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House of Commons Hansard #161 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was election.

Topics

Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern DevelopmentPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleagues for their interventions, although I believe that you will find in your ruling that there has been precedents set, as was in the case of Bill C-24, and you will rule this motion in order.

I just want to respond to my colleague, the hon. House leader for the Bloc Québécois, who was making the argument that perhaps in some manner, witnesses coming from far afield would be inconvenienced. In fact, just the opposite is true. Witnesses are already here, witnesses from Saskatchewan and other provinces, since there is a committee meeting starting in approximately four minutes.

Therefore, there is absolutely no inconvenience to any witnesses. In fact, it gives them an even longer opportunity to present their case before the committee so that the committee will have the ability, should it choose to sit extended hours.

I would argue that there is more opportunity for not only witnesses but committee members to discuss this bill and in fact, that is quite the opposite of closure. It is giving all committee members an opportunity to speak for as long as they wish, which I think, quite frankly, is entirely democratic.

Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern DevelopmentPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

10:55 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Are there any other interventions on this same point of order?

At this time then I will begin by saying that it is unfortunate, although it was in the nature of the circumstances perhaps, that members did not have an opportunity to make the point of order when the actual motion was brought forward. However, it is in the nature of the exercise, so to speak, that members are not intended to be here when it is brought forward.

I have listened to the arguments. I think that the argument that the ruling in the fall somehow has bearing on this particular procedural move by the government is not entirely sound in the sense that that particular event had to do with the business of the House and not with the business of the committee.

I think that use of Standing Order 56.1 to direct the business of the committee, of any committee, is a new development in the House and one that I find out of order. The reasons will be provided in the future by the Chair, in the near future I trust, for the decision that is being made at this time.

I accept the point of order and I find that the use of 56.1 in this particular case was inappropriate.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:55 a.m.

Macleod Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade and Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, because of that interruption, I would hope that the hon. member for Wascana would now stay and listen to this stimulating debate. We are talking about a very important issue, an issue that is important to all members of this House, especially those from Saskatchewan.

As I was saying, Canada has an abundance of fresh water compared to other parts of the world. All of us who represent ridings across this country that are surrounded by water or have water passing through our ridings in the form of creeks and rivers realize this.

Along with our friends and partners to the south of the border, we are joint stewards of the largest group of freshwater lakes on this planet, that being the Great Lakes, as referred to by my hon. colleague from Yellowhead. Communities situated around the Great Lakes depend on this important resource and they look to their governments at all levels to work together to protect it.

That is why this government takes very seriously the protection of our water resources. Let me be clear at the outset that Canada has and will maintain full sovereignty over the management of water in its natural state in Canada. In doing so, we are in no way constrained or bound by trade agreements, including the NAFTA.

The opening comments by the hon. member for Sherbrooke are factually incorrect and in a lot of ways are very misleading. Some of the witnesses that he referred to I would suggest have not done their homework on the realities of what this government is doing to protect that resource.

There is no need to begin talks with our American and Mexican counterparts to exclude water from the scope of NAFTA because we already have such an agreement, since 1993, before the NAFTA even entered into force. Canada has a strong, comprehensive and internationally recognized regime of protection for our water resources.

The International Boundary Waters Treaty Act prohibits the bulk removal of water from boundary basins. It has been that way since 2002 when new amendments to the act came into force strengthening Canada's ability to protect this important resource. The provinces and territories have also developed legislation, regulations or policies to protect the water resources within their jurisdiction.

This solid regime is the result of a number of policies that have been put in place over the years including in response to the 2000 report from the International Joint Commission, the IJC, which recommended that we take further steps to protect our Great Lakes, not just at the federal level, but at the provincial and territorial levels also.

In fact since the release of the report, the IJC has commended the Government of Canada for the added safeguards that it has put in place. I think Canadians can take immense pride in the work that their governments at all levels do to protect this important resource.

From a trade perspective our current regime is actually stronger than an all-out export ban could ever be. Water is protected in its water basin, in its natural state, before the issue of its export ever arises. This is an environmental protection measure of general application that helps preserve the integrity of the ecosystems that rely on this water for their health and vibrancy.

An export ban would not provide nearly the same high level of protection. Such a ban would only focus on water once it has become a good or a product, that is, processed or bottled, for example. The NAFTA parties have clarified that water in its natural state is not a good, and therefore is not subject to trade agreement. Under the current regime our water in its natural state is not subject to trade agreements.

I know that media reports, along with the members opposite, have focused on a set of private think tank meetings discussing future options for trilateral discussions relating to water. Let me be clear. Studies from private think tanks do not reflect Canadian policy. They are not funded by the Government of Canada and they are not part of our efforts to make North America more secure and more competitive.

However, I do think there is much scope for making Canada more competitive in the North American context. The NAFTA has given us a great start. There is no doubt that our partnership with the U.S. and Mexico has stimulated business, created jobs, and brought higher wages to Canadians. We continue to work with our partners to strengthen our trading relationships under the NAFTA and boost competitiveness and prosperity in all three countries.

For instance, we are working on reducing export related transactional costs and enhancing industry competitiveness through the NAFTA region. We are also working to bring our standards and regulations closer together to create more efficient supply chains and help our businesses compete. We are examining how all three countries might collaborate in trade agreements with other countries and how elements of newer free trade agreements might inform improvements to the NAFTA.

