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House of Commons Hansard #54 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was agreement.

Topics

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I read with great interest this morning that the government released new federal documents that said that the government's top foreign policy priority is to have greater collaboration with Washington.

There is nothing that will foster that collaboration more than walking into negotiations saying, “Here, pick my pockets, take what you want, where do we sign?” Suddenly, we have a much greater collaboration and much closer relationship with the folks in Washington

However, the member who just made his speech talked about relationships, his concern for workers, his concern for the forestry sector, and the relationships that he values. Yet I wonder, why is he so afraid of actually talking to those workers, talking to the families of those workers, talking to the communities affected, and taking consultations right across the country, so that we just do not listen in the House to what the folks in Washington want, but that we stand up for the working families in this country and do what they have elected us to do.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

Jean Lapierre Liberal Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, the NDP does not have a monopoly on consulting with real people.

When I mention people that will be affected, that includes some of my own family members. We understand the difficulties facing these people, what they go through every day within their families. We have heard it from workers everywhere in Canada and particularly in Quebec. As a member from Quebec, I have greater access to that province. We consulted businesses, we consulted industry. We have been in regular contact with Mr. Chevrette for quite some time, even when we were in power. He even attended a Liberal caucus meeting, the only time in his life.

Lastly, we realize that this agreement does not correspond at all to what communities want, nor what workers want. The only people satisfied are the Americans, who are applauding wildly. Furthermore, bankers are sleeping more soundly, since learning that they can siphon off $4 billion to reimburse the line of credit that was granted. Later, they will tighten other things up.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

5 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I cannot muster any enthusiasm to talk about Bill C-24.

We have heard all sorts of amazing things from hon. members of all stripes in this House. The member for Outremont gave a fine performance. This is probably the first time he has risen with such outrage to defend workers in this House. This is the first time. He used to be a minister and did not rise to defend workers. No, that was not what the member for Outremont did. He was a minister, he made decisions.

That is the reality. The softwood lumber crisis has existed since May 22, 2002, when the Liberals were in power. The member for Outremont was elected in June 2004. What did the minister do? What did the member for Outremont do when he was minister? Absolutely nothing. He said earlier that they were in court and were winning battles. All the while, plants were closing.

Let us not ask ourselves questions.The Conservative Party did not close all the plants; the Liberal Party's decisions closed them. That is what happened. That is the reality.

Clearly, all that time, the Bloc Québécois defended the interests of workers in Quebec in this House. We suggested good ideas and solutions. We were the ones who proposed providing loan guarantees in this House. The Liberal government did not listen to us, and the Conservative government is not listening to us either.

We did not get guarantees. No, there is the program. The member for Outremont refers to the program. All that time, the Liberals were in power and did not implement their program. Did they think that people thought the Liberals were going to implement it to get elected? People did not trust the Liberals. That is the reality. And they were right.

Today, in this House, we are here to defend the interests of workers, who have asked the Bloc Québécois to vote for the agreement because the court case was dragging on too long. The reality is that the companies need money.

We have voted, we are voting and we will vote to defend the agreement, for the simple reason that the forest industry is in crisis and it needs the money, because the Liberal Party did not come to its assistance when it was time to do so. It did not create loan guarantees. The Conservative Party is repeating the same mistake of not helping the companies. It decided to sign a cut-rate agreement. Everyone says so, including the industry. This is not really the ideal agreement. The problem is that the companies have had it and, before they all close down, obviously we are going to keep the existing plants alive and we will hope to work together to try and reopen the ones that have closed.

That is the reality. This is why Quebeckers can rely on the Bloc Québécois to defend their interests. They cannot rely on the Liberals, who spend their time in court trying to defend and win and do what they have always done, that is, not give anything to the industry, telling it to keep on hoping it will win the final battle, the last case.

Cases have been won every year. We win one but it does not put anything more in the workers’ pockets. That is the harsh reality for the workers.

