House of Commons Hansard #56 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was children.


Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

10 a.m.


Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on Bill C-24, the bill put forward by the Minister of International Trade, the softwood lumber products export charge act, 2006

As I was considering the fact that I would be speaking today, a thought crossed my mind that this softwood sellout kind of matches a definition I have used for years relative to some folks who have passed through the House, ministers, members, even governments, that we ordinary folk call rogues and scoundrels.

Mostly, the common people on the street will say it is their view that far too many people who have sat in the House or held official positions in the House have been quick to bow to an American policy on one file or another. One of the first that comes to mind, maybe even the most notorious up until this point in time especially in the minds of working Canadians, was the act of former Prime Minister John Diefenbaker when he caved into Dwight D. Eisenhower in the late 1950s. It was that prime minister, a Conservative prime minister by the way, who bowed to President Dwight D. Eisenhower and cancelled the Avro Arrow project.

In fact, we were reminded just this week that there is a prototype of the Avro Arrow that has been restored and taken to one of our national museums to be put on display I guess to say what might have been. At the time of the cancellation of that project there were five leading prototypes of an aircraft that was 20 years ahead of its time.

What happened on Black Friday? Prime Minister Diefenbaker cancelled this project and cancelled the futures of over 15,000 workers when he did that. One has to sit back and wonder why. Why would a government turn on its own people in that fashion?

Then again in the 1980s many of us, including myself in the Hamilton labour movement, saw then Prime Minister Brian Mulroney sign the free trade agreement which basically sacrificed over 500,000 manufacturing jobs in Ontario, not to mention across this country. My riding of Hamilton East—Stoney Creek was affected in major ways.

I can recall when the draft text of the free trade agreement was signed. That very day Firestone Tire announced the closure of the plant in Hamilton because it no longer needed a plant. It could simply bring goods across the border. Thus, 1,500 people lost their jobs.

Not to pick on just the Conservatives, but maybe to throw a little fire across the way to the former Liberals, it was in the 1990s, as we will recall, that the Liberal Party ran on a platform in the 1993 election saying that it would not support the GST and would cancel it. It would not sign NAFTA. I recall a full page newspaper ad that had five priorities of things it would and would not do and those were the top two on that list. Lo and behold, what did it do? It kept the GST and signed the free trade agreement and again workers in my city were sold down the river.

We will recall not too long after that event the member from Hamilton at the time resigned on the basis that she had given her word that if the GST was kept, she would resign. A byelection took place. In fact, I was the candidate for my party in that byelection. We went from fifth place to second place just simply on the anger that the people had at the time for what was going on.

Steelworkers and manufacturers in my area wonder what is next. They see this softwood sellout. It is little wonder they do not trust the government after the previous Liberal and Conservative governments have sold them down the river. Now there is a spectacle by the present government. In the campaign it ran on being a fresh face, accountability and all of those grand words. What happened? Lo and behold, just before the House convened it had an unelected person appointed as a senator.

Then, further embarrassing to the House I would suggest, we had the minister who had the file on softwood lumber cross the floor two short weeks after the election. People in that member's riding, who worked hard to elect a Liberal, suddenly found themselves waking up one morning with a Conservative member.

Maybe I should have said switching allegiances because he did not physically get up and cross the floor. I think that would have taken a bit of courage and I do not see too much of that.

The government expects steelworkers, autoworkers and other workers in manufacturing in my riding to have faith in the Minister of International Trade. I can say there is not a chance of that. They are cringing. They are wondering what industry is next, that perhaps it will be one of theirs.

Our critic on this file from Burnaby—New Westminster has been warning the people of the country and the members in the House of what is happening. The critic has been in the House day in and day out drawing the attention of Canadians to this file. He has exposed the hidden costs of the softwood agreement to Canadians. He has also exposed the bullying tactics of the Prime Minister as the government goes after the industry to force it to support the agreement.

I have a quote from our critic. He said:

The [Conservative] government, who used bullying tactics to force support from the industry, is now using the tax system to punish his opponents.

The word is today, at least in some of the circles I was travelling in this morning, this deal may well be in trouble. If that is the case, it is certainly good news to this member's ears.

He also said:

Under the softwood lumber agreement, [the Prime Minister] and the [Minister of International Trade] are coercing Canadian softwood companies to hand over to the United States $1 billion of the $5.3 billion in duty deposits illegally collected by the Unites States Customs as a result of the softwood lumber dispute.