This focus on competitiveness is essential. When we look beyond North America, we see the continued rise of hugely competitive economies, nations like China, India and Brazil. We see the formation and the consolidation of trading blocs like the European Union and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Canada must be able to compete. Our position in North America is not only the basis of our national prosperity, it is a huge competitive advantage, one that we should continue to use for our benefit. That is why we will continue to work closely with our friends and partners in the United States and Mexico through the NAFTA and also through the security and prosperity partnership to bring down remaining barriers to trade and investment and make our economies more competitive on a global scale.

Through the NAFTA we have created the largest free trade zone in the world. Our competitors from around the world look at us in envy as having that opportunity to be part of that large of a trading zone. We have created one of the world's great economic partnerships. We have shown the world how three sovereign independent nations can collaborate for mutual benefit.

This government is committed to ensuring that the North American partnership continues to work for Canada and brings prosperity to Canadians from coast to coast. We are committed to doing this while protecting Canadian interests, including that of our water resources. We have a strong, internationally recognized regime of protection for our water resources. I can assure this House that we will continue to work with the provinces and the territories to ensure this regime protects our interests throughout the country for years to come.

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member spoke about the international trade committee and the problems that the committee had the other day with the witness. I was at that committee meeting as well and it was very clear to me that the witness was speaking to the subject and was a Canadian expert on the subject in terms of energy security as it fit under the SPP.

For the witness to be characterized in that fashion in the House of Commons, I simply cannot agree with that. The witness was speaking to a matter of great significance to Canadians, that of energy security. How it fits under the security and prosperity partnership is extremely important to Canadians right across this country at this time. For that witness to be muzzled by the committee chair was inappropriate. How does my hon. colleague see that the subject of energy security did not fit under the topic that was being discussed at the committee?

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Conservative Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I almost wonder if we were at two different meetings when I hear the comments from my hon. colleague sitting on my right, I might suggest, not necessarily on my right but sitting on my right.

The witness was obviously off the topic of discussion.

We could invite witnesses from all across the country. There are knowledgeable, credible witnesses from all across the country. We chose a witness we thought was going to talk about the security and prosperity partnership that we were discussing at committee that day and on a number days.

It is a very important issue. As I alluded to in my speech, it has created a prosperity for this country, not on the backs of anybody, but to the benefit of all. It has been beneficial to Canadians. It has been tremendously beneficial to our Mexican counterparts and to our American counterparts. We have a huge opportunity that some opposition members fail to recognize.

To have an individual, belligerent at best, who was clearly off the topic of promoting trade, promoting security, promoting the environment that allows us to prosper from this to provide new jobs in Canada, we have been speaking a lot in this House lately about jobs in Canada. It is not just about protectionism. It is about allowing our Canadians companies the opportunity to compete internationally. That is what the NAFTA does.

My hon. colleague from Sherbrooke this morning went so far as to suggest that we should reopen and renegotiate NAFTA. Heaven forbid. We would never achieve the kind of agreement that has the benefits to Canada, the benefits to Mexico and the benefits to the United States that we have in this agreement now because of the increased protectionist mood south of the border.

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:10 a.m.

Bloc

Robert Carrier Bloc Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the presentation of the parliamentary secretary to the international trade minister. Judging by what he had to say, it seems to me that his first priority is clearly international trade. He quickly mentioned the environment that is to be protected and water quality, but I do not think that he is really very aware of how valuable a natural resource quality water is.

In the bad old days, we did not pay much attention to this valuable resource and polluted it. Now we are cleaning up our water and want to conserve it because this valuable resource has been destabilized by human activity. It is being polluted very quickly.

The purpose of the motion introduced today is to protect this valuable natural resource, which is synonymous with Canada all over the world because we have so many waterways. They bring tourism to Canada.

I would like to know what the parliamentary secretary thinks about the issue of the environment, which is not necessarily protected by our big neighbour, the United States, when we look at the development of the oil sands. The development of the Alberta oil sands is responsible for 40% of all the greenhouse gas emissions in Canada. The Americans are purchasing great quantities of this oil and encouraging further development.

The parliamentary secretary must be happy about this from the standpoint of international trade. However, the economic effects of this pollution on our environment fully justify the establishment of some kind of protection for the valuable natural resource that is water because our neighbours to the south are certainly not very concerned about it.

I would like to know what the parliamentary secretary thinks about the pollution caused by this activity, with American encouragement and financing.

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Conservative Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, for the hon. member to suggest that I passed over the environmental impact of this too quickly, I would suggest to the hon. member that in my former life I was a dry land farmer and, therefore, water is very important to my livelihood and to the livelihoods of my constituents in the riding of Macleod.

We live in the drainage of the Rocky Mountains. We have wonderful volumes of freshwater but that freshwater can be polluted. It has been suggested that we are polluting it through our oil and gas explorations. We take great exception to that because we are working diligently with the exploration companies that are working within my riding and all across this country to ensure we are protecting this environment.

The environment minister is working very hard to get this new plan in place, the first plan, I might remind the House, that any government in Canada has ever had. In fact, we are quite excited about the fact that our Prime Minister can now go to the G-8 conference with a plan. We have never had a Canadian prime minister who actually had an environmental plan to deal with greenhouse gas emissions, which my hon. colleague spoke about.

I want to share some of the things we are doing. Yes, oil exploration in the tar sands has been using too much freshwater so companies have taken the initiative to look at new ways of extraction and are using CO2 to extract the oil from the sands. We are working on that. These industries have taken the initiative, with the support of this new government, to ensure we are protecting the environment.

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, it is a rare occasion when a New Democrat gets to ask the parliamentary secretary a couple of questions.

