House of Commons Hansard #99 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was food.


Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I did state clearly in my comments that the NDP is not opposed to free trade or fair trade as our members would rather see it. We are just simply cautious because our experience has been such that we have put our hand on the stove more than once and we are being asked to put it on again in our view.

My colleague did raise the point that we are still not satisfied that these treaties are in fact not being brought to Parliament in the manner that we expected. International treaties are now tabled in the House for a 21 day period during which the House may discuss, debate or hold a vote. A copy of the treaty with an explanatory note is distributed to each MP and after the 21 days the government decides whether or not to ratify the treaty.

In the end the government still retains complete control over the process. That is not quite what we envisioned when we said that it should be up to Parliament to decide if we are going to enter into these international treaties dealing with trade because they are significant in terms of shaping the industrial development of our country.

We argue that treaties that exclude certain industry sectors will in fact shape our progress in that sector, such as shipbuilding. Therefore, we should have an opportunity to ratify or not this process in a greater way than we do.

My colleague had something to say about my remarks regarding how this free trade agreement would deal with agriculture et cetera. I remind him the profound effect that free trade agreements can have on industry sectors such as agriculture and the analogy that I have used is the ink was no sooner dry on the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement than the Americans were filing unfair trade challenges at the Canadian Wheat Board. They tried 11 separate times to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board by trade challenges. They put our Wheat Board under incredible stress and pressure that it is still suffering under today.

The Americans are lucky because they finally found a government willing to do their dirty work for them, what they were unable to do through the FTA and NAFTA. Believe me it was one of their designs and they had their sites set on the Canadian Wheat Board as they were sitting at the table. Simon Reisman did not have a chance because the American negotiators in the free trade agreements knew exactly what they wanted and they put in place, they believed, the provisions to do it. The Canadian Wheat Board has been hanging on by the skin of its teeth through these 11 separate trade challenges. Now, as I say, the Government of Canada is going to do it for them.

The reason I raise this is this particular agreement has a dispute mechanism that goes to the WTO in the event of trade challenges. The WTO is no friend of supply management. That in itself is worrisome enough that we believe this package should be opposed.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I can assure the member for Winnipeg Centre that I was also there when we welcomed the representatives of the shipbuilding industry. They were in favour of two important elements concerning phasing out tariffs. There were two conditions.

Of course, there was accelerated capital cost allowance and, through EDC, there was financing, insurance and loan guarantees related to the sales agreements. As much as possible, the government needs to be firmly committed to Quebec- and Canadian-made products for its military needs, coast guard needs or offshore investments.

Now is the chance for the member to question the government and the current Minister of Foreign Affairs, who was formerly the Minister of International Trade, to ensure they are committed to supporting the shipbuilding industry in Canada and Quebec. I think that action can be taken, and that the government should not ignore or be unresponsive to the expectations of the shipbuilding industry. I am convinced that the government needs to be realistic and commit to respecting these elements in order to protect the shipbuilding industry.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I know there is very little time, so I will simply say briefly that people are judged by what they do, not by what they say. I do not understand how the member can hold those views about the failures of this bill to support the shipbuilding industry and then support the treaty.

I would remind him again that my union, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, used to have 30,000 members building ships in the Burrard Dry Dock shipyards of Vancouver alone. That was how important shipbuilding was to the union that I represent and the people of Vancouver. That is 30,000 good paying unionized jobs in an industry sector that specialized in high tech and was certainly a modern shipyard.

As I said, it compares with the Canadarm in terms of the robotics and the specialization associated with building these big post-Panamax tankers that make the House of Commons look tiny. We could probably fit three House of Commons chambers in one of these ships. By supporting this bill we abandon even further the shipbuilding industry.

We have an opportunity here to make a statement, that the House of Commons is seized of the issue of the survival of the shipbuilding industry. By voting for this bill and supporting it, we are saying that we are not interested in that industry any more. Maybe there will be jobs created at Wal-Mart for our kids to work, but there sure will not be any in the shipbuilding industry.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, before I begin my remarks, let me say how delighted I am to speak on this issue. I think all members of Parliament, however they feel on this issue, whether they are in favour of it or against it, I am sure are quite pleased that we have an opportunity to debate this before this House.

It was not too long ago, and it still is to an extent today, that free trade agreements and trade agreements had been the exclusive domain at the executive branch. I think it is a positive step that the government has put forward this before this House. Bill C-55, the European free trade association agreement, is certainly an agreement worthy of debate in this House and also, I think, worthy of support because we are talking about some of the most ideal friends and countries with which we could possibly trade.

