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House of Commons Hansard #53 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was americans.

Topics

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I distinctly remember quite some time ago, the question of the use of the term “meanspirited” came up in the House. It was in the previous parliament. I believe at that time, Mr. Speaker, you ruled that it was unparliamentary. I heard the word very frequently today. I would ask that you review the issue and give direction to the House.

DecorumPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

Christian Paradis Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, I took part in the debate yesterday on softwood lumber and was unpleasantly surprised to hear the hon. member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou say the following about the hon. member for Simcoe—Grey: “The hon. member for Simcoe—Grey rose earlier to say that this is a good agreement. She may be pretty when she blushes, but she was blushing from shame”.

Mr. Speaker, such remarks are sexist, condescending and unacceptable in this House.

I demand an apology from the member to this House.

DecorumPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Would the hon. member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou like to address the House on this matter?

If so, he may now rise.

DecorumPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Bloc

Yvon Lévesque Bloc Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do not believe that the hon. member should intervene on behalf of another member. If she was offended by my remarks, she can ask for an apology herself. I can then respond to her directly.

DecorumPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

Christian Paradis Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was very clear. Such remarks are not worthy of this House. This relates to the House and has nothing to do with the hon. member herself. That is why I am demanding that the member apologize to this House.

DecorumPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. member has responded.

I will examine yesterday's Hansard and determine whether the Standing Orders were violated.

If they were, I will get back to the House shortly.

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3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

When the debate was interrupted, the hon. member for Brant had the floor. I understand there are four minutes remaining in the time allotted for his remarks. I therefore call on the hon. member for Brant.

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3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Lloyd St. Amand Liberal Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was referring to various components of the Liberal Party supplementary aid package for the industry, and I listed three of those components.

Fourth, we propose the provision of $200 million over two years to fight the spread of the pine needle in forests in British Columbia.

Fifth, we propose the provision of an additional $30 million, again over two years, to develop new markets for our wood products.

Last, we propose the provision of $30 million over two years to improve the competitiveness of the workforce, to promote the upgrading of workplace skills and to provide assistance to older workers who have been impacted by forestry industry layoffs.

With respect, the Prime Minister is incorrect when he asserts that we will get full and free access to the U.S. lumber market. In reality, under the terms of this negotiated deal, our market share is capped at 34%. Other countries, to which we have already lost market share since the imposition of duties and tariffs in May 2002, can export lumber to the United States completely duty free.

As have others, I wonder about the haste with which this deal was negotiated. Obviously one hopes that our so-called new government is not playing politics with the livelihoods of thousands of Canadians who expect to have positions in the industry here in Canada for many years to come, not just two years to come.

The deal has been trumpeted by the Prime Minister and members opposite as an achievement which eluded the previous government. Some achievement, a capitulation to the bullying tactics of the U.S. industry and the U.S. government.

The large question remains. Over $5.2 billion was taken illegally from our producers by the U.S. government and the deal which our government wishes to accept would put $4 billion back into the pockets of our producers, $5 billion taken over the last few years and that amount with interest remains owing. How is it at all logical that we would accept $4 billion only?

The government wants us to believe that the only logical, rational outcome is to give away $1.2 billion of Canadians' hard earned money. Members opposite are sniping at the Senate for not passing, quickly enough in their view, the much vaunted accountability act. I am suggesting that the government should focus on its accountability, the accountability to the taxpayer to ensure that $1.2 billion does not go missing from the pockets of our Canadian producers.

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3:10 p.m.

Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo B.C.

Conservative

Betty Hinton ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to what the member opposite said. There are a couple of things I would like to clarify for him, since he seems to be a bit confused. There is actually $1 billion allocated to pine beetle and $200 million of it will go out within the next two years. The $1 billion itself will go out over a 10 year time period.

He suggests someone is playing politics. I suggest he look in the mirror. The politics that are being played in this room today are being played at the expense of the lives and the livelihoods of communities and industry workers. This is beyond contempt to do this sort of thing. The Liberals had a long time when they were government to implement something that would be helpful, and they failed to do it.

Is it true that the member opposite does not understand that this is a seven year minimum deal, that there is $1 billion on the table and that $5 billion Canadian will come back? The statements he just made are very contrary to the facts.