On top of that, we have had case after case where we have won rulings on this dispute. It is beyond me why our government would cave in and position us in front of the Americans as people who are on our knees when we do not have to be. We can win the next round of legal battles, the future litigation that is going to carry on, but more importantly, we have to prepare the way for the next sector that comes under attack from the Americans.

The Conservative government is again slapping on the Canadian softwood companies that refuse to join in this fiasco, for the lack of a better word, a 19% charge applied as a percentage of the refunded deposits. The charge would not be collected from companies who abide by the agreement. This is an abuse of power, especially when we have won, as I have said before, in the court of law. Canadian companies owe nothing to the United States. It baffles me why we are giving a billion dollars to the Americans.

Steelworkers and members from Hamilton are very concerned. American litigation will likely resume on future files. The Bush government recently moved to overturn the U.S. court decisions of April 7 and July 14 on the NAFTA and the Byrd amendment. This is clearly a very plain and simple, even simple enough for the government to get it, indication of what is coming.

We have a dispute settlement mechanism within NAFTA that we are flouting with this agreement. It is beyond belief that our government would do this to the workers in the softwood industry.

Our leader was in Thunder Bay recently. He was there to show the workers that at least some members in this House were standing with them on this. It was very clear that the members of the government were not.

In the words of our leader, “The Prime Minister has sold out northern Ontario”. That is a fact. “This is a total failure,” he said. “One billion dollars left on the table in Washington”, he said, but worse, “the Bush administration now has a direct say in how we manage our forestry industry”.

Clearly, the actions of the Minister of International Trade fly in the face of democracy. I say the minister has sold out our country. He deserves to be ranked among the rogues and scoundrels that I spoke of in my opening remarks. I think the government will go down in history for this, maybe not ahead of the Diefenbaker government for cancelling the Avro, but it will be very close on the sellout of softwood lumber.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

10:10 a.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his input on this important debate.

We have had several days of debate on this whole issue of softwood lumber, but what I have not heard from members is what I think is the real issue. The real issue is about trade. It is about trade under NAFTA. It is about the years that this country has spent to build up trade relationships under the various treaties we have.

I am very concerned about the whole issue of dispute settlement mechanisms. It appears that notwithstanding all this work that was done to establish the rules of the game, those rules have been set aside, through bullying tactics, to impose a deal on those who have no choice. I wonder if the member would care to comment on that.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

10:10 a.m.


Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for raising this. As I referred to in my remarks, under our trade agreements we have a dispute settlement mechanism that we may as well not have. It is astounding.

The member talked people being forced off an issue, but when it is our own government that is forcing us off the issue, that is amazing. Our own Minister of International Trade is pushing at Canadian companies. It astounds me. Members might note that I am lost for words at times on this, because it flies in the face of everything that this House represents or that a minister should represent in this House.

As for our role, I will remind the Conservative members that they had as their campaign slogan “Stand up for Canada”. If this is the way the Minister of International Trade will stand up for Canada, God help us all.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

10:15 a.m.


Gary Goodyear Conservative Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was not going to ask any questions this morning, but I think the member from the no democracy party has drifted off the ranks.

I would just like to bring to our minds the fact that Canadians know very well why the Liberals failed to reach this agreement. It was partly because there was no leadership on that side of the House and partly because they saw the phenomenal financial benefits of dragging out the litigation for another seven to 10 years.

In January, Canadians chose change. They chose a leader who actually brought together a deal that, frankly, represents the wishes and the needs of 90% of the lumber community in Canada. It helps save families' incomes. It allows us to move forward. One would arguably agree, in fact, that the better relationships this Prime Minister has been able to establish around the world have allowed us to bring this agreement together.

There is one thing I would like to ask the member to comment on, because of course he is telling us all these woeful things. I do remember back when NAFTA was brought in by another government with leadership, and our economy is extremely strong today as a direct result of that NAFTA agreement.

I just wondered if the member could comment. I am from Ontario. I remember the Rae days. It took a decade for Ontario to pull itself out of the economic bliss that Bob Rae as premier got us into, yet on the federal level we entered an economic boom as a result of a Conservative government with leadership.

I do not know whether the member wants to comment on that embarrassing period in the history of Canada, particularly Ontario, but maybe he wants to tell us why 90% of the lumber industry wants this agreement. The member has his head in the sand in thinking we should just go on forever with litigation. Maybe he wants to comment on that in some logical way.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

10:15 a.m.


Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to hear that the member heard my previous logic.