He talked about the tar sands and the level of protection for the water but he ignored the fact that there is an exemption on air pollution from the tar sands that is moving forward under his government's bills. He is ignoring one of the main sources of pollution that ends up in our water stream from the tar sands, which is the air pollution that eventually settles on the land and then works its way into the water system.

With the expansion of these oil sands without proper controls over air emissions of NOx, SOx and volatile organic compounds into the atmosphere, which will eventually end up in the water stream, does the member not admit that this will be one of the largest sources of pollution in his own region of the country over the next 20 years?

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Conservative Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, the short answer to that is no. The premise of the question is almost objectionable because the hon. member makes it out like Albertans do not care. Of course we care. We have done a lot.

As I said in my previous intervention, companies have taken the initiative to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and they are becoming quite effective. Some of the smaller oil companies are now able to use CO2 to extract the lower producing wells that some of the larger companies have moved beyond. This will contribute beneficially to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. It will benefit the issue that we actually started to talk about, that being water.

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Liberal Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak in this very important debate on the ninth report, which is a very straightforward report with a very straightforward recommendation.

I will talk about two components of the report and the first component reads:

Whereas Canada’s water resources must be protected;

Whereas a simple agreement by exchange of letters among the governments of Canada, the United States and Mexico specifying that water is not covered by NAFTA must be respected by international tribunals as if it were an integral part of NAFTA;

That is very straightforward. It is not complicated. This report really emerged out of a discussion that we had with respect to the security-prosperity partnership. We had multiple meetings on that subject matter where we discussed this initiative. This initiative was brought forth in 2005 by the former prime minister, the member for LaSalle—Émard.

The former prime minister launched this partnership with respect to establishing a common approach to security, to protect North America from external threats and to prevent and respond to threats within North America, while ensuring the free flow of goods and services across the border.

It is anticipated that this will be achieved through the implementation of a number of specific initiatives, including improved regulatory cooperation and increased sectoral collaboration in energy, transportation, financial services, technology and other areas, and reduce costs of trade.

The three countries will also work together to handle stewardship of the environment, create a safer and more reliable food supply and protect citizens from infectious diseases.

This mandate is very straightforward but the SPP brought forward some concerns with respect to accountability, transparency, access by certain civil societies and unions, and the lack of, perhaps, public involvement and public engagement. Those were all legitimate concerns about process.

Therefore, we felt as a committee, much to the reluctance, possibly, of the current government, to spend a substantial amount of time discussing the security and prosperity partnership. In that process, we wanted to get a better understanding of that to ease some of the concerns brought forth by the Canadian public with respect to accountability and transparency.

We heard various testimony with respect to bulk water during that discussion and debate and I want to allude to one very troubling committee meeting. Based on what we heard and saw over the past few weeks, I believe it was a reflection of the government's book of dirty tricks that it was going to deploy in committee, a book on how to disrupt committees, how to antagonize certain witnesses who they disapproved of, how to control the agenda and how to create a lot of ruckus and noise in committees in an effort to disrupt Parliament and committees from functioning.

During that particular committee meeting, an individual from Alberta was speaking to the very important subject matter of bulk water. Although he was completely on topic, because the security-prosperity partnership is such a wide ranging initiative, as I just described earlier, the chair abruptly stopped the meeting and walked out. It was unfortunate that the parliamentary secretary did the same thing and accompanied him out. I would have expected better of him. It was very disappointing to see that.

That kind of committee behaviour leaves a bad taste with Canadians who send us here to represent them, to have a debate and discussions on meaningful issues such as this very important subject matter.

I want to speak to our position on bulk water but first I will define bulk water removal. According to Environment Canada:

Bulk water removal is

the removal and transfer of water out of its basin of origin by man-made diversions...tanker ships or trucks, and pipelines. Such removals have the potential, directly or cumulatively, to harm the health of a drainage basin.

Having said that, I would like to add a nuance in this definition, and I mentioned that there would be many. The small scale removal, such as water in small portable containers, is not considered bulk. The portion on bulk water removal has not been updated or reviewed since October 29, 2004.

The facts speak for themselves. When we were in government we did much to protect Canada's water supply. I will be referring to some of these facts from the Environment Canada website on Canada's watersheds and bulk water removal.

For those who are watching today's debate, I would like to define why Canada must continue to protect our water as a natural resource and not commodify it as bulk water for export.

Canada's major watersheds contain approximately 7% of the world's renewable freshwater supply and 20% of the world's total freshwater resources, including water captured in glaciers and in the polar ice cap.

Water is the lifeblood of the environment. It is essential to the survival of all living things, plants, animals and human beings. We have seen the combined effects of such things as climate change, although some in the government are still grappling with this concept, and the industrial and agricultural uses that have had such an irreversible negative effect on our water supply. Bulk water removal projects could have a further effect on our watersheds.

Canada's watershed is a fundamental ecological unit in protecting and conserving both the quality and quantity of water resources. Over the years, provinces, territories and the federal government have adopted a watershed approach as a key principle in water policy and legislation. The watershed approach recognizes linkages of water systems and the need to manage water within drainage basins, rather than a river by river or lake by lake basis.

The protection of Canada's watersheds and the ban on bulk water exports are important for the health and integrity of our environment, our communities and all Canadians. While we were in government, Canada's strategy to prohibit the bulk removal of water from major Canadian water basins, including for the purpose of export, was both environmentally sound and consistent with Canada's international trade obligations. It was built upon sound water management principles and the need to protect the integrity of Canada's watersheds.