The 147 companies out of 151 who called the Bloc Québécois to ask it to vote in favour of this agreement, which is not a good one, did not do so lightheartedly. We say so quite openly. We have offered some solutions to improve it. The only problem is that the words “The End” are written on the wall and the Conservative Party has decided not to help the industry. So everyone says that the best thing that can happen is for the money paid by the companies to be refunded, even partially. This is the industry’s request, once again.

The only party in Quebec that listens to the workers, to Quebeckers, is the Bloc Québécois. We and the people are in symbiosis. The same cannot be said of the Liberal Party. Thus, we decided to support this agreement, for the sake of the people.

This is why we are here. We will go on battling in the interest of the people. Why? Because we will never be in power.

The hon. member for Outremont’s problem might be that he covets power at all cost. That is his problem and the problem of his friend, the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard. Power at all cost, and look what happened: in coveting power at all cost, they lost it, because power is loaned to us, it is not ours to keep. We will always be here, of course to defend the interests of Quebeckers.

We would like to say to the Conservative government that if it has any heart at all—which is a good question with the Conservatives—some excellent topics could be added at the industry’s request. We absolutely must resolve the issue of the older worker adjustment program. People between 50 and 55 years of age or more are losing their jobs in the forest industry and deserve our help until they can retire. That is what the Bloc Québécois wants. It is true that there was a tiny opening in the last budget, but we are obviously still waiting. Older workers are still waiting, especially in the forest and textile industries.

This week, the $2 billion cuts to all the programs—programs for women, aboriginals and the most disadvantaged in our society—showed once again that the Conservative members have no heart.

We want them to listen to what the industry is asking. We want an assistance program for older workers so that people who worked in the forest industry can live decently till they retire. That is what we want. We have already costed this program, and it would not be phenomenal amounts that would shatter the government’s expenditures. This has already been raised by the Bloc Québécois. This request is justified for the simple reason that the industry has officially requested it. The Bloc Québécois has always been a strong advocate of this request in the House.

We also want an economic diversification program for communities that are dependent on the forest. We are still waiting for the famous Marshall plan promised by the minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, the hon. member for Jonquière—Alma, if my memory serves. He promised a genuine Marshall plan that would help launch resource-based regions, but all he produced this week was a mouse.

The Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec made a disappointing announcement of $85 million in recycled money. They took some money from certain programs and they recycled it to try to help the most economically disadvantaged communities. They gave $85 million while the industry leaves more than a billion dollars in countervailing duties in the United States. The Conservative government offers an $85 million program spread over four years. We hope it won’t be too little, too late. My colleague from Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine is quite right to mention this fact. Some $85 million over four years. That is sad. It is really sad that our communities are not better supported by a Conservative government that is completely insensitive to the problems facing the most disadvantaged communities in our regions.

The problem of regional development is a problem that affects everybody. It is not true that the large urban centres could survive with only head offices, which are often the head offices of companies that are developing resources in our regions. That is the reality. Governments are often out of touch. They think that the population is in the cities and that it is not worth the trouble to invest in our regions. On the contrary, if a great many people live in our cities, it is because we have prosperous regions that support the development of our natural resources, agricultural development and development of our forests. What would we do if we did not have lumber to build our houses? We take pride in building homes, but the lumber comes for our regions. We are glad to eat well; to have good bread and other good things on our tables, but that all comes from our regions. The Conservative Party should not forget that.

We want a real economic diversification program for communities that are forestry dependent. We are still waiting for the great program that the Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, the member for Jonquière—Alma, failed to deliver this week.

We also want a special status for the 128,000 owners of private woodlots in Quebec. To maintain the industry, we must have trees. We want a support program to revitalize the industry. If we support private woodlots, we will be supporting the resources that are the basis for the industry. This is an idea put forth by the Bloc Québécois. We expect the Conservative Party to take it seriously.

We want a special tax measure for the $4.3 billion in countervailing and anti-dumping duties. We must not forget that the companies will receive less money than they paid. They will receive $4 billion of the $5 billion; that is 81% of the total. Moreover, because of the increased value of the Canada dollar since 2002, they are incurring a loss. In fact, they will only receive 65% of the 81% that they paid. We are asking for a refundable tax credit so that they can recover those amounts. That is the way Canada can deal with this matter.