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3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Lloyd St. Amand Liberal Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, as others have said, and it is beyond dispute, my understanding is correct. According to every tribunal which has ruled on it, $5.2 billion has been imposed improperly by the United States government. As I understand it, we are getting back some $4 billion. Therefore, $1.2 billion is not being returned. In my judgment, that is the essential unfairness of the deal.

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3:10 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the comments on the sell-out that we have been watching.

I heard the Conservative member from British Columbia talk about how great this was for communities. If she had visited the communities in my region in the northwest, she would clearly have seen that the last 10 years have been one devastation after another. There have been huge consolidations and massive layoffs of the workforce. What certainty she has talked about is certainty that can be torn up in a moment by one party alone. In particular, the Americans can simply claim that some unfair and unjust practice has taken place in Canada and walk away from the deal.

Bullying tactics may have worked. I know the hon. member works hard on community support. However, I have a question about all those years when massive consolidations were going on across the industry. Small operators, in particular, were crying out for loan guarantees so they could improve their operations while we were being hammered by tariff after tariff. Those cries for those types of guarantees, which the Liberals had the capacity, the knowledge and the wherewithal to do when they were in power, fell upon deaf ears.

It is extremely difficult to suggest that the Liberals have any significant and strong support for those communities when all those loan guarantee requests, and lo and behold they even came from the Conservatives, were simply not answered.

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3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Lloyd St. Amand Liberal Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very aware of the member's concern for environmental issues in particular and how well he advances those issues.

The Liberal Party wishes to move forward. We are not wanting to spend a lot of time revisiting the past 12 years or 13 years.

I will repeat for the benefit of the member opposite and others that our proposal would inject loan guarantees into the equation for our lumber producers. That is what is relevant and that is what we are endeavouring to focus on.

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3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is miraculous how the hon. member and his colleagues suddenly have this epiphany when they all of a sudden end up on the opposition benches. They had 13 years, by his own admission of a few seconds ago, which he does not care to revisit. There is no doubt he does not want to revisit it. That 13 year tenure was disastrous. It was a disaster in Canadian history.

Earlier in response to one of my colleague's questions, the Liberal member stated that he was unaware about the split in the money that would be kept in the United States under this deal and what would be returned to Canada.

Is he telling me he is unaware that his party, the Liberal Party, the 13 year history of the party that he does not want to revisit, was about to sign a deal that was vastly inferior to the deal we are debating today? How do we know that? Because the Minister of International Trade for the new Conservative government, who negotiated this deal, was at the table. He knows what the Liberals were about to sign, and it was vastly inferior to this.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Lloyd St. Amand Liberal Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, the terminology used by the hon. member is subjective in the extreme, extremely inferior and vastly inferior. He may refer to it as he wishes. We, on this side, feel that the details of the deal on the table are, indeed, vastly inferior to what we were prepared to negotiate as a government and what we now wish to see move forward.

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3:15 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to enter into the debate on the softwood lumber deal.

Speaking on behalf of the people whom I represent, I want to say that we believe firmly in our hearts that this deal is bad for Canada. It was poorly negotiated. It undermines our interests. It serves only to protect American interests. Therefore, we have to speak profoundly against it.

It is part of a worrisome trend. I can quote the Vancouver Sun, which published the details of a leaked letter from the Bush administration to the U.S. lumber lobby. In that letter in the Vancouver Sun article, the American administration confirmed that the objective was to, in the administration's words, hobble the Canadian industry.

Nor does this sellout end there. Of the $1.2 billion in illegal duties they left on the table, $450 million will go to the Americans to grease the re-election wheels of the protectionist American government that is facing tough fights in the upcoming mid-term congressional elections. So Canada's timber industry will be subsidizing the ongoing illicit attack on itself. We are going to subsidize and pay for their renewed ability to keep attacking us. We know they are protectionist and that is what they will continue to do.

There is more. When the industry balked, the Conservative government began its bullying tactics, which now have become familiar tactics. The Globe and Mail quoted a senior government official warning that opponents to this deal “should prepare themselves for the consequences of rejecting it and they might want to start contemplating a world where Ottawa is no longer in the business of subsidizing softwood [trade] disputes”.