As I stated earlier, Canada's water is a shared responsibility between the federal, provincial and territorial governments and each have an important role to play in protecting Canada's freshwater resources. The strategy recognizes that provinces have the primary responsibility for water management and that the Government of Canada has certain legislative authorities in the areas of navigation, fisheries, federal land and shared water resources with the United States. Actions by territorial governments are also becoming increasingly foreign as they assume greater responsibility over water resource management.

All governments have an important role to play in achieving a permanent Canada-wide solution to the prohibition of bulk water removal, including removal for export purposes. This strategy respects Canada's trade obligations because it focuses on water in its natural state. Water in its natural state is not a good or a product and, therefore, is not subject to international trade agreements, but we need to be crystal clear about this.

As I have indicated before, the Liberal Party does not support the bulk water export diversion and commoditization of Canada's water resources. That is our clear-cut position. I will tell the House why we supported this motion in committee. As I alluded to before, I was very disappointed with the government's behaviour with respect to how it conducted itself in committee by not allowing witnesses to express their thoughts. The idea of committee hearings is to get a wide range of viewpoints on various subject matters. The security-prosperity partnership is one of those key issues that needed to be discussed in committee.

If we look at the government's track record, not only did it try to disrupt the committee but, with respect to this particular motion, it tried to filibuster. We discussed this motion numerous times. We finally had to make it clear to the government that we were willing to stay in committee as long as needed to ensure this motion was passed. I think the government finally came to that realization and eventually called this motion to a vote.

I was very disappointed with the government's behaviour and, hopefully, it can explain its behaviour in the question and answer session today.

When we look at the government's track record with respect to how we define our relationship with the United States, one clear-cut example of the government during its mandate was the softwood lumber agreement. In that particular agreement we clearly saw that the government sold out Canada's position. That raises an alarm. I will clearly articulate in a short time period why that is.

First, the government imposed a restrictive quota on the industry. Now it is beginning to realize the ramifications of this. Not only is there a decline in the price of softwood lumber, not only is there an increase in the strength of our loonie, but we also have to deal with quotas and this is really hurting our softwood lumber industry.

Then the government broke a promise, and that is nothing new. The government promised that it would collect the entire portion of duties held by the United States, but left $1 billion on the table. We only collected 80¢ on the dollar. Again, this is a clear cut broken promise. A lot of money was left on the table.

At that time, the government asked us to allow it to leave $1 billion with the United States and the U.S. lumber coalition because it would give the industry some sort of stability and security for seven years. The government misled the industry. All the NAFTA and WTO rulings went completely out the door. We cannot use them to our benefit in terms of setting precedents. We can only refer to them. All the hard work of litigation and the many years of winning court battles went completely out the door. What happened? Seven months into this so-called new softwood sellout agreement we find that there is a possibility of arbitration in the very foreseeable future.

When it comes to the government and why we have issues with respect to its ability to protect Canada's interests, this is a clear cut example of how it sold us out.

I had the opportunity to travel to beautiful British Columbia last week to talk with some of the key stakeholders with respect to the softwood lumber industry. I see the member for Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam sitting here today. He is an individual who fully understands the importance of the softwood lumber industry, and has talked about this. Maybe, as parliamentary secretary, he could talk to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade as well and really convince the minister to acknowledge that the government made a mistake on this file and that it has completely sold out the industry.

If we look at this issue in general with respect to bulk water diversion, why do we have such concern? Why do we want something in writing with the United States or Mexico? It is because of this example with the softwood lumber industry.

As I said, I was talking to stakeholders in B.C. who were completely devastated by how they were misled by the Canadian government and by the Minister of International Trade. Sawmills are being closed and people are losing their jobs. The agreement is just absolutely crippling the industry's ability to compete. This has been systematic and problematic throughout the government's administration over the last year an half, since being in power.

The motion is a reinforcement of the opposition parties coming together and reminding the government that it has an obligation and a responsibility to protect Canada's interests on its vital resources. It is a way to ensure it stands up for Canada. It is not simple, political rhetoric. The government must ensure that it genuinely does this. The government has really turned its back on the industry with respect to the softwood lumber agreement.

I have articulated before the position of the Liberal Party on bulk water, which is very clear. The Liberal Party does not support the bulk water export diversion and commoditization of Canada's water resources, plain and simple. When we were in government, we took all possible measures to ensure that. We encourage the current government to do the same as well.

This is a very straightforward report. I hope that after listening to my remarks, the parliamentary secretary can encourage the minister and his government to reconsider their position on this very important motion and unanimously provide support in the House. Hopefully, we can send a clear cut message to Canadians that we will protect this vital resource. We respect our relationship with the United States. We respect the fact that it is our number one trading partner and our best friend. However, we will not be bullied. Nor will we compromise our position. We will do the right thing and stand up for Canada.

Again, I encourage the government to take a clear cut position on this issue, reverse its position on its motion and support us and the other opposition parties in ensuring that bulk water export diversion and commoditization does not take place.

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:30 a.m.

Macleod Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade and Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, I am a little confused by some of the hon. member's statements.

First, let us remind ourselves that we are actually talking about water. We have talked about oil sands. We have talked about softwood water. We have talked about many things. However, with the importance of water, we should try to keep on topic.

Following the lead of my hon. colleague from Mississauga—Brampton South, who talked about the softwood lumber agreement, my recollection in committee is the Liberal members of the committee, in recognizing their failure over 13 years of not getting an agreement in the softwood lumber dispute and simply fuelling the litigation, supported us. Prior to that infamous election, where the Conservatives finally took back power, the Liberals claimed they were awfully close to an agreement. We have seen some of the language around that agreement. The argument that we left $1 billion on the table is peanuts compared to what the Liberals were willing to leave on the table.