Once again, Quebeckers can be proud that the Bloc Québécois is defending their interests. It is only with reluctance that we support Bill C-24 and the softwood lumber agreement. We do so in the interest of our fellow citizens, of workers in the forest industry who have asked us to support the bill.

Because, obviously, we are the only party that is really listening to them.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for his speech, which was nearly as fascinating and energetic as the one before it. The only difference between my party and his is that we will eventually come to power, and I hope we can count on his party's support when the time comes.

My question for my hon. colleague is this: Does he think that this bad deal will have a negative impact on other sectors of Canadian industry, such as the agricultural and manufacturing sectors? Will this bad deal lead to other bad deals?

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, first I would like to say that I am pleased my NDP colleague is asking for our support. It shows that he is aware of the Bloc Québécois' importance in this House. Naturally, we will be delighted to support his party anytime they make good decisions once they are in power.

Can this deal have an impact on other industrial sectors? I should note that the softwood lumber sector does not fall under the free trade agreement. This sector is excluded, which is why the Bloc Québécois has always demanded specific aid programs for this industry. This sector experiences repercussions and, from time to time, is subject to American duties.

Losing jobs in a region inevitably has an impact on the local economy. For single-industry communities, this is obviously very important. Once the dispute has been resolved, the industry will get a breath of fresh air.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member may recall that when the softwood deal came up it was a rush. Again, it was one of these issues where the government had to have an answer quickly. The Prime Minister was not even here for question period. The Conservatives were just doing it and then they tabled it, gave it to the other leaders and said that we were in the House and we had to make a decision.

That deal which was presented to and addressed by the House at that time is not the deal that is represented in Bill C-24. In fact, some of the provisions are there, but the deal has changed substantively. It seems to me that this is not a long term solution to this problem.

In fact, the bill itself only provides a horizon of less than 24 months, and we are going to be right back at it because we have abandoned the dispute resolution mechanism. The government has put the onus on those who want to pursue their legal rights. It has put them under pressure, saying that the government has abandoned them. The Minister of International Trade has said that the industry is going it alone if it does not accept this deal.

Perhaps the member would care to at least comment. I understand that he wants to protect the industry in Quebec, but we really need a long term solution. This bill represents only a short term solution. Is the member going to continue to fight for the rights of the softwood industry after this deal--maybe--goes through?

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, the problem of my Liberal colleague and his party is simple. Once again, they are not in touch with what the public is asking. We are much more pragmatic than that. Of course we are capable of analyzing documents, making legal analyses and other things. The industry is saying they have had it with discussions on legal documents. The only problem is that the Liberal Party does not understand that and it is still wrapped up in discussions on legal documents.

The industry and workers are now saying that time is up. They want their countervailing duties back and even if it is a bad agreement, they want it now. That is why a majority of Quebeckers put their trust in the Bloc Québécois to defend their interests. We have a symbiotic relationship with the people of Quebec. Employers and employees are asking us to sign the agreement and that is what we are doing. We are not overjoyed to do so, just as they are not overjoyed to accept it.

The only problem is that the Liberal Party still has not understood that the legal discussions are over and that it is now time to move on, help the companies, the employees, the men and women who work and who have dedicated their lives to this industry. The Bloc Québécois made this decision to help its people and to stop fighting. As they say, the worst agreement is always better than the best trial. That is what the Bloc Québécois chose together with the industry, employers and employees.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Bloc

Raynald Blais Bloc Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

First of all, I wish to pay tribute to my colleague who just spoke. I think that he is putting us back on the right track as opposed to what we heard previously from the member for Outremont.

Second, I would like to ask a very simple question. Who did the NDP, the Conservatives or the Liberals consult in Quebec? I am under the impression, from what the NDP, the Liberals and the Conservatives are saying, that they did not consult anyone in Quebec. Or, if they did, they were not listening.