It makes us wonder whose side the Conservatives are on. On whose behalf were they negotiating? I have negotiated a lot of collective agreements in my former life as a union leader, and I can say that this could not have been hard bargaining. Our negotiating stance was flawed from the premise. Our negotiating stance was on our knees. It was saying, “Please, please, U.S., leave us with some of our dignity and our respect and allow us to maintain our industry”. When we go in with a bargaining stance on our knees, we are going to come out with a bad package.

They have put together here a softwood deal that will be managed of the people, by the people and for the people, but it is the American people. In fact, this is one of the most shocking things about this deal, which I have come to learn recently. As a fiercely proud Canadian nationalist and if for no other reason, this is a good enough excuse to vote against this deal.

It turns out that as an aspect of this deal there is an unprecedented clause that requires provinces to first vet any changes in forestry policy with Washington. In other words, if the Province of British Columbia wanted to substantially change perhaps its rate of harvest because of a pine beetle infestation or some such thing, it will be duty bound to consult Washington first--in other words, get permission--or else it will be in breach of this deal. The Americans then can unilaterally state that the deal is broken and they can carry on with their illegal tariffs.

I keep coming across good reasons why any patriotic Canadian would not participate in what I call economic treason of this sellout in the softwood industry.

A lot of people may not remember this, but this is the second time a Conservative government has snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory on this lumber file. In 1986, the GATT, the World Trade Organization predecessor, issued a preliminary finding on the legality of U.S. lumber duties against Canada. Brian Mulroney's government at the time, hell-bent on negotiating a free trade agreement with the U.S., aborted the challenge.

We were about to win it and the Mulroney government aborted the challenge just before it came down in Canada's favour. The Conservatives wanted to make the argument that they needed the free trade agreement because the current regime was not working. These findings were not published until after the free trade agreement came into effect.

It seems like a pattern is developing here. The Conservatives are willing to undermine the best interests of Canadians to make some ideological victory in their own minds or to pander to the demands of the Americans.

The same is true of the assault on the grain industry with the government's overt attack on the Canadian Wheat Board. In fact, there are real parallels between the sellout on the softwood deal and the assault on the Canadian Wheat Board. Both are in the interests of and at the service of the Americans.

We know that the Americans began gunning for the Canadian Wheat Board before the ink was even dry on their initial signature on the free trade agreement in 1989. We know that. Since then, the Wheat Board has been subjected to 11 separate U.S. trade attacks. In the same pattern as the lumber duties and tariffs, the U.S. is claiming unfair subsidies.

The U.S. does not just want to eliminate one of its competitors in the world wheat market for its multinational agribusiness, but it wants its agribusiness to capture the price advantage enjoyed by superior Canadian wheat. It really comes down to that. The Americans' opposition to the Wheat Board is not even ideological, although they do allege that it is socialism, realized by the fact that we act collectively in getting the best price for our farmers through single desk selling. Really, it is the price advantage that we enjoy and earn because our wheat is superior. Our product is superior.

This is another issue in this worrisome pattern that has become the defining characteristic of the new Conservative government, a pattern which seems to be to integrate Canada's security, defence and foreign policies with the U.S. and shred our competitive advantage against the U.S. in the matter of lumber and wheat. It is a worrisome motif that we sense in many of the things the Conservative government is doing. Free trade is one thing, but this is not free trade.

While I am on the subject of the Wheat Board in relation to the softwood lumber deal, let me tell the House what Terry Pugh, spokesman for the National Farmers' Union, said about this. He said that a dual market kills the CWB because its monopoly seller position is precisely what earns farmers premium prices in global markets. The empirical evidence is established to prove that.

We are acting in the best interests of someone else if we are advocating the dismantling of the Wheat Board. Let me tell members the effect this would have locally for my area of Manitoba. The Canadian Wheat Board's demise would affect not just farmers but would also have a ripple effect across the Canadian economy, closing the Port of Churchill in my home province of Manitoba and probably seriously impacting Thunder Bay and even the Ports of Vancouver and Prince Rupert, we can predict.