However, we must thank the Liberal Party for helping us get that softwood lumber agreement through because it has brought some stability to this industry. We realize they realized the error of their ways and came around to supporting us.

I do also want to clarify something. The hon. members might be aware of the statement by the then environment minister, now Leader of the Opposition. He said:

Let me say something that will not change. The law of the land in Canada is that we do not allow bulk water removal, period.

Does the hon. member support his leader's statement?

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Liberal Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments made by the hon. member. The parliamentary secretary has a couple of portfolios that he manages, so he has a lot on his plate.

I will very quickly touch upon the softwood lumber agreement to which he alluded. Then I will answer his question with respect to my leader's remarks.

He said today that a $1 billion is peanuts. That is on the record in Hansard. Can members believe that? He should tell that to the companies that are laying off their employees. He should tell that to people in northern Ontario, Quebec, B.C., Alberta and across the country who are losing their jobs. A billion dollars is not peanuts. That is a substantial amount of money that the industry gave up because it believed in the government. It believed that it would get seven years of stability. What did the industry get? Seven months and it is back in the courts, back into arbitration.

We all want stability in our business environment, but the government misled industry and misled Canadians.

With respect to the Liberal Party's position with respect to bulk water, I have been crystal clear in my remarks that we do not support bulk water export.

What is wrong with sending a simple letter to our counterparts in the United States of America to confirm that? There is absolutely nothing wrong with it. What does the government have to hide? Is this another initiative that it plans to pursue in the SPP?

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:35 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I always appreciate hearing the member for Mississauga—Brampton South, and I appreciate his work on committee. However, I cannot let the comments that he just made go by. I have a lot of respect for him personally, but to say now that the Liberal Party suddenly woke up to the fact that the softwood sellout has been incredibly detrimental to the softwood communities across the country just defies imagination.

The softwood sellout came from a Liberal minister who crossed the floor and brought it to the Conservative Party. The only good environmental thing the Conservatives ever do is recycle old Liberal policies. The Conservatives brought it to trade committee. As the parliamentary secretary even admits, Liberal members on the trade committee forced through the softwood sellout, even though we knew it would result in thousands of lost jobs. Then the Liberals Senate pushed it through before Christmas.

Liberals have their fingerprints all over the crime scene. Yet the member for Mississauga—Brampton South tries to pretend that the Liberals woke up to the fact that 5,000 jobs were lost within weeks of this incredibly irresponsible sellout being put into place, Conservatives being assisted by their accomplices in the Liberal Party.

I cannot let that go by. It simply defies imagination that anyone could try to pretend the Liberals were not duplicitous and explicitly involved in every stage of the softwood sellout.

I want to come back to the member's point about the Liberal Party and water exports. The Liberals, among the many promises that they broke after 1993, had promised to ban the commercial export of water, but never did so, which is why we are in this precarious position today. In 2002 a Liberal government actually opposed installing water as a human right.

How does the member, who I respect a lot, mesh all these contradictions with the comments that he just made in the House?

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Liberal Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, again, I appreciate the enthusiasm and the energy of my colleague, but I remind him that we opposed the softwood lumber sellout. We opposed it, and he should be made aware of that. When we stood in the House, we opposed it. We understood that it was a bad deal. It was a bad deal for Canada and it was a bad deal across the board.

If we asked the premiers now, if we asked the lumber industry experts now, they are incredibly skeptical. Why? Because they were told seven years of peace, of stability, but in seven months we are back in the courts.

A billion dollars, which the parliamentary secretary has said is only peanuts, is not peanuts. Thousands of jobs were lost. The most important element of it as well is the member for Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam knows full well that in his province Canfor and West Fraser are closing down mills. Imagine, these large, successful companies are closing down mills because of the softwood sellout. I hope the government can explain this to industry as well.

Going back to the member's question with respect to the Liberal Party's position on bulk water, we have been very clear. We have always stood up for this. We did so during the NAFTA debate. We did so when we were in government. Today, again, we take a clear-cut position that Liberals do not support the export of bulk water.

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, it does remind me of that famous C.D. Howe quote “what's a million”. I guess with inflation now, it is now “what's a billion”. A billion is peanuts now.

I direct the hon. member's attention back to the matter being debated. It says “water resources must be protected”, which seems agreeable. It says that NAFTA expressly excludes water from NAFTA, which seems sensible. There is a prohibition on bulk water exports, which seems perfectly sensible. All it is requiring is a simple agreement among the various affected parties, Canada, U.S. and Mexico to exclude water from the scope of NAFTA.

Then bizarrely, the Conservative Party submits a dissenting opinion, which says absolutely nothing. What does the member think of the Conservatives' position on this? This is strange indeed.

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Liberal Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member's question is very clear-cut. Yes, we did divert a bit by starting to talk about the softwood lumber agreement, and understandably so because it is a very important issue, but nevertheless this report clearly outlines in very succinct fashion what the issue is here. We want to make sure that Canada's water resources are protected.

We want to do this, as I said earlier in my remarks, with a simple agreement by an exchange of letters. I do not understand, and I too am completely baffled, why the government would have any issues or difficulties with respect to following this procedure.

We heard from various witnesses in committee during the security and prosperity partnership discussion about the issue of water diversion, bulk water export, and that is what prompted this report. This report does not say anything that would compromise the government's position. In fact, it would actually show to the Canadian public that the government wants to stand up for Canada's interests, so I again want to encourage my colleagues across the floor to make sure that they change their position. They have done it on interest deductibility. They can do it on this as well and take a position to support this report.