Obviously, some of us have concerns when we do trade with certain countries that have issues of human rights. This is not the case. These are, in fact, countries in Europe that we can certainly do business with because they have a proud history defending human rights as western democratic countries. They share the values that Canada and Canadians have.

Throughout our history, Canada has always been a nation of traders. From the fur traders of the early years of Canadian history to the current day when we sell the world everything from energy products to high tech products, our prosperity is dependent on our ability to trade.

In the early days of Canada, in 1867, when we founded this country, and before the Treaty of Westminster, the predominant trading partner for Canada was Great Britain. Today, 80% of our trade is done with our American partners. Diversity in trade is going to be extremely important as we get into a more competitive world.

I think that this particular deal, the European Free Trade Association agreement, is a great opportunity for all of us to broaden the trading partners that we have, and also the trading agreements that we have in place to ensure that we, as Canadians, benefit from the whole process of trade with countries in Europe.

It is important to remember that as a nation of approximately 34 million people, from the very beginning, Canada has relied upon trade for our prosperity and for our continued growth, both in terms of economics and population. We are a country blessed with resources of wealth and a labour force that is second to none in the world.

Our GDP is valued in excess of $1.4 trillion, creating a per capita wealth of over $38,000 per person. Our purchasing power as a nation is over $1.2 trillion. We export over 2.2 million barrels of oil per day. We export over 100 billion cubic metres of natural gas. We export aircraft, automobiles, industrial goods, plastics, timber and aluminum, to name but a few products.

Today, as we talk about the ever-increasing price of gasoline and the cost of a barrel of oil constantly going up, there are concerns about how this will impact on our economy.

Canada is certainly blessed with an abundance of natural resources and we are an energy super house, to say the least, because these are very valued commodities throughout the world at the moment. Canada is certainly benefiting and as we see today, the rising dollar in this country is having some positive effects and also some negative effects.

Some members in this House and I certainly have spoken before of the issues of concern in relation to the manufacturing sector. We are, of course, concerned about the loss of jobs in the manufacturing sector. Yesterday, it was reported in the news that today more people are working in the service sector than in the manufacturing sector.

Some people might say this is a positive things, however, others are really concerned. I would say the one issue of concern, specifically, is not just the loss of manufacturing jobs, which I think is so critical and important to this country, but it is also the fact that we are losing good-paying jobs as well.

The manufacturing sector pays twice what the average person is making in the service sector, and the service sector also has very few benefits offered to individuals and their families. This is of grave concern to all of us. We have to pay special attention to those issues of concern.

Total exports each year account for over $440 billion. What does all this mean to us as parliamentarians and, more important, to Canadians across our country who work each day to build prosperous lives for themselves and for their families?

Simply put, the future prosperity of Canada is dependent upon trade and our trading relationships as much as it was in the early days of settlement of this country. The most profound difference is that in the early days of settlement in Canada almost all trade was targeted locally or within the context of colonial realities. In later days, trade with Britain and within the context of the Commonwealth was very much the primary reality we faced as a country.

Few would argue that the world is a very different place, not only from the time of the early settlers hundreds of years ago, but from the world we knew less than 50 or even 20 years ago.There are a few realities that we as a nation must recognize and address. They are the emerging markets of Asia, the powerhouse economies of China, India and Brazil that will continue to grow and to impact upon the world economy.

We all know that Canada in the late 1980s entered into negotiations with the United States that saw the creation of the North American Free Trade Agreement. There are areas of the agreement that continue to cause us concern, but the reality is that our trade with the United States represents over 80% of our trade with the world. The reality is that under NAFTA Canada enjoys a substantial trade surplus with its trading partner, the United States. Possible changes to NAFTA are a debate for another day but the point is that in negotiating this agreement it was clear that new economic realities exist in the world and we must be in our best position to deal with them.

The European Free Trade Association agreement we are debating today may not appear to represent an enormous part of our economy. In fact, the European free trade agreement countries are the fifth largest merchandise exports for Canada.

There are some key points that need to be addressed and also to be highlighted on this particular bill. This bill eliminates duties on non-agricultural goods and selected agricultural products, giving Canadian exports better access to Canada's fifth largest merchandise export destination. It lays the groundwork for a more comprehensive agreement on service and investment with European free trade agreement countries as well as free trade talks with the broader European Union.

The bill addresses concerns regarding the shipbuilding sector by obtaining the longest tariff phase-out for any agreement with developed nations: 15 years for the most sensitive vessels and 10 years for other sensitive vessels, with known tariff reductions for the first three years. Shipbuilding is also supported through a $50 million renewal of Industry Canada's structured financing facility.