I would like my colleague to comment on this.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine for his question. He is quite right. If the NDP and the Liberals vote against this agreement, despite the appeals from the industry, workers and Quebec citizens, it is because they have not understood and they have not consulted

The Conservative party managed to negotiate a sellout agreement. They did not adopt the plan put forward by the Bloc Québécois. This plan, supported by the industry, called for loan guarantees and tax credits to cover potential losses. The Conservative Party negotiated this agreement, I reiterate, without consulting the industry.

Thus, the Bloc Québécois is the only party that is attuned to and wholeheartedly supports the interests of Quebeckers working in the forestry industry. These people can count on us.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to join this debate. I would like to share with members of this House the concerns of the United Steelworkers so that they will realize that these are not just casual concerns and how serious this issue is.

The United Steelworkers represent over 280,000 Canadian members, 50,000 of whom work in the forest sector. They know the issue well and they are very serious about their concerns. They truly believe that the deal we are considering is a poor one and that Canadians already had a successful strategy to deal with the U.S. forest industry and administration's unfair and illegal imposition of lumber tariffs and duties in May 2002.

Since then we have shown the Americans that many Canadian sawmills could outcompete them, even with exorbitant duties on our lumber exports. Any recent economic problems firms face have more to do with the rising Canadian dollar than with U.S. protectionist measures. By winning in court, meanwhile, we showed them that the Americans' legal case was groundless and their protectionist measures were illegal.

Canada was winning after all, whether in North American Free Trade Agreement tribunals, the World Trade Organization, or U.S. courts of law. On July 13 the Court of International Trade ruled that the tariffs and duties were illegal, a judgment that simply serves to confirm our views. The U.S. is rapidly exhausting its legal avenues before NAFTA, as witnessed by NAFTA's rejection of American extraordinary challenges appeals. The U.S. is even losing at the WTO, the only body which had previously upheld some of its contentions.

We find it unfortunate, therefore, that the current government is prepared to throw away the advantages we have earned at law and instead decided to saddle the industry with what is clearly a terrible negotiated agreement.

In agreeing to the terms of the current agreement, it appears that the current government has fallen into the trap that Carl Grenier of the Free Trade Lumber Council describes when he observes that Canada has admitted that we are “guilty as charged” of producing subsidized lumber, dumping it on U.S. markets and unfairly harming the U.S. industry. We are therefore prepared to throw ourselves on the Americans' mercy, as Grenier notes.

But Canada is not guilty as charged on any of these counts. We all know that. Successive court rulings continue to prove it.

Nonetheless, for policy reasons known perhaps best to the government but not to Canadians, the government has rushed into this devastating agreement. It did so without proper consultation with affected governments and stakeholders. In spite of commitments to the contrary, the deal was even initialed in Geneva before industry representatives had a chance to comment.

It is, in short, a hastily concluded deal. The steelworkers truly believe that we all, as Canadians, will come to regret it. After all, it is clear that the agreement is severely flawed. Those are the issues that are being pointed out to the government today.

The terms do not provide free access to the U.S. market, in spite of the Prime Minister's claim in the House of Commons on April 28. Canadian exports are capped at 34% of the U.S. lumber market and further trampled by the so-called surge mechanism, a policy which effectively penalizes Canadian producers for efficiency. Meanwhile the U.S. companies continue to have free access to the Canadian raw logs, while third country producers enjoy truly free access to the U.S. market.

The timeline, which has changed dramatically over the course of negotiations since April 27, potentially gives Canada as little as two years of peace, not the seven to nine we were originally offered. We learned that the U.S. would now enjoy preferential rights to abrogate the agreement, yet the $1 billion price tag remains the same.

The timing is poor, since most industry analysts agree that the U.S. housing market, hot until recently, is now cooling off. That means that from the onset of the agreement, Canadian producers will likely be paying 10% to 15% in export tax, a rate higher than even the current level of U.S. tariffs and duties.

What is in the deal for Canada? As was noted in a submission at the standing committee back on June 19, the steelworkers believe that the only reason to sign off on this agreement is the prospect of getting back a portion of the illegally held money currently held by the U.S. commerce department. They respectfully submit that this is just not a good enough reason to lock Canada into what is really a short term fix that not long from now will permit a renewal of U.S. protectionist measures. Developments since June have merely confirmed this judgment.