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Vancouver Island North.

I am pleased to speak in support of this motion that has come forward today. As we know, this motion is coming forward as a result of the work of the NDP in this Parliament. The SPP hearings, the hearings on the security and prosperity partnership, or deep integration, which the NDP forced at the international trade committee, have resulted in the first piece of what will have to be many different pieces of debate and discussion in this House of Commons.

We know that the SPP agenda started by the Liberal Party in 2005 is another piece of legislation recycled from the Liberals to the Conservatives. As we have seen in so many cases, the change in government has meant simply a change in entitlement. Now the Conservatives feel they have the entitlements that the Liberals used to feel they had, but essentially many of the policy directions are exactly the same.

Such is the case, of course, when it comes to the SPP, the security and prosperity partnership, or deep integration. A Liberal agenda was put in place and essentially organized behind the scenes, away from parliamentary scrutiny, away from public debate, and we have seen the Conservatives simply leap onto that bandwagon with enthusiasm, continuing the secrecy and the lack of public consultation. They are continuing to have decisions being taken behind the scenes that are extremely important to Canadians and are kept away from parliamentary scrutiny.

The NDP forced these first hearings on the SPP. What have we learned from these first hearings? They simply expose the tip of the iceberg, really, in terms of the overall agenda that is in place for the SPP put in place by the Liberals and continued by the Conservatives. Below the surface there are many other areas that need to be brought out into public scrutiny and public debate for meaningful public consultations. They need to be brought out for parliamentary debate.

We have learned just within these first few hearings about a number of things that should be very worrisome to Canadians. First off, we learned that the Conservative government is now pushing for more pesticide residue on the food that we eat in Canada. In an effort to eliminate these impediments to trade, the Conservatives are willing to allow a greater amount of pesticide residue.

The United States has the weakest environmental regulations in the western world when it comes to pesticide residue, far weaker than Europe's, for example, and yet this Conservative government is now pushing forward so that Canadians consuming food in Canada will have a greater amount of acceptable pesticide residue.

We know that pesticides are directly tied to many diseases, such as Parkinson's disease, but the Conservatives, like their Liberal predecessors, do not seem to be concerned about the health implications for Canadians. They are simply pushing through these regulation changes that would allow for more pesticides to be consumed by Canadians, unbeknownst to them, of course. It is completely unacceptable. As we know, the vast majority of Canadians want to see safer regulations. They want food that is much safer, yet we have seen the Liberals and Conservatives pushing exactly the opposite way in an effort to appease Washington.

Another example is safety regulations. Again, started by the Liberals and continued under the Conservatives, we saw the same attempt to try to diminish the number of flight attendants on Canadian flights. Flight attendants are extremely important in evacuation procedures. In the event of a major disaster with an airplane, it is the flight attendants who assist the passengers, particularly seniors and people with disabilities, in getting off the plane.

Again, this SPP agenda wants to diminish the number of flight attendants on Canadian planes. In the event of an accident where an evacuation needed to happen, there would be fewer flight attendants to assist those passengers. As we saw with the Air France disaster two years ago, it is vitally important that the flight attendants be there. In the Air France case, the flight attendants saved lives. In the case of any other potential disaster, it would be the same thing. The NDP pushed back and we stopped the government from doing this.

Those are just two examples of the types of initiatives the Conservatives are taking behind the scenes.

There are over 300 different regulatory areas in which this is happening, hidden behind the scenes, away from public consultation, away from any sort of public debate, and away from parliamentary scrutiny. This is taking place. It is an example of to what extent the Conservatives are willing to implement the Liberal agenda and to push through what is bad policy for Canadians.

Why are they doing this behind the scenes? As their allies, the corporate CEOs around the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, said, they did not believe that the public really wanted to have debates on these issues. As for what that means, what they are saying is that if the public found out what the Conservatives are doing, which is like what their Liberal predecessors did, Canadians would be profoundly disturbed by the direction the government has taken.

That is why they do not want this debate out in public, to the extent that we saw the chair of the international trade committee shut down the committee hearings on energy sovereignty. Gordon Laxer, an Albertan representing the Parkland Institute, one of the most respected Alberta institutions, came to speak in Ottawa on behalf of most Albertans who are concerned about the giveaways we have seen from both the provincial and the federal Conservatives.

An Albertan from the Parkland Institute, an important and reputed Alberta institution, came to Ottawa to give testimony on energy sovereignty, on what the Conservatives have given away, like the Liberals before them. Under proportionality, Canada is the only nation on earth that supplies a foreign country before it meets the needs of its own citizens.

Mr. Laxer was providing testimony to that effect. Most of eastern Canada now is supplied by offshore resources coming from the Middle East and other foreign countries. In the event of a supply shortage if that imported oil is cut off, we actually are forced to continue to supply the American market first, which means literally that Canadians freeze in the dark because of the Conservatives and their Liberal predecessors being completely incapable of standing up for the national interest.

When Mr. Laxer provided that testimony, the chair of the international trade committee tried to cut him off because he simply did not want Mr. Laxer's testimony to get out in the public domain. When the committee overruled him, the trade committee chair, unbelievably, showing profound disrespect to Albertans and all Canadians who are concerned about this issue, walked out of the meeting, trying to adjourn it.

For Canadians who are watching today, let me say that we now have that testimony restored, and they can find out what Mr. Laxer said about the incredible recklessness and irresponsibility of the Conservative government in giving away our energy resources without looking to Canada's interests first.