A snap back provision exists, raising tariff levels to the most favoured nation rate for up to three years if the agreement results in serious threats to domestic industry. A process for binding arbitration is also laid out. Canadian agricultural supply management and buy Canada government procurement programs are protected.

The European free trade countries, as I stated before, are the world's 14th largest merchandise traders and Canada's fifth largest merchandise export destinations. Two-way Canada-EFTA non-agricultural merchandise trade amounted to $12.6 billion in 2007. Canadian exports to the European free trade market amounted to $5.1 billion, as of 2007. It included some very important materials, such as nickel, copper, pharmaceuticals, machinery, precious stones and metals, medical devices, aluminum, aerospace products, pulp and paper, organic chemicals, autos and parts, art and antiques. There is a broad perspective of things that we are trading with the Europeans already and we expect this to grow with this particular agreement.

Canadian imports from the European Free Trade Association countries amounted to about $7.4 billion in 2007. These imports include mineral fuel, pharmaceuticals, organic chemicals, machinery, medical and optical instruments, and clocks and watches. Canadian foreign direct investment in the overall EFTA market was about $8.4 billion in 2006 and direct investment in Canada from the EFTA market was about $15.6 billion in 2006. We are talking about very large sums of money.

It is also important to note the reactions of some of the stakeholders. Some concerns have been raised and it is important to highlight what some of the stakeholders are saying. Despite the protections given in the agreement, there is still fear that the shipbuilding industry may be unable to compete under these terms and may result in significant job losses. That is an issue that needs to be addressed.

There are some provisions in here that address those concerns, but the government has to take those issues seriously. It must make sure that the shipbuilding industry is protected in whatever way possible, not just through these agreements but also through financial incentives that are needed to maintain that vital industry for Canada. We as a country should take very seriously the manufacturing sector and the shipbuilding industry.

The National Farmers Union believes that the agreement will negatively impact supply management by undermining Canada's position at the World Trade Organization. None of the supply management groups have indicated any concerns. One sector which is likely to feel the most effect is dairy, however, Dairy Farmers of Canada was consulted and has expressed no concerns. These are issues that need to be put on the table.

As I mentioned before, we are talking about an agreement the history of which goes back to 1998 when the Liberal government under Jean Chrétien first began negotiating this agreement. The agreement was signed on January 26, 2008 in Switzerland. It was tabled in Parliament on February 14, 2008. A committee reviewed the agreement and reported to the House on April 7, and now we are debating this government bill to enact it in legislation.

Of all the agreements we have spoken to in the past, this one deals with countries of like mind, countries for which we have a lot of respect and with which we have built long term alliances over many years. There are many historic and cultural ties that bind Canada and those European nations.

We have also seen the birth of the European common market, which has been a huge success. It has brought countries that at one time were in poverty into first world status and improved the quality of life of all people who live in those countries. The European Union has done a magnificent job of raising the standard of living of all Europeans, creating a common market that has been a huge success.

Every day I read about what is taking place in Europe. There was a major meeting to sign the treaty of Lisbon. Once it has been voted on by the parliaments in Europe and comes to fruition, it will certainly solidify a truly great united nations of Europe, if we could call it that.

It is a great leap of faith for all of these countries to work together. It is something they realized they had to do because of some of the strifes and wars that had taken place in the past, but also, the European nations realize this is a new reality that is important for the 21st century.

We here in Canada are quite pleased with the development that is taking place in Europe. We certainly want to solidify our ties not only socially, but also economically. This particular agreement that has been put forward will go a long way to doing that.

I am pleased to lend my support, notwithstanding the fact that there are still some concerns out there. I am not unsympathetic to those concerns. Those concerns need to be addressed. There are different mechanisms that can be put in place. It is beholden upon the government to do so and make sure that our sectors and industries are protected.

At the end of the day we want to ensure the well-being of all Canadians to make sure that they have a decent job and earn a decent wage. We want fair trade, as has been talked about. Fair trade is the important ingredient to make sure that these agreements stand the test of time and that they produce positive results for all Canadians.

I am delighted to once again state how pleased I am that this bill is before this House and that the executive has allowed Parliament to have a debate on a trade agreement.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.


Denise Savoie NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member seems to have glossed over the issue of supply management. He said that dairy farmers, for example, were consulted and were not concerned. He said he is supportive of fair trade, but he and his party seem to be advocating free trade. I do not know if he missed the comment from the National Farmers Union before the standing committee, where it stated that the most critical and highly negative aspect of this deal from its point of view is its impact on supply management, for example in the dairy industry, by eliminating the import tariff.

It seems to me that supply management should be part of the architecture of fair trade, to help ensure food supply and food safety around the world. It is really key to the model upon which cooperative agricultural trade should be built.