On the situation in Ontario in 1990, the hon. member asked about the government of the day. As I recall, that was two years into the free trade agreement. The 500,000 lost Ontario jobs that I just spoke of took away funding from the tax base. We were in the worst recession in the history of our country at that time. That government ran three successive deficits of $10 billion, $9 billion and $8 billion to keep people employed and to keep the economy moving.

Would I have made the same choices? I do not know. I was not sitting around the cabinet table. Did I agree with the social contract? No, I did not agree with the social contract, end of story.

Getting back to the hon. member's point, he talked about how the previous government showed no leadership and all kinds of things around that particular file. I will remind you that you brought the Minister of International Trade--

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

10:15 a.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Order. I caution the hon. member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek that he should be speaking to the hon. member through the Chair, not using the second person. He did that a couple of times and I let it slide, but if he keeps doing it, I have to bring it to his attention.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

10:15 a.m.


Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the help. I am a new member in the House and your advice is always well received.

Again, all I can say is that in my view, in the view of my party and in the view of the critic in this area, this softwood deal is a major sellout. I stand by that.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

10:15 a.m.


Tina Keeper Liberal Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on Bill C-24, otherwise known as the softwood lumber products export charge act.

The dispute has been of particular interest to me, as the lumber industry is an important contributor to the economy of my riding of Churchill. It is certainly a critical issue and is of critical concern to the men and women who work in this industry in my riding.

Not only has the softwood lumber sellout been an issue of considerable local concern, but it is of course of concern throughout the country given the immense trade that takes place between Canada and the United States. This trade has a long history. It has developed over time and represents a history that is fundamental to the trade between our countries.

Today, over 37,000 trucks cross over the Canadian-American border daily. In 2003, two way trade in goods and services exceeds $441.5 billion, which firmly establishes Canada and the U.S. as the world's largest trade relationship. The economies of our two countries are intertwined. Cooperation and respect are therefore essential components in order for this relationship to flourish.

No one in the House can deny the importance of trade with our closest friend and nearest neighbour. Trade is a two way street and it must be mutually respected in order to maximize efficiency. To this end, various trade courts and tribunals have been established to assist if and when trade disputes emerge. In fact, while exhausting such avenues in respect to the longstanding softwood lumber dispute, it was ruled in a variety of courts that Canada's practices in the softwood industry complied with international law.

Whether we took our case to the North American Free Trade Agreement tribunals, the World Trade Organization or U.S. courts, Canada always seemed to come out successfully. As recently as July 14, 2006, the U.S. Court of International Trade ruled in favour of Canada, concluding that the American tariffs and duties were in fact illegal. As well, NAFTA and WTO judgments were clear that our industry was not subsidized.

If this was indeed the conclusion, why did Canada settle for anything less? Canadians deserve better. We had won all the challenges and it is believed that the U.S. would have exhausted appeals within a short period.

The Conservatives did not fully appreciate, it seems, all that was at stake. There was much more at stake than simply the capital that was owed. First, Canadian sovereignty was at stake. Canada must have the courage to stand up to even the strongest of powers. Second, ensuring that the United States respected our trade agreement was also at stake. This settlement sets the stage and ensures that Americans do not take our agreement seriously.

This in effect highlights another point: the credibility of our dispute mechanism. By compromising the rulings found by the dispute resolution provisions of NAFTA, we are destroying the credibility of the dispute mechanism as a whole. Moreover, and most important, I have spoken with the industry in my riding and I would like to take this time to talk about its position and its displeasure.

The United Steelworkers in my riding have expressed great concern and frustration with this agreement. The union represents forestry workers in many communities throughout my riding and across Manitoba. Those communities include Thompson, Wabowden, Cranberry, Moose Lake, The Pas, Birch River, Swan River, Roblin, Neepawa, and even Winnipeg, which is not in my riding.

The president of the local has denounced the agreement, and on August 24 he stated, “This is a devastating deal with possibilities of having even higher penalties imposed on our lumber exports when prices fall, and a quota system legislated by the U.S. that will downsize operations”. He went on to say, “[The Prime Minister] has done nothing in this effort to meet with Canadian workers and hear us...This isn't a respectful agreement. This is a sellout”.

This represents the concerns and the position of the forestry workers in my riding. They believe this deal is a sellout. The minority government has simply abandoned them.

While the softwood lumber dispute was certainly on the forefront, its existence was by no means unique. In fact, a number of other trade disputes have emerged between Canada and the United States in the past. There have been disagreements with Canada Post and the Canadian Wheat Board among other things.