That brings us to the question of exports of water. Essentially, within the Conservative implementation of the Liberal agenda we now have, unbelievably, the issue of water exports back on the table. The vast majority of Canadians are opposed to water exports and water diversion. They are opposed for a number of reasons. One is because of the environmental devastation that results from this, and we have seen this in case after case where Canadians have spoken out on these issues, but also they are opposed because it makes no public policy sense whatsoever.

We may have a bank account that is rich in that we have 20% of the world's freshwater, but we only have about 6% of the world's renewable freshwater. In a very real sense when we talk about our water resources, that is our bank account. That is the 20% of standing water resources that is largely invested in our lakes, streams and rivers across the country, but its renewable resources are actually only equivalent to those of the United States.

The United States has been reckless with its use of water. Unfortunately, even though many Americans are speaking out on this issue, what we are seeing from those who now would seek water, rather than apply environmentally sustainable polices, is pressure to simply take Canadian water, as if somehow having a few more years of freshwater supplies from Canada is going to avoid the environmental catastrophes that many people apprehend in the United States.

It is simply not acceptable to share our water. If any bulk water exports or diversions start, under NAFTA right now they cannot be stopped. That is why the NDP is supporting this motion. We need to make it very clear that bulk water exports and water diversions are unacceptable and they are not environmentally sustainable. The NDP corner of the House will be fighting the SPP agenda and fighting water exports. That is why we in the NDP support the motion.

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Liberal Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member has talked passionately, and I have worked in committee with this member as well, about his party's position on water diversion and bulk water exports, and I think there is unanimity among our party members as well.

However, in his comments he did not specifically mention a discussion that was touched on earlier. The member comes from British Columbia and he resides in that beautiful province. I would like to hear his remarks with respect to concerns and issues surrounding the softwood lumber agreement.

I would like to ask how he sees that unfolding in the next few months in terms of the feedback that he is getting from industry, from workers, from the province, from the provincial members of the legislative assembly, and what their thoughts are on this very important legislation that has really compromised Canada's position in terms of its ability to protect and support a very vital industry that generates thousands of jobs and billions of dollars worth of exports. I would like to hear his views on that as well.

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Mississauga—Brampton South for his question. Unfortunately, he is not going to like my response because I have to repeat the issue of the Liberal involvement in the softwood sellout. If the Liberal Party had chosen to work with the NDP, it would have been able to stop the softwood sellout.

The former Liberal minister crossed the floor with the original draft softwood sellout that came from the Liberal Party and brought it over to the Conservatives. I realize he was not a member of the trade committee at the time and that is unfortunate, but the Liberal trade committee members pushed with the Conservatives to get it through, despite the consequences. They wanted to get it through no matter how many thousands of jobs were lost, no matter how they compromised Canada's position.

We actually won in the Court of International Trade, so the Americans were obliged to pay every single penny back. We were a few months away from the finish line of winning every single cent back and unimpeded access to the American market, and the Conservatives, instead of saying, “We now have a court decision that gives every penny back, subject to one appeal”, blew it up and destroyed it because they simply did not understand the file. The Liberals on the trade committee helped get it through. Liberals in the Senate then adopted it, when they could have stopped it.

Unfortunately, I cannot give the answer the member is looking for. The results have been disastrous. Why did the Liberal Party not try to work with the NDP to stop this deplorable, reckless--

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Windsor West.

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the member for Burnaby—New Westminster a question about the Great Lakes.

One of the interesting things that was recently brought forth by the United States was to actually turn the Great Lakes into firing ranges for gunboats, which would have put lead and other types of contaminants in the water, as well as safety hazards.

The New Democratic Party was the only party to actually make a submission opposing this. I want to ask him what his confidence is in the government's negotiations because what was interesting was that the government's response was late. It was past the deadline, so it actually had no official commentary made to the United States. Luckily for ourselves, many Canadian and American organizations and groups actually opposed this, got submissions in and we had that ceased.

I would like to ask him what his confidence is in the government in terms of negotiations, when it cannot even meet a simple deadline to protect one of the most important water sources on this planet.

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to compliment the member for Windsor West for his work on that file. This was extremely important, and in this corner of the House, the NDP always seems to be on top of our files.

That is why we have pushed against the SPP, the only party in the House to do so. That is why we fought against the egregious softwood sellout, the appallingly bad and irresponsible softwood giveaway, which certainly will leave very few Conservatives standing in British Columbia after the next election. They well know that is why their numbers are collapsing in British Columbia. British Columbia has been at the epicentre of the thousands of lost jobs because of this egregiously bad policy.

Do I have any confidence in the government's ability to negotiate? Do I have any confidence in Mickey Mouse or Daffy Duck negotiating on our behalf, any more than the trade minister? For goodness' sake, softwood lumber, the firing ranges on the Great Lakes, and now we have the South Korea agreement. Giveaway after giveaway--

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. Resuming debate, the hon. member for Vancouver Island North.

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Catherine Bell NDP Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Burnaby—New Westminster for sharing his time with me today and for his work on the international trade committee. We have heard his passion and dedication. His work on this file is where this motion comes from. It is a result of the direct work that the NDP did at this committee. I know the hon. member works long and hard there.

I want to talk about water policy and water in general. Water is vital to people's health and livelihoods. In Canada we do not have a national water policy. We do not have a strategy to address urgent water issues. We have heard that there is no federal leadership to conserve and protect our water.