Do we know why? Because Canadian grain would go south and be mixed with American grain and shipped through American ports. Canadian wheat as a distinct commodity would disappear even though it is valued around the world as the best in the world. For pasta and other products, it is the highest calibre. It is the standard that other people use to measure their wheat.

John Morriss, editor and publisher of the Farmers' Independent Weekly, says that a dual market is a chimera, a word I had to look up. He asks farmers to recall the voluntary Central Selling Agency run by the pools in the 1920s and the voluntary Canadian Wheat Board which began in 1935. Both had spectacular bankruptcies, likely the two biggest business failures in Canadian history.

The voluntary Canadian Wheat Board, a model of which is being advocated now by our current Minister of Agriculture, lost $62 million in 1938-39. We can imagine what that would be in dollars today. That model failed. That model was built for failure. That model cannot succeed.

The reason a dual market will not work is that if the open market is higher than the initial payment, the board gets few deliveries, and if the initial payment is higher than the market, it gets the deliveries but has to sell at a loss. If members cannot understand that, they have no business advocating the dismantling of the Canadian Wheat Board, because that sums it up in a nutshell. Still, there is this zeal, this unreasonable ideological passion, for dismantling the Wheat Board.

I used an analogy earlier. It is commonly said that a beaver bites off its testicles when it is threatened. If that is true, the beaver is certainly an appropriate symbol, if not for Canada then for two successive Conservative governments, because when faced with ceaseless bullying and browbeating by the Americans, the Conservatives react by carving off pieces of Canada as a nation.

They carve off significant pieces and important pieces such as our sovereignty in regard to being able to unilaterally set our own independent forest policy without having to consult with Washington, D.C. and getting permission, and pieces such as having our own Canadian Wheat Board establish single desk selling for the best interests of Canadian farmers. The Conservatives either do not understand this or they understand it and are serving some master other than the best interests of the Canadian people.

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3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed many of the member's remarks, but I was interested in his comments on the Canadian Wheat Board. This is similar to what has happened under the softwood lumber agreement, where we have won all the legal challenges but the government has decided that even though we have won it wants to go to a negotiated settlement. The Americans are basically operating in a way where they are saying they know we have won by the rules, but now they do not like the rules and so they want to change them. And the Government of Canada caves in.

The same situation is really true for the Canadian Wheat Board. We have won 11 challenges, I believe, from the United States as they relate to the Canadian Wheat Board, but what the government is proposing to do by doing away with single desk selling is basically to sell out to American interests that have, since time eternal, tried to undermine the Canadian Wheat Board through the legal process. They have never been successful in doing so.

Could the hon. member explain to us whether he sees that there would be advantages to the Americans as a result of the government proposal to take away single desk selling? What would be the loss to Canadian farmers as a result?

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3:30 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, with the bit of time I have left after that question, I can say I agree that Canada tossed away a significant victory, a victory not before some useless North American Free Trade Agreement panel but before the U.S. court of international trade.

On April 7, the court ruled that U.S. duties on Canadian softwood were illegal. That is just about the time our high priced negotiators were down selling out Canada in Washington. We were winning significant rulings and we were poised to win two more. We were that far away. The government snatched defeat right out of the jaws of victory and now claims it is saving money by not having to spend the legal fees to win the case we were going to win. It is unbelievable.

My colleague's question is connected. Directly related is the Wheat Board issue. The polls show that 73% of western wheat farmers support the board. The Conservative government, just as it is in lumber, is preparing to do the Americans' dirty work. The Americans do not like the Canadian Wheat Board.

The Canadian Wheat Board gives good service to Canadian farmers, to prairie farmers. It gets them the best prices. It makes us a real competitor against the American multinational agricultural business. The Americans want it dismantled and the Conservatives are willing to do their dirty work.

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3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Conservative South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak on the softwood lumber agreement as negotiated by the new Conservative government and the Minister of International Trade.

I am not quite sure how the NDP member who just spoke and the question from the Liberal benches got on to the topic of the Wheat Board in discussion of the softwood lumber agreement. The member from the NDP said that the Wheat Board enabled farmers to get the highest price possible. I am certainly not the expert on the Wheat Board, but my understanding is that producers cannot sell their wheat outside of the Wheat Board. Therefore, they do not have the option of going for the highest price possible. As a matter of fact, they may have to sell their wheat for less money than they could have received if they had sold it independently.

