That is why the government took action, and it started right at the top. When our Prime Minister met with President Bush in Cancun earlier this year, they decided that resolving this dispute was fundamental to the Canada-U.S. trade relationship overall.

Together with the active involvement of industry and the provinces, we negotiated an agreement that is good for lumber communities and good for Canada. This agreement eliminates punitive U.S. duties. It ends costly litigation. It takes our lumber producers out of the courts and puts them back where they belong, growing their businesses and contributing to their communities.

For the next seven to nine years no border measures will be imposed when lumber prices are above $355 U.S. for a thousand board feet. When prices drop below this threshold level, the agreement provides provinces with flexibility to choose the border measures most beneficial to their economic situation. All export charge revenues collected by the Government of Canada through these border measures will stay in Canada. The agreement returns more than $5 billion Canadian to the industry. That is a much needed infusion of capital for an industry and the workers who rely on the lumber industry.

Make no mistake about it, if we turn our backs on this negotiated softwood lumber agreement, that some members continue to advocate, that would mean a return to the courts. It would mean greater job losses for the people and communities that depend on softwood lumber.

Ask the major lumber producing provinces that joined the overwhelming majority in industry in supporting this agreement, ask the producing companies, and ask the workers, if they really want to continue with a softwood lumber trade war at a time like this when markets are weak and protectionist pressures are strong and growing in the United States. Ask them if they would like to go back to paying U.S. duties. Ask them if they want to take on new legal attacks, new cases, and new duties, and further fill the pockets and the coffers of U.S. law firms. Ask them if they want to follow the opponents of a negotiated settlement like lemmings off another cliff in an act of collective economic suicide.

Our lumber communities have suffered long enough. They need the stability and the resources that this agreement provides. This agreement is the best way forward for our softwood lumber industry and the over 300,000 Canadians who rely on it. It does not solve every problem, but it does provide the framework for resolving outstanding problems. We will work with provinces, with industry, and with communities to build a great future for a great industry. I ask members to support Bill C-24.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have three questions which I will put to the minister and I will try to make them succinct.

Canfor was one of the first companies, and maybe the only company, that felt that the chapter 11 claim, in the context of the softwood lumber tariffs and the anti-dumping framework, essentially stated that its assets were unduly attacked with an unfair process. The minister may not be able to comment on this, but I am wondering how the minister can reconcile that with his position here today.

Second, at what price per thousand board feet do companies break even in terms of what companies would have been paying under the current tariff versus the new export tax where the companies could end up paying more export tax than they would have paid in terms of the U.S. tariff? What price is that? Are we there today or are we expected to be there at some point?

My third question is with respect to the concept of zeroing within the framework of anti-dumping. It is a complicated arrangement. I know the Minister of International Trade is very well versed in this. I wonder if he would comment on the concept of zeroing and whether he thinks it is a fair practice.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

David Emerson Conservative Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member asks some good questions.

On the chapter 11 issue, as the member knows I was the CEO at Canfor at the time Canfor launched a chapter 11 case. I can tell him from first-hand knowledge that the chapter 11 case that Canfor launched at that time was launched as a way of bringing further pressure on the U.S. government to bring about a negotiated settlement of the softwood lumber agreement.

We felt there was a strong case at the time, but again, it was always intended that the course of bringing litigation to a conclusion was a long, complex and very expensive project, and ultimately we would have to go to the negotiating table to bring about a satisfactory resolution. The chapter 11 issue should be seen in that context.

In terms of the break-even tariff, members will know that at the time this agreement came into force, the U.S. tariff was close to 11%. In this market, where lumber prices are under $300, we are in a world where we would be paying an export tax of 15%.

The context that all members must understand is that the 11% was under administrative review. It was already scheduled to rise to over 14% later this year. I can tell members that dumping margins, which are unique in this latest lumber dispute, grow dramatically in weak markets, so we have to expect that the U.S. duties would have climbed significantly. Even when we finally would have won, and we probably would have won through litigation on the current cases, there would have been new cases launched. I can tell members that in the current environment the likelihood of American success in the next legal round would have been greatly elevated.

Again, we must remember that the 15% duty we are charging as an export levy is almost like another form of stumpage, except that it is much more focused and is only on lumber that goes to the U.S. market, as opposed to raising the price of timber across the board, which would have rendered pulp and paper and OSB less competitive. It would have been very damaging. But that money stays here in Canada for the betterment of Canadians and that is a very important distinction.

On the matter of zeroing, as the hon. member knows, we have had cases at the WTO and zeroing has been ruled ultra vires, so to speak, of WTO rules, but there are a number of different ways that de facto zeroing still applies in dumping cases. I am no big fan of zeroing. That has been my view for a long time.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to comment following the minister's speech because it is important that everyone in Canada and Quebec learn a history lesson from this negotiation.

We must remember that the Canadian government dragged the entire forest industry into a fight against the Americans because of a court case. In the end, we were forced to accept an agreement that was less than satisfactory. We have been in regular direct contact with the forest industry, which asked us to support this agreement. Given the outcome of the negotiations, it was the best choice.

In order for us to learn from this lesson, I would like to know what the minister plans to do to monitor the implementation of this agreement. Will the monitoring committees provided for in the agreement really be established? I would also like to know if he is aware that the forest industry still needs another plan to help it get through the very difficult period it is now experiencing. I think that the money we are getting back from the Americans will do nothing more than help the industry keep its head above water. It needs much more than that.

I know that businesses in my riding, especially those that use American wood, will be exempt from duties. They are happy with that. However, the entire industry is going through a very difficult time because of the drop in prices.

I would therefore like the minister to tell us how he intends to ensure follow-up. I would also like to know how he plans to support the industry's recovery, not just by getting money back from the Americans, but by offering other forms of assistance from the federal government.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

David Emerson Conservative Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, we are in fact putting in place some of the committees that have been specified directly in the softwood lumber agreement. We are beginning to develop agendas. We are preparing to appoint appropriate individuals who can ensure that the agreement is administered and evolves in the most positive and constructive way for the Canadian industry.

I am also looking at appointing an advisory committee to me as the minister, which would help to advise me and thereby the government on how we ensure the longer term evolution of the softwood lumber agreement and the softwood lumber industry from a Canadian perspective.

The member quite rightly points out that the softwood lumber industry in Canada, and indeed in North America, has been going through some very difficult times.

We now have the pine beetle in British Columbia, which is causing an acceleration of the annual allowable cut and therefore a substantial increase in lumber production in that part of the world. However, 10 years out, there is going to be a very serious reduction in the annual allowable cut in British Columbia as a result of the beetle-infected wood having been harvested and the difficult sustainability issues that will face forest management in B.C.

Quebec and Ontario have been experiencing and managing reductions in the annual allowable cut in recent years. That is going to continue for a longer time.

In Quebec there are some very specific issues that need to be dealt with. Labour mobility out of some of the smaller lumber dependent communities in Quebec is not what it is in other parts of Canada. There are some very specific issues in the province of Quebec that need to be dealt with.

I know that both of my colleagues, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Natural Resources, are looking at tax and other measures which can be helpful in ensuring the strong evolution of the industry. We want to ensure that we do become the world's greatest lumber producer and the most technologically sophisticated lumber producer as we go forward.