After all, although the deal calls for the return of 80% of the illegally taken remissions of Canadian companies, there are still no provisions in the agreement for much needed investment in the Canadian forest sector, even though we have seen a number of recent closures attributed to the lack of sufficient capital formation in Canada.

While many of the plants and their equipment in Canada remain starved for capital, our forest companies have continued to invest profits made in Canada in United States and overseas acquisitions, mergers or outside the sector. Notably, Canadian companies like Canfor, Abitibi, Ainsworth and Interfor have purchased mills in the United States. Steelworkers continue to have major concerns until we move forward.

To this end, there must be commitments that a generous portion of any remissions firms receive from a settlement of the lumber dispute will be reinvested in job creation, worker training and retraining and infrastructure and community adjustment in Canada, not outside Canada.

It is a bitter pill for workers and communities to swallow, for instance, when they learn that while the deal calls for $500 million in spending on such works in the United States, it calls for not one penny to be invested in Canada. How, they ask, can Canadian firms continue to invest in sawmills in South Carolina, Washington and Oregon, the OSB mills in Minnesota or plants in Maine while plants in this country continue to be closed due to lack of investment and capital? The Globe and Mail recently commented:

Underinvestment in the Eastern Canadian forest products industry has been chronic for so long that it would take billions to make the country's pulp and paper mills as modern as those in Scandinavia or South America.

The deal, however, with its abruptly short actual term of peace from U.S. trade actions, even provides the U.S. industry and the Coalition for Fair Lumber Imports with a reward for sponsoring what have now been definitely shown to be illegal trade actions: a $500 million nest egg with which to finance future harassment, as early as two years from the time this deal goes into effect.

In short, by now it is clear that this agreement does not well serve Canadian interests, whether the interests are of our forest industry, forest sector workers, forest based communities, or Canadian citizens. It provides insufficient value to Canada while offering dangerous incentives to future U.S. trade actions. It does not represent a satisfactory resolution to the lumber trade dispute.

Steelworkers recommend the following course of action. Canada must renounce this agreement. The government and Canadian companies should continue with their legal actions. They urge Canadian companies to not agree to withdraw their legal challenges nor to agree to the payment of funds to the U.S. industry. The government should continue to support the legal actions required to erase fully all possible U.S. legal actions.

In short, the United Steelworkers of Canada urge Canadian companies and governments to set aside selfish interests and clearly stand up for Canada and Canadian interests. We must keep in mind the reality that Canada's forest sector is our leading industry and that it is a major source of jobs.

I have appreciated the opportunity to share the feelings of the United Steelworkers of Canada and to ask the government to rethink this whole deal.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, the softwood lumber agreement has dragged on for years, for way too long.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

An hon. member

Twenty-four years to be precise.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Twenty-four years. It is unbelievable, and the previous government could not seem to deal with it.

The lumber producing provinces across this country, including British Columbia, where the hon. member who is yapping back here is from, the industry, all the small loggers and the large loggers support this. Lumber producers from Quebec and from the east coast benefit big time, as do all the lumber producers in Ontario, or the bulk of them, and the ones from my riding.

I ask the hon. member, how many logging companies are in her riding and how many of those are in support of this agreement?

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, my understanding as a member of Parliament is that we are here to represent all of the country and not simply to look at parochial interests in our own riding.

This is an industry that is important and needs our support. We could have had a deal a long time ago. We wanted a good deal. This one is not a good deal. It is not a good deal for Canadians.

The House resumed from September 21 consideration of the motion.

Government Operations and EstimatesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

It being 5:30 p.m., pursuant to order made on Thursday, September 21, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion to concur in the second report of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates in the name of the hon. member for Hull—Aylmer.

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #35

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

I declare the motion carried.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

It being 6:05 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from June 16 consideration of the motion that Bill C-288, An Act to ensure Canada meets its global climate change obligations under the Kyoto Protocol, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Kyoto Protocol Implementation ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I join in the debate around something as important as climate change and our international agreements, and the promise that Canada made to actually abide by the signature we put on paper.

