Mr. Speaker, it is great to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-24, the softwood lumber products export charge act, that implements the softwood lumber agreement between Canada and the United States. This agreement is very important to people in my constituency in Burnaby, B.C. and to people all over British Columbia and all over Canada, so I am very glad to stand today to discuss it.
The bottom line is that this is a bad deal. It is a bad deal for Burnaby. It is a bad deal for British Columbia and it is a bad deal for Canada.
We have heard from various corners of this House over the last few days the various rationalizations of this bad deal. From the corner over here where the Bloc sits, we have heard that it is an imperfect deal. When I heard some of the members from the Bloc speaking to this, I saw people who were bowed, who caved, and who did not feel comfortable about their own position. To say that it is imperfect is a huge understatement.
I heard from the government's corner, members from British Columbia who said that this was the best possible deal. That sure falls short of saying it was a good deal, but it also again belies this real discomfort with the kind of legislation that we are dealing with and it masks the fact that it is a bad deal. It is a bad deal, plain and simple, and it is a sellout of Canada.
This deal came at a time when Canada was on the verge of winning after a long legal process. We had won every single step of the way, holding the Americans to agreements they signed with Canada. What could be more important than to stand up for those agreements that had our signatures and their signatures on them?
The Tembec case, for instance, was subject to only one final appeal and the extraordinary challenges committee judgment would have come out in August. We were in a position to win both of them. There was no question about that. In fact, members do not have to believe me, they just need to listen to the testimony of the Canadian ambassador to Washington, Michael Wilson, who this summer pointed out before the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade that there were no appeals on the extraordinary challenges committee judgment and there is no appeal on the Tembec case after the ruling was made.
Rather than a victory, we have this deal. I have heard it said in this corner of the House that this is the government snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. How does this represent Canada at all? We were winning every step of the way and now we have this bad deal, and such a deal it is.
A key feature of this deal is that Canada has to give up $1 billion in illegally collected levies to the United States. All the way through the legal process, it was shown that these duties and levies were illegally collected and now with this deal, we give that $1 billion to the United States. This $1 billion was collected from Canadian companies, causing them incredible hardship. It is money that was also taken from Canadian workers, Canadian families and Canadian communities, and B.C. communities have been extremely hard hit through all of this.
Why, when Canada was on the verge of victory, would the Conservatives sign off on the important principles at stake and give the Americans $1 billion to boot? We have lost the principle about the importance of our trade agreements with the United States. We have lost the principle about using the mechanisms that hold us to account on those agreements. We have lost the argument about protecting our softwood lumber industry, and we give the Americans $1 billion to boot.
We have to consider too, how is that money going to be used? We know for a fact that $500 million of it, half of it, is going directly to the US Coalition for Fair Lumber Imports. Who are they? They are the very people who initiated and pursued the attack on the Canadian softwood lumber industry. They initiated all of this in the first place and now we are giving them $500 million. We know they ran out of money and now, thanks to the Conservatives, we are refilling their war chest, funding their litigation and lobbying for years to come.
Do we really think they will not use it? The question is when, not if, they are going to use it. Will it take two years? Will it take nine years? There is no question that they are going to use that money again against our industry.
Given that tendency, which industry is next? Now that we have caved on softwood lumber, we know that other industries are in the sights of the Americans. What aspect of our trade policy will they attack next? What protectionist is planning an assault on another Canadian industry? Which of our natural resources will they seek to scoop up next?
I think some of us in this corner believe that the Wheat Board is the next thing that is in the sight of the Americans. We know and we have heard from farmers all across Canada about the importance of the Wheat Board and the fact that they feel that it is the next thing in the sights of protectionist Americans. We have to stand up and fight for the Wheat Board. It has brought stability and a stable income to Canadian farmers.
It is ironic that we sit here today discussing an agreement that would give U.S. lobbyists a half a billion dollar fund for legal challenges to our industries two days after the Conservative government announced that it was cutting the Canadian court challenges program. This is a modest $5.6 million program that allowed the most vulnerable and disenfranchised in our society along with disadvantaged Canadians and minority groups the ability to challenge decisions and policies of the Canadian government.