This debate should stick to the facts. If we stick to the facts this is a clear debate and I think there would be unanimity from all parties. There would be nothing but massive support for the bill and for the positive change it will bring to the lumber industry in Canada.

There are a number of issues that I want to talk about. I want to deal directly with a number of statements made by my Atlantic Canadian colleagues in the Liberal Party and in the NDP who have criticized this agreement. This is a good agreement for Atlantic Canada. To spread false arguments based on no criteria except rhetoric, based on no facts, only rhetoric, and the belief that if they say something enough times people will believe them, is not credible. It diminishes the work we do in this chamber.

To begin my debate I would like to read a quote from the Minister of International Trade who spoke in the House yesterday. His opening statement was very cognizant of the issue. It spoke directly to the issue and it is worth repeating:

Softwood lumber for Canadian softwood lumber producers has been an industry that has been plagued by trade disputes--

I do not think anyone would disagree with that:

--border measures and various types of trade harassment for basically a quarter of a century.

After 24 years of nothing but harassment from our American neighbours on the softwood lumber file, we have finally put it to rest. We are talking about organized trade, about clear rules, about definite boundaries. We do not have a quota system in place. We have trade that flows north and south across the long border between us and the United States.

The minister went on to say:

The agreement will provide stability and a dispute-free market access to the United States market. It will provide stability for a period of at least eight to nine years...it will provide a trajectory for the evolution of the softwood lumber industry to a world of complete free trade.

Obviously, complete free trade is what everyone would prefer to have, but we cannot diminish the agreement that we have before us and somehow try to discredit it by telling falsehoods about it.

The member for Beauséjour spoke against this agreement. He has sawmills in his own riding. I asked him about the hypothetical agreement the former Liberal government supposedly was desperate to have signed prior to Christmas and prior to the election. What was it about that agreement that was supposedly better than this agreement? Put it on the table; table it. I did not get an answer to that question.

I would be very interested in comparing the two. As an Atlantic Canadian, the member for Beauséjour would know that the difference in the agreements is that the Liberals were willing, as unbelievable as this may sound, to give up Atlantic Canada's free trade with the United States. We were countervail free prior to this last trade action. We were anti-dumping free. We had free trade with the United States. The Liberals were willing to give that up in order to get a trade agreement with the United States. It is unbelievable.

There are a number of issues that we know are factual. The Americans are protectionists. Is that a big surprise? Nothing has changed. The Byrd amendment makes it almost impossible for our exporters to work on an equal footing. The idea that somehow the next court case would have changed it is absolutely fictitious. The next court case would not have changed it. As long as the Byrd amendment is in place in the United States and the American industry feels it is being treated unfairly, feels there is a subsidy in the Canadian marketplace, the American industry can bring that action to the American trade board and can claim countervail or anti-dumping duties. There is no next legal action that is going to prevent that. If the Byrd amendment, which should not be there, was not there, then the avenue of going to the courts to have it settled once and for all would be open.

This softwood lumber agreement is supported by Atlantic Canadian mills. I have had letters from the majority of mills in Atlantic Canada, from the Maritime Lumber Bureau.

I would like to take a moment to recognize the work that the Maritime Lumber Bureau has done on this file. When the previous government was not looking out for the interests of Atlantic Canada, Atlantic Canada looked out for its own interests. We saw over a period of time a shift from east-west trade in lumber that used to go to Europe to north-south trade with the United States. Some of that was market driven; some of that was driven by the American dollar which was extremely high, but it was driven by circumstance.

We in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, P.E.I. and New Brunswick, with the primary lumber producers being Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, got shut out of the European market. That billion dollars in trade, $900 million in softwood lumber trade that Nova Scotia used to do with Europe suddenly became trade with the United States. There was a dramatic shift. There was a dramatic shift in Europe because of non-tariff trade sanctions by the Europeans. The non-tariff trade barrier that the Europeans put in place was the pinewood nematode. They came up with an excuse that insects would somehow infest the pine forests of Europe.