Our federal water policy is over 20 years old and is badly outdated. There is a growing list of the crisis facing our freshwater, including contamination, shortages, and pressures to export to the United States and Mexico through pipelines and diversions.

The government needs to implement a comprehensive national water policy. What should that policy include? For starters, it should include a ban on the bulk export of water. Water is a finite resource and Canada has about 20% of the world's freshwater supply but only 7% of the world's renewable freshwater. The rest of the water is trapped in ice, snow and glaciers. Unfortunately, we are losing that part of our trapped water supply.

Canada and the United States share interconnected water systems. The Great Lakes provide drinking water to 45 million people. The Great Lakes charter annex agreement was signed back in December 2005 by Ontario, Quebec and eight U.S. states. This will allow diversions through permissive exceptions, but it does not guarantee a strong role for the Government of Canada to preserve and protect our water supply.

North Dakota is just one state that is facing water shortages. It is looking north for a new supply through diversions and inter-basin transfers.

Bulk water exports and diversions would leave Canada's water vulnerable to environmental depletion and to international trade challenges that could permanently open the floodgates to the parched U.S. states.

A new national water policy must ban the export of water, implement strict restrictions on diversions, and affirm the role of the federal government in international water issues. Once water is a commodity, there will be no chance to turn off the tap.

In April of this year, as my colleague mentioned, we learned about a document produced by a Washington think tank revealing that business and government leaders in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico are actively discussing bulk water exports. They met in Calgary on April 27 of this year to discuss the issue in a closed door meeting as part of a larger discussion on North American integration. This is something that thousands and thousands of Canadians are totally opposed to.

These meetings have many Canadians concerned about the government's direction with regard to the protection of this precious resource. I support the recommendations that the government quickly begins talks with their American and Mexican counterparts to exclude water from the scope of NAFTA.

Our thirsty neighbours to the south do not lack sufficient water resources. What they have is unsustainable urban sprawl and mismanagement of their resources. It is important to exclude water from NAFTA because NAFTA is designed to protect trade above all else. Water could be traded and exported even if it had a negative impact on Canada. We see that with our oil exports. We export 60% of our oil to the U.S. Even if Canada had a shortage, we would still have to do that.

There are many reasons why Canada needs a national water policy. In the year 2000 seven people died in the community of Walkerton, Ontario, when their drinking water was contaminated with the E. coli virus.

In 2001 more than 7,000 people were made sick during a three month period by parasite infected water in North Battleford, Saskatchewan.

In 2005 the people of Kashechewan, a Cree community in Ontario, were forced to evacuate their homes because of water contamination, and there are still problems in Kashechewan today, as my colleague from Timmins—James Bay has so passionately pointed out on many occasions in the House.

According to the Government of Canada, municipalities issue hundreds of boil water advisories a year, most as a result of water contamination.

Since December 16, 2006, hundreds of boil water advisories have been issued for first nations communities in Canada. This is an alarming trend. We see ourselves as a very clean, safe country, yet issue hundreds of boil water advisories. A new national water policy must create national clean drinking water standards, something that we do not have.

Communities across this country are in desperate need of money to pay for water pipes and filtration systems, which are now the responsibility of municipal governments. These governments are looking to private investors to rebuild infrastructure through public private partnerships.

Water is a public health and safety concern and is best managed, regulated and financed by public systems that are accountable to their communities. If we lose that accountability, we lose control of our water.

When for profit interests control drinking water, the quality decreases and costs increase, and there are many examples of municipalities which have gone down the P3 road far enough to learn that it is a bad deal for their communities.

The federal government has tied infrastructure money in its 2007 budget to public private partnerships. It is forcing municipalities down a very slippery slope to privatization and the loss of control of municipal water supply and management. A new national water policy must commit to the federal government investment plan for municipalities.

Water is essential for all life, but it is a finite resource. Even in Canada, a water rich nation as I said earlier, one-quarter of Canadian municipalities have faced shortages and currently one-third rely on groundwater, a resource on which we have dangerously little data to provide for daily needs.

Water shortages in the prairies cost $5 billion in economic damage in 2001. We should think what $5 billion could buy in infrastructure for some of these communities which are sorely lacking.

At the same time, Canadians waste a tremendous amount of water every day. A new national water policy must implement a comprehensive conservation strategy and invest in water resource research and monitoring. Simple things such as turning off the tap while we brush our teeth can save an entire swimming pool of water per person per year. It is as simple as that. However, people need information to go on.

The North American Free Trade Agreement defines water as a service and an investment, leaving Canadian water vulnerable to thirsty foreign investors. Once Canada allows water to be withdrawn and transported to other countries for large scale industrial purposes, foreign investors must be given the same national treatment as Canadian companies. A new national water policy must also ensure that water does not become a tradable commodity in current and future trade deals.

Canada should also oppose the privatization of water as it allows for some of the worst human rights violations. We saw this in Ecuador, where the water supply became so expensive after being privatized that ordinary people could not afford it. Only the wealthy had access to water. This caused a revolt in the community when ordinary families had no other alternative but to demand access to their water. Recognizing the right to water would allow international law to address issues of unequal distribution, and safe water for drinking and sanitation in other countries.

Canadians are concerned about the lack of the current position on bulk water exports. The Conservative Party did nothing in the election to address growing concerns about the stability and quality of Canada's water supply.

Canadians know that the free market does not guarantee access to water, that bulk water exports could open the floodgates to trade challenges, that Canada's water supply is limited, that public water is safer, cleaner and more affordable, and that water is essential for people and nature.