I am wondering if the member would comment on that, because in this agreement, although it has some positive aspects, we seem to be certainly going away from supply management. It has no resemblance to the fair trade practices that he referred to.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.


Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I take the member's concerns about supply management in particular in relation to food supply and safety. I think all of us as parliamentarians should be greatly concerned about those issues. I believe that in my remarks I also mentioned that there were some concerns. I did not say there were no concerns. Specifically, concerns were raised by the National Farmers Union, but I also did say that Dairy Farmers of Canada was consulted and expressed no concerns. This is the information that I received. I believe it is still accurate. I take note of what the member has stated. I think these are issues of concern.

Overall there is no such a thing as a perfect deal. Deals take many years to negotiate. There are many issues on the table. Not every sector is going to be 100% satisfied with any deal that Canada signs with another country, be it even countries in Europe specifically.

As I have mentioned, I think that certain countries in the European Union would be ideal partners for Canada. They have an incredible record in terms of human rights protections and fighting for social justice. There are many governments in Europe which have social democratic governments as well and which fought very hard for issues such as equality and human rights. They obviously are in agreement with this particular agreement. We have to understand there is a commonality that we share.

I think this agreement is a positive one, notwithstanding that there are some concerns. As I said, if the government gets together and tries to put investments into the right markets, it can alleviate some of those concerns and pressures that some of those sectors might feel from the agreement. In totality the agreement is not perfect, but it is a positive step forward.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, what hope or indication does my colleague have from the government that it would introduce a shipbuilding policy or change its process right now? The current budget that his party is supporting does not have any of those mechanisms in there. In fact, it reduces the capital cost reduction allowance. It is eliminating that and phasing it out over the next three years. It is doing the exact opposite.

Maybe the member could educate us in terms of what specific things the Conservatives are doing to give him hope that they would actually address this issue.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.


Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, hope is an important thing. I certainly believe there is a possibility that the government would react in a positive manner to address issues raised, not just by shipbuilding associations and the shipbuilding industry, but also by the manufacturing industry.

However, the present government will not be in power forever. I hope the new government, the Liberal government, will enact some of those measures.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.


Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with keen interest that I join the debate today on Bill C-55, which would implement the free trade agreement between Canada and the European Free Trade Association. The association is made up of four countries: Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.

To begin, I want to reiterate that after responsible analysis the Bloc Québécois will support this bill, which we believe, in general, offers promising economic trade opportunities for Quebec that are worth pointing out. However, there are also some concerns that my colleagues have mentioned and that we share.

We all know that Quebec is a trading nation. Many of our companies, especially those operating in leading-edge sectors, rely on exports to ensure their growth. That is important. International exports represent almost one-third of Quebec’s GDP. If we include trade with Canada's provinces, Quebec’s exports represented about 50% of its GDP in 2006.

In trading terms, Quebec is far too dependent on American markets. Indeed, nearly 85% of our current exports go to the United States. Given the slowdown in the American economy that we are now witnessing, the rise in the Canadian dollar and the aggressive tactics of emerging countries such as China and India, we are finding it increasingly difficult to maintain our market share with our neighbours to the south. The results have been significant for Quebec. More than 150,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost in the past five years, including more than 80,000 since the advent of the Conservative government and its laissez-faire doctrine.

The riding that I represent, Berthier—Maskinongé, has been severely affected by the loss of jobs in the furniture and textile industries. If our trading opportunities were more diversified and we were less dependent on the United States, our manufacturing sector would not be so threatened. This is why this free trade agreement with the European association deserves to be explored and, indeed, to be supported.

For example, as is the case in Quebec, the brand name pharmaceutical industry is very strong in Switzerland. Quebec is the Canadian leader in the field of brand name drugs because of its pool of skilled researchers and its favourable tax system. One can easily imagine, and we even hope, that Swiss pharmaceutical companies could be tempted to produce their drugs in Quebec as a way of gaining easier access to the American market. We will strongly encourage that idea, which would result in new investments in Quebec. That is one of the main reasons why we support this bill.

If we look at the case of Norway, nickel accounts for more than 80% of Canadian exports to that country. The largest mine in Canada, and the third biggest in the world, is located in the Ungava region of Quebec and is owned by a Swiss company. This agreement can provide significant benefits for Quebec.

That is another reason why we support this agreement.

As I already said, we will support this agreement because it gives Quebec some good opportunities and the Bloc Québécois is here primarily to defend the interests of Quebec.