Of course, after 500 years of trade with Europe and no insect infestations from pinewood nematode, we thought we had a scientific argument to actually prove that would not happen. However, we could not have that argument heard clearly by the Europeans and much of that market was lost, unless the lumber was pressure treated or kiln dried.

I want to continue for a while longer on my Atlantic Canadian colleagues' non-acceptance of this treaty. This is a good agreement with the United States. It is a great agreement for Atlantic Canada. More important, the members opposite yesterday were saying that we need to read the agreement. Unfortunately, they had not because the one small change that needed to be made to this agreement to ensure Atlantic Canada's continued exemption from countervail and anti-dumping duties actually was the fact that we have been exempt. That exemption had unfortunately been neglected in the bill and all of the Liberals who were stating that they had read it so closely obviously had not. The member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley actually picked up on it, spoke directly to the minister and was able to have that exemption guaranteed.

It is a matter of dealing with the facts, not falsehoods, not fiction, not fantasy, but only the facts.

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3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Blair Wilson Liberal West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to the words of the hon. member across the way and I have three questions for him based on what he just said.

First, I want to ask the member if he is aware that on October 1, if this deal goes through, the Conservative export tax of 15% is going to be greatly higher than the current U.S. duties of 10.8% that are imposed right now.

Second, I would like to ask the hon. member if he is aware that the 19% penalty tax will now come into effect and that any softwood lumber company that does not sign on to this agreement will now have a 19% penalty tax imposed on its exports.

Third, I would like to ask the hon. member if he is aware of the dangerous precedent that this deal is setting and that the Americans are in the process of appealing Canada's recent win on the Byrd amendment which will open up the door for other U.S. industries to attack Canada.

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3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Conservative South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am going to try to answer the member's three questions.

The first thing that hon. members should realize is this brings a minimum of eight to nine years of stability to this industry. This industry has struggled over the years. It has had its high points; it has had its low points.

The 15% export tax is at the bottom of the cycle. The member would know that at least 50% of the time, Canada's exports to the United States are at the top end of the cycle. When we are at the top end of the cycle, there is zero tax. What happens at the bottom end of the cycle is people feel they have to produce more in order to make the same amount of profit they were making. They will produce more and that will flood the United States market. Protectionism will rear its ugly head at the bottom of the cycle. We put the export tax in at the bottom of the cycle and when it comes up to where there is some real profit in the lumber industry, there is no export tax and there is free trade.

As to the 19% for not signing, the people who are not in agreement with this, why should they benefit? Why should they not have to pay their fair share and benefit from the agreement when all of the rest of the mills are willing to pay? The mills are willing to pay. There is no discussion among them. They want this behind them. They want stability in the marketplace. We need that eight to nine years of stability in the marketplace.

The idea that the Byrd amendment is going to be changed by going to court in the United States I do not think is correct. The Byrd amendment will only be changed by the American congressmen and senators. I believe it is only Congress that can change it. It is not going to be changed by us.

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3:45 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Bloc Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his presentation.

The member praises the agreement that Ottawa and Washington have just signed. He certainly does not mention offsetting measures, assistance for the forestry industry and workers. The Bloc Québécois is proposing an action plan, a POWA and improvements to employment insurance.

I would ask the member to briefly comment on the serious repercussions of not having measures to help the forestry industry, and of the absence of a plan to help softwood lumber sawmills and workers. Can he explain what he believes are the repercussions of all this on communities, workers and the industry?

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3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Conservative South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Mr. Speaker, I come from a rural riding with a big forestry base. The consequences for the communities and workers will be very positive. First, there will be stability in the marketplace. Second, there will be the ability to export into our largest marketplace, which is the United States of America. Third, this is a very good agreement, in particular for Quebec. There will be 32 border mills in Quebec that will be completely exempt from any border measures under this agreement.

There is also built in flexibility in this agreement. At the bottom of the cycle Quebec mills can choose to pay a 5% export tax if they control their exports. There is flexibility for B.C. There is flexibility for all the provinces if they want it. We do not have a homogeneous lumber market in Canada. It is different on the east coast from on the west coast. It is different in Quebec from in Ontario. This agreement reflects the differences.