Before getting into the merits or demerits of this particular bill, I think for Canadians watching it is important to set the context of what has happened to the climate change file and what has happened in this country with respect to pollution over the last number of years.

As the Liberals were leaving office there was report after report condemning the actions of Canada in black and white. While the promises had been made by the previous Liberal government to do something about climate change, the numbers were in stark contrast to that promise. While there was a commitment to go 6% below our 1990 levels of greenhouse gas pollution, we have in fact risen 10%, 20%, 25% above those numbers.

The reason this has happened is not for a lack of promises and not for a lack of fanfare. The previous Liberal government was excellent at making announcements. It often had very beautiful crafted posters as a backdrop. It spent inordinate amounts of money on brochures and glossy pamphlets that I am sure ended up in landfills across this country. However, what it could not deliver on and what it could not accomplish was the basic ability to start to change the way Canadians do business and the way that Canadians conduct their economy and their lives.

When we boil the issue of climate change down and the issue of Kyoto down to its bare elements, most often we are talking about the use of energy. We are talking about the production of energy, whether it comes from so-called greener sources, new technologies or we are talking about energies that come from carbon-based sources which this country relies on quite heavily.

It varies from province to province and jurisdiction to jurisdiction. It is an important note to Canadians that those provinces that took up the call early on, that took strong and bold initiatives, and I would take British Columbia as an example where I reside, there was a strong and important investment in green energy many decades ago.

It is also important to note that these investments were made by both what we call Conservative and New Democrat governments throughout the province's history to ensure that the energy supply in British Columbia was consistent, stable and did not contribute to the planet's pollution.

Those investments allowed British Columbia to continue to grow and prosper while not contributing to the overall warming of the planet which finally we have established, from all parties in all corners of the House, a confirmed belief in what is known as anthropogenic climate change, that is climate change caused by human activity. This is a reality and it is a problem.

I hearken back to when many of my colleagues from the environment committee were at the committee the day that the forestry sector came before us during the Kyoto hearings and clearly made the connection between both the forest fires which had gone to unprecedented levels in British Columbia in particular and the pine beetle infestation which started in British Columbia and has now gone across the Rockies. These elements were directly linked to what was happening to our climate.

My riding is in northwestern British Columbia and it starts from the coast and moves into the interior. We are quite accustomed to cold winters, particularly in the interior portion of the riding. There are consistently cold winters and stretches of winter that go 30° below and 35° below. This is what would have offset the pine beetle infestation. It is a naturally occurring organism that would have died off if winters had been normal. However, we have been without one of these normal winters for so long that the pine beetle has been allowed to bloom, grow and start to cover areas of the forest that many people in the world would find hard to comprehend.

We have to look at the current government's initiatives and intentions when talking about climate change and importantly talking about the way that we produce and use our energy. I recall very clearly the member for Red Deer who last year, in a very similar debate to this one, talked about the Conservatives' climate change plan. I asked him directly when there was an opportunity: Does the Conservative Party of Canada have a climate change plan?

The New Democrats had taken an important stand more than a year and a half ago. It is two years now. We said that we were going to spend some time and our own money on developing a plan and we would cost it out. We were going to take it to the economists, the environmental groups, and work through what a plan would actually look like for Canada to implement and achieve our Kyoto targets. We laid that out for all to see, a challenge to the then Liberal government to react and actually do something rather than just continue to make those glossy brochures and lovely posters, and also a challenge to the other parties in the House to get serious about this.

I remember the member for Red Deer's answer. I know he is extremely committed to the environment and the issue of waste in particular. He said that yes in fact the Conservative Party of Canada had a plan for climate change.

Well, it has been a year and a half or more. We are waiting and we are still waiting. We know that there is a green plan coming. It is important to understand that every day, every week and every month is lost without a plan, and without things that Canadians can actually look to in the true sense of leadership.

Canadians, when polled across the country, are ready to do something about this issue. They are making the choices every day for a better environment, but there has been an absolute lack of leadership on this file at the federal government level in particular.