When the minority government finalized its agreement with the U.S., it in effect sent a strong message to both Canadians and Americans.

Canadians, particularly those in trade disputes, despite how many international court challenges they win, now understand that, under Conservative leadership, there is a possibility, and a very good possibility, that they will be compromised. Simultaneously, Americans, particularly those in trade disputes, despite how many international court challenges they lose, now understand that, under Canadian Conservative leadership, anything is possible.

Are Canadian industries wrong to believe that if they find themselves in a trade dispute, the government may settle for much less than they deserve?

The agreement has left $500 million for the American lumber industry. This $500 million should have been returned to Canadians. This so-called deal created an export tax, which at current price levels, is higher than current U.S. duties.

Canadians deserve better. The men and women working in the forest sector in my riding have worked too hard to have the government simply sign their industry over to the Americans.

In addition to this disconcerting precedent, the agreement has already begun to have consequences on production. For example, as a direct result, one of the operations in my riding in northern Manitoba had to eliminate the night shift, immediately. It has also stated that further employment opportunities will be reduced as a result of the agreement.

This is an outrage. How could the industry in my riding possibly approve an agreement that would have such negative implications? How could I, as their respected member of Parliament, support an agreement that would cut jobs and lower wages?

The Prime Minister and his government bullied the Canadian industry with an ultimatum. The Conservatives have illustrated that they are willing to punish sectors of the industry and companies that refuse to support them by leaving them behind, and this is exactly what has happened.

Canada is a strong country. There is no good reason why a Canadian government must compromise and sacrifice our industry. We owe it to our lumber industry to support them with a solid deal.

Despite what they argue, there were alternatives. The Liberal Party proposed a supplementary aid package that included: $200 million over two years to enhance the forest industry's competitive position, improve its environmental performance and take advantage of the growing bio-economy; $40 million over two years to improve the overall performance of the national forest innovation system; $30 million over two years to improve the competitiveness of the workforce, promote upgrading of workplace skills and provide assistance to older workers impacted by forestry industry layoffs; $100 million over two years to support economic diversification and capacity building in communities affected by job losses in the forest industry; $30 million over two years to develop new markets for Canadian wood products; and $200 million over two years to fight the spread of the pine beetle in B.C. forests.

In addition, the previous Liberal government offered the industry to either accept a negotiated settlement or continue the justified legal actions, which we would have supported by providing loan guarantees, reinvestment support, community and worker adjustment and assistance with legal costs. The Liberal Party also offered solutions and alternatives to the forest industry.

I have risen today to speak on behalf of the forestry workers in my Churchill riding and, indeed, all workers across the country that have been left with the consequences of this careless agreement. I have joined them in their fight to ensure they have a future and proud livelihood.

Canadians deserve better. With this in mind I can never support such an agreement.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

10:25 a.m.


Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate hearing the comments of the member for Churchill. She spoke about the impact in her riding, particularly on smaller communities, individual families and workers. We do not hear very much about this. We have heard a lot from the government that the deal is supported by the industry. In actual fact, I believe we are looking at very large corporations with their backs to the wall.

As we learn more and more about the agreement, and as the member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek pointed out earlier, it seems to be unravelling. I think there is more and more unease and concern of what the impact of this deal will really be.

I am from British Columbia. There is no doubt a huge impact on local communities as a result of this agreement. One of the things that really puzzles me is the agreement does not seem to be based on any industrial strategy, a strategy that looks at Canadian resources in a way that sustains our environment, protects jobs and produces value added products. There is still massive shipment of the export of raw logs in B.C. This deal will accelerate that problem.

Would the member comment on the job loss in her community and what kind of industrial strategy she thinks is required, instead of the softwood lumber agreement, that would actually provide stability to communities in Churchill, communities on the west coast of B.C. and other communities in Canada?

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

10:30 a.m.


Tina Keeper Liberal Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member's question is reflective of what is happening with smaller operations in my riding of Churchill. Certainly the concern is the immediate impacts that will be felt because of this deal.

One of the first things that happened was a night shift was lost. Because of the quota system, there is great fear that the agreement will have a serious impact. It has been made clear to the workers in the smaller mills that this is likely to happen.

What seems to be important is the government seemed anxious to strike a deal. Perhaps it was politically motivated and done in haste. I know it has been mentioned several times that there has been a long history surrounding the agreement, and there is. It represents years of hard work, efforts and challenges, which were won on behalf of Canadians. Many believed this would continue into the near future. It was the role of the previous Liberal government to support the industry so it could continue with those challenges.