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3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Blair Wilson Liberal West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, today I stand to debate and discuss a unique event in Canadian history.

Never before have we as a nation snatched defeat from the jaws of victory as we have with this Canada-U.S. softwood lumber dispute. Never before have we fought a trade dispute in the courts, won case after case, and then dismissed these victories. Never before have we thrown the rule of law out the window.

Never before have we given up our leverage in negotiating before the agreement. Never before have we caved in to meet an artificial timeline of our own making and never before have we bullied our own industries to please the United States.

Never before have we had a government that has gone to bat for political expediency instead of going to bat for hardworking Canadians.

Simply put, this softwood lumber deal, this complete capitulation, is wrong.

On the eve of his re-election, the hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway said that he would be the Prime Minister's worst nightmare. By the way the member has botched this deal, I would say that his wish has definitely come true.

This agreement that the minority government has rammed down Canadian throats makes a mockery of free trade and seeds our domestic sovereignty. It creates a sliding scale export tax that, at current price levels, is actually higher than current U.S. duties. It abandons all our legal victories and gives up $1 billion to secure peace for only two short years.

It cedes our decision over domestic resource management to the United States. It caps our share of the American softwood market. It contains anti-surge provisions that cripple the ability of our forest industry to deal with unexpected circumstances, such as the rise of the pine beetle infestation in British Columbia, a problem, I might add, that is being further exacerbated by the complete lack of environmental policy by the minority Conservative government. However, that is an issue I will save for another time.

This deal exposes Canadian firms to needless uncertainty by agreeing to a monthly measurement for surge protection when U.S. demand is highly variable on a monthly basis. It encourages other sectors and other U.S. companies to seek political decisions to gain protection from Canadian industries, all but guaranteeing more disputes in the future.

Even American lawyers think Canada got suckered. Canada's so-called new government took the terms of our surrender and now Canadians will have to pay the price.

How did we get to this point? In May 2002, the Government of the United States imposed a countervailing and anti-dumping duty of 27% on Canadian softwood imports. Canada's Liberal government challenged this swiftly and comprehensively. It brought forward cases under the North American Free Trade Agreement, the World Trade Organization and the United States' own court of international trade.

The NAFTA panel struck down the United States' injury determination in September 2003, again in April 2004 and then again in August 2004. These legal victories brought the duties down from 27% to 20% on December 20, 2004, and then from 20% down to 11% on December 12, 2005, steadily relieving pressure on our lumber industry and its workers.

We proved that our lumber industries are not subsidized, do not cause injury, do not threaten injury and do not dump their products in the U.S. markets.

This past March, a NAFTA binational panel decided definitively that Canadian softwood lumber is not subsidized. That panel's decision was to take effect on April 28. The United States had to either comply with this ruling and drop its duty to 2% or file an extraordinary challenge on April 27. The United States used its last legal trick. It in fact did file an extraordinary challenge, allowing it to continue to force Canadians to pay $40 million a month in illegal duties.

However, far from being just another legal stalling tactic, this would have been its last tactic. NAFTA's strict timelines for challenges required a decision no later than August 10, and not even the Americans thought it would go in their own favour. Once that decision had been made, it would not be appealable. Five years of litigation were about to pay off. No more tricks were left in the book, except one. In January, the Conservative Party came to power and determined to end the softwood lumber dispute no matter what it would cost the industry.

In April, the minority Conservative government, eager to get any type of deal together no matter how bad it would be for Canada, hastily agreed to a two page deal with Washington, signing it before the provinces or the industry had time to analyze its effect.

What happened next was a naked betrayal of Canadian lumber producers. The Prime Minister, eager to please his new buddy, George W. Bush, agreed to a U.S. request to suspend our challenge, wiping away years of legal victory. The Prime Minister gave up our biggest bargaining chip for absolutely nothing. Compounding this error, the minority Conservative government then announced that it wanted a final text by June 15 so it could get legislation through the House before the summer break.

If we want to get concessions in negotiation, we do not give away our bargaining chip and we do not announce our own artificial deadline. Industry representatives call these blunders amateur hour at the negotiating table and amateur hour it was. To meet its self-imposed deadline, the minority Conservative government gave up a lot and got nothing in return. It gave up $1 billion in illegal duties. It agreed to a convoluted set of export taxes and quotas. It agreed to end litigation, litigation that we were winning. It lost control of our very own forest industry and it got no concessions in return.