We have seen in the past the importance of this for language rights in Canada, for equality rights for the gay and lesbian community, for citizenship rights, and for other minority rights in Canada. Now the program is gone.
It seems that the Conservatives cannot help our own people ensure their place in Canadian society, but we can give 80 times the money that was in the court challenges program to the Americans who want to circumvent the trade agreements that they have signed with Canada and want to ruin Canadian industry.
The Conservatives cut Canada's human rights related court challenges program and they fund a new half a billion dollar court challenges program for Americans to use against Canada. It is a shame. It does not make sense. If for no other reason this bill should not be supported on that basis.
Let us look at the other half a billion dollars that the Conservatives are allowing the Americans to keep. Where does it go? It goes directly to the White House for the use of President Bush. The official agreement says that this money will be used for:
(a) educational and charitable causes in timber-reliant communities;
(b) low-income housing and disaster relief;
(c) educational and public-interest projects addressing:
(i) forest management issues--
That sounds great.
Let us hear what Frances Russell said about this $450 million in the Winnipeg Free Press. She said:
Fully $450 million of the $1.3 billion in illegal duties the Americans will get to keep will grease re-election wheels for protectionist Republicans facing tough fights in upcoming midterm congressional elections. Canada's timber industry will thus be forced to subsidize an ongoing, illicit, attack on itself. All with the explicit consent of the Canadian government.
Well, the Conservatives may consent to this, the Bloc may consent to this, but New Democrats will not.
American negotiators have taken care of American workers. Let us say that even if the $450 million was used in a completely altruistic fashion and went as the agreement indicates, where is the support for Canadian companies, Canadian workers, and Canadian communities devastated by this agreement? It is not to be found in this deal.
There is $4 billion coming back to Canada, but there is no requirement for reinvestment in Canadian communities, reinvestment in the Canadian industry, and there is a fear that much of that money will go to fund investment by those same companies in investment in the United States. That is not acceptable either.
Even the Bloc members, who are concerned about the displacement of workers because of this crisis, are left to raise over and over again, pleading with the Conservatives to announce something that will assist them because it just is not in the deal. I do not think anyone needs a second reason to vote against Bill C-24, but there it is.
Two days ago I was in the House to hear my colleague, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster and our representative on the international trade committee, speak to this issue. He outlined many of the key problems with this deal. They include that the U.S. only has to allege non-compliance with Canada to get out of the deal.
In clause 10, the imposition of a 15% export tax as of October 1 amounts to double taxation above and beyond current anti-dumping and countervailing duties.
In clause 18 there is a new special punitive tax originally designed to hit those companies that are standing up for Canadian rights and responsibilities under NAFTA and who will choose to continue litigation, but now everyone faces that tax. When added to the export development charge, all companies will end up paying 37% and they will have to pay up front.
Clause 48 imposes a six year burden of record keeping on companies, increasing their administrative burden.
Clause 77 states that warrants are no longer needed to enter softwood businesses when issues of enforcement of the act are pursued. These are harsh measures against companies. I think they violate fundamental rights.
In clause 89, it is as blank cheque to the minister to demand payment from companies with no appeal mechanism. What happens in the event of a calculation problem? Too bad. There is no appeal.
In clause 95, directors of companies will now be individually responsible and there is no appeal process. It goes on and on.
Let me just finish by giving the final word for the Prime Minister. In the House on October 25, 2005, he said:
Most recently, the NAFTA extraordinary challenges panel ruled that there was no basis for these duties, but the United States has so far refused to accept the outcome and has asked Canada to negotiate a further settlement. Let me repeat what I have said before, and let me be as clear as I can. This is not a time for negotiation. It is a time for compliance.
At the time, we thought he meant the Americans had to comply with the court decisions. Unfortunately, it appears that he really meant that Canadians had to comply with the whims of the American industry and the whims of American protectionists.
It is just not acceptable. It is a bad deal. We must vote against the legislation.