Workers in my riding do not often talk about jobs lost, but it is a primary concern. They are talking about sovereignty issues and the future of our country. The workers feel the agreement is a clear sign that Canada is selling out and that our rights are sailing down the rivers and the lakes.

We need to support the industry. We need to look to incentives to help the industry develop in other areas.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

10:30 a.m.


Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak on to the bill in front of us.

I have heard the debate over the previous number of days and have followed it in the press and throughout the time I have been in Parliament. I have tried to put it in the perspective of the north. We are mentioned in the bill because the Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut get an exemption under the clauses.

In some ways that is a result of certain trade links we have with the state of Alaska. Certainly the United States does not mind taking care of its own. In terms of Alaska and the relationship of how it receives lumber from some of the north, the United States is very good about taking care of its own. That speaks volumes about the United States and suggests to me volumes about what Canada is about right now.

This agreement is about short term gain for long term pain. Let us look at it from a perspective of what the government is trying to accomplish. The government is very interested in moving toward a majority in Parliament the next time an election is called. It is very interested in appearing to be decisive and able to deal with issues. I think this has triggered the effort that has gone into selling out our industry. It is short term gain.

There will be short term gain in the industry as well, because the industry is starved for dollars and opportunities. We will get some investment dollars back in the short term. Companies will be able to hang on for a little longer and continue to work in the industry. However, we are in a North American market where housing has boomed for many years and now it is starting to die. When housing dies, the requirement for forest products die and the prices drop.

As the prices drop, the duties come in, so our industry will get the double whammy. Not only will we not have prices that are strong, but we will also have a duty imposed on us. That duty will drive us further into the ground. As time goes on, the industry will either shrink or the corporations will recognize that unprocessed raw logs will continue to cross the border duty-free. Their incentive, as the prices drop and as the duties come on, will be to relocate manufacturing and processing of wood into the United States. That is exactly what will happen with this deal.

Where will we be at the end of the day with our lumber industry? We will be in long term pain. That is what we will get from this deal. We will get a short term gain and long term pain.

Where is Canada going with this softwood lumber deal? It is larger than that, of course. Canada fundamentally is structurally altered with the free trade deal. Exports to the United States increased by 250%, and the U.S. now receives 87% of all Canadian exports.

As Canada becomes more dependent upon U.S. markets, trade within Canada and the rest of the world has decreased. The result of the free trade deal has led to dependency. We are in a dependent position to a country that has 10 times the economic clout that we do. We put ourselves in a position of a mouse and we have shortened the chain to the elephant. What kind of life is that when we are so close to that big foot?

I have noticed one thing in the softwood lumber deal. It is the interference of the deal in federal-provincial and provincial to provincial relationships. All of a sudden we have the United States demanding that we treat our internal politics differently.

We have deals for the Maritimes. The Americans have given it an exemption. We have different deals for Quebec. We have different deals across the country. Therefore, we have a foreign power now telling us how to run our internal affairs. That to me is once again an abrogation of Canada's sovereignty, the sovereignty for which all our forefathers fought hard and that this government seems to treat with a great deal of disdain.

The rights of Canadian citizens are being taken away in this deal. All of a sudden we have a deal that has numerous punitive clauses that go beyond most people's expectations when they go into business. Corporate directors are to be held liable for corporate debts due to the duties that are imposed under this deal, even for companies in bankruptcy.

Spouses and children are liable for the debts in the case of transferred properties. We are going to track them down to make sure they deliver this blood money over to the government.

Searches without warrants are authorized under clause 77 for records pertaining to payments and taxes. The authoritarian arm of the government will come down on these people who try to go away from this very special deal with the United States. Canada is basically giving up control of our country's resources to a foreign power.

When we think of it, this is a foreign power that is 10 times our size. When we focus on its finances and its manufacturing, the U.S. is a global power of immense and important distinction. What does Canada have in contrast? Canada is a country of 32 million people with a vast landscape of land and resources. Canada's strength is in what we do with those resources and how we position those resources for our children and our grandchildren.

When we sell out these resources, as we are doing here, we are doing irreparable harm to all those young children who want to grow up and live in their communities in regions of the country such as the northern and rural areas of Canada.

What are we doing? We are saying that this lumber is not for Canadians. We are saying that we will ship these logs down to the United States and these young Canadians can go and work in the cities. What we are doing here is giving up control.