The provinces have started to react, Quebec in particular and Manitoba. They have said that if the feds are not going to show up, at least they will. This is very similar to what we have seen in the United States where the presidency of George Bush has decided to not follow into the Kyoto regime, or any regime really, when it comes to climate change. Some states that have seen this as a significant issue have gone out and taken the lead.

While this is sometimes necessary, it is a bit unfortunate because the amount of taxation, money collected by the federal government, and the amount of legislative powers that the government has clearly puts us in the driver's seat if we choose to take that leadership role and that has not happened.

We hear recent announcements of the federal government preparing to offer up more than a billion dollars of Canadian taxpayers' money for a pipeline across our north to feed natural gas. Before the Conservatives get too excited and frothing at the mouth about this concept, let us take it from an energy perspective for a moment.

The concept is to take liquefied natural gas from some other far region of the world, liquefy it, put it into tankers, ship it across, put in another pipeline, and then ship that down. Natural gas, for everyone watching and as people know it, is one of our cleanest burning carbon-based fuels. It would then be put into the tar sands where it takes a barrel and a half to three barrels depending on the use of energy to produce one single barrel of oil, which then gets put into another pipe and then sent down to the United States.

Somehow this equation is a good so-called investment of tax dollars. It is bizarre. At the same the companies are now making substantial profits. Even when oil is at $40 a barrel, $50 a barrel or $60 a barrel, they are doing quite well.

This government follows in the footsteps of the previous government insisting on handing over a cheque from Canadian taxpayers of $1.5 billion every year into some of the companies that are enjoying record profits. As one company executive in Calgary a few weeks ago noted, they were obscene.

I have seen those profits and that is all well and good, they are making their money, but I cannot understand for the life of me, and many Canadians get confused by this, why we would also support them with taxpayer dollars while they are doing okay, while they are doing not just okay, they are doing spectacularly well?

Why would we have a corporate welfare cheque cut year in, year out, for companies that are doing fine? We have lots of ideas for the government where true investment can happen, the type of investment Canadians are looking for when it comes to the energy file.

Companies that exist within the tar sands have talked about making them carbon neutral within 20 years. We know the technology is coming forward in this country and in other countries. Rather than be a laggard, rather than simply follow in the wake of other jurisdictions when they take a leadership role in this, there is a real opportunity for Canada to make bold initiatives and plans. We can actually enact those plans and not be handcuffed as the previous government was by being unable to square circles or show a vision and leadership for which Canadians are looking.

When we look to other jurisdictions that have been able to maintain their economies, the Scandinavian countries clearly stand out. Some of the strongest economies in the free world have been able to both achieve significant reductions in their greenhouse gas output while achieving some of the best performing economies anywhere on the planet.

The economy versus the environment debate is as dead as the dinosaurs. We simply cannot refer to it anymore in any serious way.

When Canadians are asked whether they would rather pick up a car at the lot that costs them $50 to fill up or one that costs them $10, clearly, particularly Canadians, who do not have a lot of money to throw around, are going to take the option, if it is presented to them in a reasonable way, to allow them to fill up with a little bit less and have money for other things in their lives.

Energy has become such an absolute essential for Canadians that home heating costs, and we have watched the spike in prices, particularly hurt those households that are in the most vulnerable of categories. We can create the economy. The bill goes a small way toward forcing the government to actually abide by international agreements.

I know Mr. Harper said in his speech on September 11 that we are a country that always accepted its responsibilities--

Kyoto Protocol Implementation ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. I would remind the hon. member that we do not refer to members of Parliament by name but by riding or title.

Kyoto Protocol Implementation ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for that correction. I thank the member from Windsor for his diligence in listening.

On September 11, the Prime Minister said, “Because we are a country that has always accepted its responsibilities in the world...Canada has acted when the United Nations has asked”. The United Nations is the body in which our Kyoto signature actually stands. Clearly, if the Prime Minister is true to his word, then abiding by that signature on that document is what we need to do.

We are supportive of this bill and we will leave it to the Conservatives to answer the inherent ironies that exist within its action.

Kyoto Protocol Implementation ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by congratulating the member for Honoré-Mercier on his excellent bill.