The deal was botched by the member for Vancouver Kingsway and it was botched badly. Now our forestry industry and our forestry workers in Canadian communities from coast to coast to coast will have to pay the price of the minister's blunders.

Over 360,000 Canadians are employed in the softwood industry. Canada has a well-earned international reputation for the quality of our products. It is not, however, been an easy time for our forestry industry. It is already facing pressures from our higher Canadian dollar, higher energy prices, lower housing starts in the United States and shrinking demand for global newsprint. This botched deal will only worsen their plight.

Industry associates warned us months ago that this deal was not commercially viable. The Ontario Forest Industry Association estimates that it could cause as much as a 10% industry job loss. The Bank of Montreal expects shutdowns of both lumber and pulp and paper facilities. The Free Trade Lumber Council warns that sawmills dependent on exports are particularly vulnerable. The Independent Lumber Remanufacturing Association warns that this deal would all but destroy their sectors.

The minority Conservative government continues to bully our industries into submission. The Prime Minister has backed softwood industry representatives into a corner and left them with no choice but to concede to this flawed deal. It has gone so far as to promise to slap a new 19% penalty tax on duty refunds going to Canadian producers who refuse to sign on to the deal and then to delay those payments for two years. These bullying tactics may work inside the Conservative caucus but they will not fly in the forestry sector.

The minority Conservative government has abandoned our lumber industry by refusing to provide loan guarantees for the duties that are rightfully ours. The government has tried to divide Canadians, pretending that there is no other solution.

However, there is a better way. Canada can say no to this botched deal and do what we should have done from the start, which is to see our NAFTA challenges through to the end. We should immediately implement an aid package that, first, will invest in improving industry's competitiveness; two, will invest in the skills of our workforce; and three, will work to develop new overseas markets for our wood products.

We all must remember that it is not just Canadian producers, but American consumers who lose from these illegal duties as well, because they are the ones who will have to pay higher prices for their homes. We should continue our effort to build political alliances of lumber consumers in the U.S. against these illegal duties.

Indeed, before the minority Conservative government caved in we had already secured the support of 150 congressmen and congresswomen to oppose the restrictions on softwood imports.

The Liberal Party cannot support this deal in good conscience, not when there is a better way. It is our duty as the official opposition to stand up for the interests of Canadian lumber producers and the interests of 360,000 hardworking men and women who are employed in this sector of our economy.

The Liberal Party of Canada stands opposed to the minority Conservative government's humiliating surrender and it opposes this botched softwood lumber deal.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Simcoe—Grey Ontario

Conservative

Helena Guergis ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure where to begin with all this misinformation that is coming from the hon. member but I will do my best.

First, let us remind him that we have two national governments, both Canada and the United States, that are both supporting this deal. All of our major softwood lumber producing provinces, including the province of British Columbia where the hon. member comes from, are supporting this deal. The premier of B.C. is supporting this deal. I have a letter from one of the hon. member's constituents who says, “As one of the larger independent sawmills in your constituency, we urge you to support the upcoming bill on the softwood lumber agreement”.

I also have to point out that today the BC Lumber Trade Council underlined the importance of its ongoing work with the Government of Canada to implement the terms and conditions of the agreement. It said:

We are pleased with the progress made to date and the responsive efforts of [the Minister of International Trade] and his officials in making this important agreement a reality.

The hon. member has chosen to ignore the industry. Ninety per cent of the industry in Canada is supporting this deal.

He made the comment that there would be a 19% charge for those who choose not to support the deal. I would remind members that it is 90% of the industry that is supporting this deal. I also must tell the hon. member that it was the industry that asked for that 19%. They wanted a level playing field. All the industry in Canada will have 81% of their money returned and 100% of the industry will benefit from seven to nine years of stability and predictability within the industry, which is what they have asked for.

Would the hon. member please tell us why he has chosen to ignore the premier, his constituents, the industry and even B.C.'s forest minister, Rich Coleman, who is urging all federal members to put aside their politics and support this deal?