I could talk about the energy deal that Canada signed under NAFTA but I will save that for another debate because there certainly should be a debate on our energy sector soon. If the government thinks that it can get away without talking about energy in this Parliament, without putting these things on the table, then it has another think coming when it comes to the NDP caucus.

Conservatives used to say that good fences make good neighbours. When they said that I liked Conservatives. I thought they were good guys. I thought they were there to protect us and take care of us. They have certainly fallen far away from that goal.

I have not had a chance to talk about the environment yet. To me the boreal forest of Canada is one of the last refuges of natural wilderness that we have in this country and it is being destroyed. What will this deal do to help that boreal forest? Zero. This agreement does not take the boreal forest into account at all. We are again abrogating our responsibilities to the environment. We are creating a situation, unlike northern Europe where they get 12 jobs for every one job that we get in the forest industry, Canada is going in the other direction with this deal. This is very sad.

I do not think I need to talk about jobs. We have heard it and we know what will happen. This is the deal that these people want for Canada.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

10:40 a.m.


Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Western Arctic said that this was short term gain and long term pain, and I fully agree with him. This is the trend that the government is setting right now. It has a bullying nature as well. It wants to rule by exclusion, not by including people, when we hear that only 10% of the people will be affected by this deal.

He also mentioned the children and the environment. We had child care agreements with the provinces but when the present government came in, with its bullying nature, it cancelled those. That is the trend it is setting. It is the same thing with the Kelowna agreement, which also affects a minority group. The Conservatives say that this not a group that will vote for us, so they take it away.

The hon. member talked about the environment and the Kyoto protocol. The government is setting a trend of ruling by bullying and by exclusion.

I would like to hear from the hon. member how this trend will affect Canadians in general.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

10:45 a.m.


Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, yes, I outlined my feelings on this particular deal. In a number of ways, we are seeing the problems we have with Kyoto. We have a problem in that we want the advancement of our oil and gas industry but it has gone without any environment regulation and without any planning gone into it to ensure it is working for Canadians and the goals of Canadians.

Right now my party is pushing very hard to see that tax subsidies are taken off some of these developments that, by and large, are serving our neighbours to the south. We need to stand up on this issue.

I feel confident that Canadians are listening to us when we talk about the issues. I am confident that at the next election, the bullies will get their due. If they do not stand up for Canadians soon, they will get their due.

With all the bullying they can do in the House of Commons, when it comes to bullying people into voting, it will not work.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

10:45 a.m.


Denise Savoie NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, Victoria is known to be the city of gardens, not the city of forests, but we will be impacted by this very bad deal. By giving up control over our resources, by signing an agreement that encourages the export of raw logs and by preventing and not encouraging value added industry, all the communities, even those that do not have forests, will be impacted.

In my riding there is a fine woodworking company that sells incredibly beautiful furniture around the world, and this is the kind of small business that will be impacted.

I wonder if my colleague, whose comments I appreciated, would speak to the issue of value added industry and the impact that this deal might have on those small businesses?

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

10:45 a.m.


Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I will just speak to value added in terms of energy.

Right now, Sweden, Finland and many other countries are buying wood pellets from Canada and using them to produce clean energy in their own countries and yet we do not do this. We have a huge opportunity in Canada to develop the biomass energy industry and this could really help. The United States cannot stop us unless somewhere in this insidious deal the development of the biomass energy industry would be considered a subsidy to our people. I do not understand the deal well enough, but we are dealing with a powerful trade nation and it may have included some of those qualifications in the deal.

I certainly would like to understand the deal better because it is something that needs to be explored. However, the opportunities in the biomass energy field in this country are huge and we need to take advantage of them. They will work for Kyoto.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

10:45 a.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have listened to hours of debate on this ways and means motion relating to the so-called softwood lumber dispute. I have heard some very eloquent speeches from members all across the House, particularly those who have softwood industries in their ridings. They talked about the implications for their constituents and those businesses. We have heard stories about people who have gone bankrupt and people who have enormous loans and do not know whether they will have a future in the industry.

Those are devastating circumstances, which is why we are here debating the issue. However, we need to consider that this is not simply a debate about softwood lumber. This is, more important, a debate about the state of free trade between Canada and other countries.

When I first came to Parliament back in 1980, we were talking about trade deals. I remember going through the Mulroney years where free trade was the mantra. That was the future. Significant debate was held about whether or not we should enter into bilateral trade deals. As members know, we now have a variety of deals and they have been good for Canada.