It is very much a pleasure for me to stand and speak to this issue. In fact, I cannot think of a more pressing or important issue, not only for this nation but for this world.

The fact of the matter is that we are at a tipping point. It is evident not only in our own country, in places like the Arctic, where oral traditions are being rendered useless by a landscape that is dramatically changing, but we also see it in extreme weather, in rapidly receding glaciers and in so many other ways. Mountains that have been snow-capped for incredibly long periods of time, thousands of years, are no longer.

In fact, just yesterday, I believe, a study pointed out that the earth is at its warmest point in 12,000 years. The Conservatives do not want to acknowledge this, but the reality is that climate change is real, it is impacting us today, and action is absolutely a necessity.

When we talk about Canada's role, we know that Canada actually uses more energy than the entire continent of Africa. We know that North America as a whole uses more energy than Africa, Asia and South America combined. When we look at this, it could not be clearer that Kyoto is needed, needed not just in our own context but in the world.

There is only one path to answering the problem of climate change. That path, without a doubt, is international agreements. Kyoto was an opportunity for all countries to come together and try to hash out the first agreement on climate change. If anybody doubts the effectiveness of Kyoto, they need only ask where the issue of climate change was before Kyoto came into effect. It was in the wilderness. The naysayers were dismissing it. People were pretending it was not a reality. Kyoto forced it onto the international stage, and for those who refused to take action and be signatories, there was domestic pressure, as in the case of the United States with states coming forward and taking action.

The previous federal government signed on to Kyoto. We put forward a series of recommendations to reduce our emissions and meet our Kyoto objectives. In the wake of all of this, when Canada's new government, as it calls itself, came into being, what action did it take? The reality is that it stepped back. Instead of moving forward with Kyoto and the recommendations, the government began slashing money.

The Conservatives took programs like the EnerGuide program, which allowed families to get subsidies to retrofit their homes to reduce the amount of energy they needed, and they scrapped them. Across the board, they scrapped environmental and climate change programs.

Worse than that, they walked away from their responsibilities in COP 11. COP 11 was an opportunity and a chance for Canada to lead the successor agreements that would follow Kyoto, to make sure that those nations that did not join on would join on. It was an opportunity for Canada to take a leadership role and the minister was missing in action.

The minister, whenever she is asked a question in the House about the Conservatives' environmental plan, will talk about what? Mercury. This could not be more evidence of how they do not understand this issue. Mercury has nothing to do with climate change. Zero. The minister of mercury talks about mercury every single time they are asked about climate change, when it does nothing. If she does not talk about mercury, the minister talks about smog, which also has nothing to do with climate change. Both are important issues. Of course it is important to reduce mercury and of course it is important to deal with smog, but neither of them have anything to do with climate change.

If that were all, it would be bad enough. Just simply slashing funding and ignoring the issue would be bad enough, but I fear there is a far greater menace afoot. I will read a quote for members, if I may. This is from U.S. pollster Frank Luntz, who recently met with the Prime Minister and gave him advice on how he should proceed. Mr. Luntz said:

Voters believe that there is no consensus about global warming within the scientific community. Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate....

This is who the Prime Minister decided to spend his time with and to take advice from, an individual who says to distort the facts. The reality is that the scientific evidence on climate change is irrefutable. We can see it in our day to day lives, but scientists have also proven it through their research. We know that no credible paper published in the last number of years has in any way disputed the fact that climate change is a reality.

The government set Mr. Luntz's words into action. The Conservatives made sure they took action. They started by removing the climate change website, a Government of Canada site that had been set up for information for teachers, students and Canadians about how they could reduce their emissions. The government killed this site. I received a call from a teacher who had been using this site in her class to talk to students about how they could reduce their emissions. She tried it one day and found out that it had been deleted.

The government went through the website and cleansed and erased any references to climate change. It tried to pretend climate change does not exist. The Conservative government listened to its Republican advisers and tried to hide the issue from reality.

What Harper had called previously a controversial--

Kyoto Protocol Implementation ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. I have to remind the hon. member that we do not use people's proper names but their titles or ridings.