Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to the House about this agreement, which I feel is inadequate and does not represent the best interests of Canadians everywhere.
When we entered into a free trade agreement with the United States, we did so with certain reservations. Indeed, we were negotiating with a country whose economy is so much larger than ours, a country that is much more powerful and that tends to be very protectionist within its borders.
There are certain advantages, however. We have the advantage of access to enormous markets. We are producers and exporters, and our primary markets are in the United States. We therefore entered into the agreement.
We now see that, rather than defend that agreement, defend ourselves and our producers, we are being forced to sell out to American interests.
We are upholding our responsibilities in the agreement. We must still sell them oil and other products on which a dependence has developed. We must live with that agreement on our side, but the advantages are suddenly disappearing. It begins with losing these advantages concerning forestry and we fear just how far it can go.
What other industry must we sacrifice in an agreement so that the Prime Minister might one day be invited to the presidential ranch in Crawford? What other sector of our economy are we going to abandon?
The government boasts about the number of entrepreneurs, mills and producers who have signed on to this agreement. The inquisition boasted that all the witches they burned at the stake had also signed some declarations of guilt, but they were forced to do that.
We see that in this case. Industries and provinces have told us that they have been coerced into signing an agreement that does not advantage them. They say that it is not a good deal and that they do not like it. In April they started a process that they could buy into, where there was a framework agreement and they could have discussions. All of a sudden, producers were left out of those discussions.
A few had discussions. The minister ensured that a few large ones were taken care of, the ones he has an interest in and has had an interest in the past, like Canfor. If organizations represented mills or producers in more than one province, they were not part of those discussions. Most of the producers were left out.
We have entered into an agreement where we maintain our responsibilities and give the U.S. $1 billion for partial access to its market. It is our money, money that tribunals at the WTO and NAFTA have agreed belongs to Canadian producers. We give it to the Americans and while we can continue to sell in their market, it is under their terms. There will be quotas, there will be taxes and it will cost us.
How do these taxes work? When the price goes down and producers are squeezed, they have to start paying an export duty at a time when they can least afford it. Everyone understands, as I do, that accelerates the risk of bankruptcies, closures and foreclosures.
If for some reason the Americans do not like it, they can step away from the deal, but they keep our money. That is about the equivalent of a kidnapping. We catch the kidnappers with the victims, we bring them to court, go through a preliminary hearing and trial and all the evidence is in our favour. However, right before the jury comes into the room, we strike a deal and say that they will not be found guilty and they can keep the ransom money. If at any time they are not happy, they can come back, get the victims and ransom them again. This is the deal that has been struck, and we are proud of that.
We have seen once again that there are giants in the forestry sector. Canfor is a giant, and the minister of Canfor understands that, and there are smaller ones. There are shrubs, little bushes. There are people like the Prime Minister, a shrub who will do anything to have an agreement with the U.S. President. He will profit. I have no doubt he will get to the ranch and he will be happy, but where will we be left?
How have these mills been coerced into signing? They are in debt. They have been through a long battle at NAFTA and WTO. They have had restricted access and have had to pay ransom money to the Americans. They are in trouble and the banks have been backing them. If the mills sign on, the banks will get their money back. Therefore, the bankers are putting the squeeze on these mills and they are signing on. The bankers are going to get their money and the mills are going to be okay for a little while.
We see the downturn in the U.S. economy. Eventually we are going to hit those magic numbers, and I think it will be immediate, where they have to start paying ransom or where there is limited access. Do members think the banks will be supportive and allow the mills to go into debt again? The banks will realize there is no more money they can get back from the Americans and support from the federal government will not be there. Therefore, we will have an accelerated round of closures in our Canadian softwood industry.
Again, that plays into the hands of the gentleman and his friends from Crawford. The Americans will have $1 billion of our money. We will have a lot of softwood capacity, the best in the world, that will be on the market, some of the medium sized and smaller ones, which I am sure they will be very happy to buy at discount prices. We are abandoning that industry.
Mr. Speaker, you might ask as an astute observer why a member from Atlantic Canada would not support this deal. Atlantic Canada is not included in the agreement. From the very beginning, there was an understanding on the U.S. side that because Atlantic Canadian forests are largely owned by the private sector and individuals, and the cost of cutting the wood is higher, that there is no level of subsidization. No argument was made. The Americans said we would be exempted from any restrictions.
The Americans might do that because they think we are fine little people who cut their trees without making noise and saw them ecologically, and get them to the market in a very nice way, or the Americans could be trying to divide our industry. The Americans could be trying to put a wedge in the industry, where they have one part of the country working against the other, where it makes it difficult to have a national forward looking policy, approach or lobby of all the producers in this country.
Immediately, we have a disagreement because there is a slight advantage for Atlantic Canada because we continue to have access and we have some stability in the market. Our producers know where they are going. They know they are not paying duties and they know they will not be paying duties to have access to the U.S. market and so that is quite good.
However, what will happen when we start having all the closures and downsizing in other parts of the country? What will happen when the access is restricted or they cannot financially export to the other parts of the country and we start having increased competition in the niche markets that we have in Atlantic Canada? Will this be good for Atlantic Canada? I do not think so.
I think Atlantic Canada is the most important part of the country of course, but it is a part of this country. Atlantic Canada does well when the country does well. We depend on trade with the U.S. in many areas, from high technology, repair in the military of the IMP in Halifax, to fisheries products in my riding, tires in the three large Michelin manufacturing plants that we have, oil and gas exports, oil and gas manufacturing, ship manufacturing, and ship repairs. We depend on exports and we depend on our markets in the U.S.
If we start looking at NAFTA and start tearing it apart, start taking away the Canadian advantages and only keeping the Canadian responsibilities, our region is no longer advantaged. All of sudden we will see that we cannot ship into that market. We will see our oil and gas and our primary resources going into that U.S. market. We would be forced by this agreement to send it there without advantage.
I believe for Atlantic Canadians, like for all Canadians, that it is important that we study this deal very seriously, that we look at it, that we see what it means, and that we not support this agreement.
Futhermore, however I see that I am running out of time, so I will return tomorrow for questions and comments.