At that time, diplomatic and consul-type people were going back and forth to meeting after meeting, month after month, almost year after year. One of the items they talked about more than anything else was the dispute settlement mechanism. In other words, if there were a problem with a deal, would they be able to anticipate the substantive importance of it and the criteria under which they could deal with its resolution under a trade deal. We have not had a lot of discussion in the House on that but I think it is vital because this is not just about softwood. This is about softwood and every other trading relationship that we have. This is, in fact, an admission that the dispute settlement mechanism does not work.

Panel after panel of both NAFTA and the WTO have ruled that we are not subsidizing our softwood industry. During all the time the discussions were going on, we know that duties were being slapped on. I have heard a lot of numbers thrown around in the House but, just for ballpark purposes, we are talking about $5.4 billion of duties that have been withheld and charged to the industry.

We are also faced with the unusual situation of the trade minister in the current government, who is responsible for this file, having been the minister responsible for this file in the previous government. We have some continuity here but we need to look at what the trade minister said to Parliament, to Canadians and to the industry. What he was saying was that we would fight this thing. He said that we were right under the NAFTA panels and under the WTO panels. He said that we would fight for the rights that we negotiated as part of the NAFTA. That is the essence of what he said but he sold our softwood industry to the Americans.

The softwood industry believed the minister and said that it would fight with the minister even if it meant going into debt to fight it in court. The federal government then said that it would give the industry loan guarantees and that it would stand with the softwood industry shoulder to shoulder to fight the Americans.

What happened? The government brought the industry to the brink and then the minister said that he had changed his mind because it was taking a long time. He claimed that fighting this was costing a lot of money. He also said that he was getting a lot of pressure from softwood lumber companies asking how they were supposed to manage their lives and operate their business on loan guarantees. They wanted to bring this issue to a head.

What happened? Parliament was virtually hijacked one day with, eureka, we have a deal. But the deal was not to get our $5.4 billion back. It was something else. It was “We are not going to worry about what the WTO and NAFTA said about the dispute and about their decisions on whether or not we were subsidizing. We are going to abandon everything we have done, all the strategy that was carried through and pushed into, we are just going to abandon all of that”.

The government sat down with the U.S. and basically said, “Let's cut a deal. This is not a win-win. We don't want to spend any more money in the courts. We want to bring this to a head. There is $5.4 billion on the table. How about if we give you $4 billion and we will call it square?” That is what happened.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

An hon. member

It is $4.5 billion, Paul.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

10:50 a.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member will understand that if we are talking about the American document, it is in U.S. dollars, but if the member is telling me it is $4.5 billion in Canadian dollars converted, that is fine.

Basically, for argument's sake, there is $1 billion left on the table. That $1 billion is not going where one would think it would go. In fact half of it, half a billion dollars is actually going to the U.S. lumber industry lobbyists who are going to use that half a billion dollars to fight us any other time something comes up in the future. Does that not give them an advantage? The U.S. softwood lumber industry all of a sudden is going to have $500 million to fight future disagreements that may come up.

The balance of the money that they are not going to give us back is basically going to George Bush and he will be able to do with it whatever he wants. He probably is going to invest the money in Iraq.

Why is it that the minister who has been the continuity on this entire file would take the industry down a road that he was not prepared to fight to the finish? He was not prepared to stand up for the softwood industry from the beginning to the end. He bailed out. That is why we call it a softwood sellout.

I understand the industry has been shafted by the Conservative government, totally shafted. People in the industry are not getting all their money back and any money they get from this settlement is going to be turned over to the banks to repay the loans they had to take to go through this process that the minister sucked them into. That is what it turns out to be.

I have great sympathy for people in the softwood lumber industry. They cannot even count on the leadership of the government and particularly the minister to be with them. What did he do afterward? He came into the House and said, “Take the deal. If you don't take the deal, we are not with you any more”. It is like Allstate when someone has an accident, “Sorry, not with you any more”.

It led some in the industry into basic bankruptcy in many cases and now for the government to say, “We are not with you. If you decide to further pursue your legal options, do not even count on the Government of Canada to be by your side. Do not even count on the Government of Canada to be there to provide loan guarantees. As a matter of fact, we will look for other ways to make sure that your life is uncomfortable”.

When the Conservative Government of Canada threatens the softwood industry, all I can say is shame on the government, shame on the government.

This is an issue of trade. Trade issues will arise. Maybe we have to reaffirm our commitment to free trade agreements and to the support of dispute resolution mechanisms that we will not abandon so that we do not give false hope to any industry which is caught in the same regard.

This is a short term deal. It is not going to provide security or stability for the industry for the long term. It is less than 24 months. On top of that, what does it mean in the future? Who is going to respect NAFTA in the future if they know all they have to do is spend more money?

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

10:55 a.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Order. The hon. member's time has expired and just at the right moment. There will be time left for questions and comments, but we are now at the time for statements by members.

Night to Light WalkStatements By Members

September 29th, 2006 / 11 a.m.


Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, Gabrielle Starr, a grade 8 student from Langley Secondary School, has launched a career as an advocate for children in Africa. Gabrielle is organizing a 10 kilometre walk on October 21 to help the children of northern Uganda.

While there is a new and tenuous peace accord in Uganda, children who have been kidnapped and forced to become child soldiers for the Lord's Resistance Army are still living in terror in the wilderness. In order to avoid capture, children walk up to 17 kilometres every night to sleep in safety. During the raids, young girls have been abducted and given to the rebel soldiers as wives.

Gabrielle and others are working to help the crisis in Uganda. Please join Gabrielle at the Night to Light Walk on Saturday, October 21 in Langley to help raise money for the New Life Center in Kitgum, Uganda to provide support for the children, their families and their community.

In the words of Gabrielle's mother, “It is empowering to see what a 13 year old can do”. We thank Gabrielle Starr.

LiteracyStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Bonnie Brown Liberal Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, those refugees from Queen's Park who weakened the public education system in Ontario are at it again. The Minister of Finance and the President of the Treasury Board think a surplus and a booming economy are signals for cutting social programs.

The national literacy program worked to promote literacy as an essential component of our society and to make Canada's social, economic and political life more accessible to the one in seven adult Canadians who are illiterate.

Surely the cuts to the program are a slap in the face to those adults who already feel marginalized. The ability to read and write is both a priceless gift and a necessity for full participation in society. I urge Canadians to demand that the Minister of Finance restore funding to literacy programs.

Goods and Services TaxStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Robert Vincent Bloc Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, since October 2001, the government has been engaged in an arm-wrestling match with the Quebec school boards that launched an appeal to recover the full amount of GST paid on school transportation.

On January 29, 2003, the Tax Court of Canada ruled in favour of the school boards. However, the government has reimbursed only 68% of the amount paid.

On October 4, 2005, the Conservative Party tabled a motion, which was then adopted by the Standing Committee on Finance, to issue the total amount of reimbursements for GST on school transportation to the school boards, in accordance with the January 29, 2003, decision.

I am therefore asking the government to reimburse the remaining 32%, as it demanded in the fall of 2005. That remaining 32% represents over $72,335 for the Val-des-Cerfs school board in my riding. When will they get this money?

Canadian Wheat BoardStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, there is no business case for tearing apart the Canadian Wheat Board. It is pure ideological madness, yet the agriculture minister seems hell-bent on scheming behind closed doors with unregistered lobbyists and appointing a sham of a task force to undermine the democratic choice of Canadian farmers.

Just like the softwood lumber sellout, what the Americans could not achieve in 11 separate trade challenges, they hope Tory stooges and their separatist sidekicks will deliver.

I call it economic treason to sell out Canadian farmers on behalf of modern day robber barons like the American agrifood industry. I serve notice today that we will not give up this great prairie institution without the fight of our lives. To paraphrase Robert W. Service:

We'll fight and you bet it's no sham fight,
It's hell but we've been there before;
Curse Tories and their separatist sidekicks,
We'll fight for the Wheat Board once more.

ChildrenStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Chris Warkentin Conservative Peace River, AB

Returning this fall to Parliament, I come with the renewed motivation and inspiration to build a safer, more healthy and prosperous Canada, a Canada that I will be proud to leave future generations.

This renewed inspiration is a little girl named Abigail. On August 29, I held for the first time my nine pound, four ounce, baby daughter. My wife Michelle and I could not be more blessed by this gift of joy and life. We are thankful for the exceptional care that we received at Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in Grande Prairie. Dr. Brad Martin, Dr. Manju Murthi, and each dedicated nurse provided such exceptional care and we are thankful for it.

In the days that followed her birth, I was struck by the awesome responsibility to protect my child and do whatever is necessary to ensure that she will never face the horrific realities that some children face as a result of crime and violence.

Every child needs an advocate to ensure that he or she is protected. I am proud to be a member of this Conservative government that will ensure that we put forward initiatives that will ensure safety for her into the future. I believe my child Abby, my constituents' children and every Canadian child should have a safer future.