This agreement also has the advantage of not containing the same kinds of shortcomings as some other accords. For example, in contrast to NAFTA, the agreements with Costa Rica and Chile have a bad chapter on investment, as we know very well, which gives companies the right to sue a government that adopts measures that could reduce their profits. There are no such provisions in the agreement with the European Free Trade Association. The Bloc Québécois is very happy about that. These countries have a basic respect for human rights and the rights of working people and that is another reason why we support this agreement.

In addition, the agreement with the European Free Trade Association covers only goods and not services. Nothing would force us, therefore, to open public services to competition, whether provided by the government or not, because they are not included in the agreement.

Similarly, financial services and banks will not be exposed to competition from Switzerland, which has a very strong banking system.

It is the same with government procurement. The government remains perfectly free to purchase in Canada, subject to the WTO agreement on government procurement. This is an indispensable aspect of any kind of trade agreement.

I would also like to mention agriculture. Our colleagues in the NDP seem to have some concerns in this regard. I want to speak more especially about supply management, which is very important to Quebec and the riding of Berthier—Maskinongé that I have the honour of representing.

We all remember it was the Bloc Québécois that got a motion passed in 2005 requiring the full maintenance of supply management. We have been assured by agriculture officials in Quebec that this agreement does not derogate from supply management and does not contradict it or call it into question.

We are very proud of this motion and will continue to defend it because we think that farmers and consumers are best served by this system. We are satisfied with the bilateral agreements on agriculture because products subject to supply management remain protected.

The in-quota tariff is eliminated of course under the agricultural agreement with Switzerland, but it applies only to the part of the market already covered by imports, or 5%. The elimination of this tariff will therefore have only a marginal effect on our dairy farmers because the tariff rate quotas and the over-quota tariffs remain the same. It is important for this to remain as is, especially since milk proteins are excluded from the agreement. This is another essential provision for keeping our agriculture strong.

The fact that the 7% tariff is eliminated under this agreement makes it all the more necessary, however, for the federal government to remain adamant at the WTO that supply management is simply not negotiable. The Bloc Québécois will continue to demand a full defence of supply management at the WTO.

This being said, we have some concerns about what the agreement means to the future of our shipyards. Imported ships are currently subject to a 25% tariff. Under this agreement, the tariffs will gradually start dropping in three years and will be eliminated in 15. I heard the international trade minister boasting about the fact that his government had managed to negotiate this 15-year adjustment period.

I think the minister must be aware that the adjustment period provided for in the agreement will be useful only if it is accompanied by vigorous adjustment and modernization programs for shipyards.

Otherwise, it will just slow the decline of our industry. Norway has grasped this quite well, by the way.

In Canada, the federal government, be it Liberal or Conservative, has done nothing to support our shipbuilding industry. It has not supported shipbuilding since 1988. This is really a shame, given all the subsidies that are currently being handed out to the oil industry, which makes exorbitant profits.

As well, not only are the few aid measures still available very poorly adapted to the shipbuilding industry, but the federal government has even penalized the provinces that have instituted innovative measures, such as the refundable tax credit in Quebec, which for some years was considered by Ottawa to be taxable income under the Income Tax Act. That allowed it to claw back 20% to 25% of the assistance that Quebec paid to the shipbuilding industry. Unbelievable but true.

So today, some of our shipyards are having trouble and are not really very competitive. This kind of policy has to be shelved. We have to provide more support for our shipbuilding industry.

Because it receives support from its government, the industry in Norway is productive and competitive today. And now the Norwegian government is working to open up new foreign markets for it.

The Conservatives’ policy, which amounts to leaving companies to their own devices, could be very harmful to our shipbuilding industry. We have 10 to 15 years to get back on track and implement programs to support our industry.

In the case of the manufacturing sector, we can see how Conservative inaction has led to the loss of thousands of jobs. We should learn that lesson when it comes to the shipbuilding industry. So we are calling on the federal government to abandon its laissez-faire policy and put forward a policy to support and develop the shipbuilding industry quickly. The Bloc Québécois has been calling for this for several years now.

In fact, this is the motion that I introduced at the Standing Committee on International Trade, on behalf of the Bloc Québécois, and that received support there:

The Canadian government must without delay implement an aggressive Maritime policy to support the industry, while ensuring that any such strategy is in conformity with Canada’s commitments at the WTO.

The motion was supported by all members of the committee, but only after some discussion and some hesitation. I think it is important in this context.

We have to support our industry. We have 10 to 15 years, depending on the type of ship, to support the industry. It is therefore time for action.

In this motion we are telling this government that it has to act and put forward a comprehensive strategy to support the shipbuilding industry, because the Conservatives’ bad industrial policy must not be allowed to result in a bad trade policy.

Laissez-faire has produced no results for several years, and it is time for action. This government has the resources. The strategy should facilitate access to capital for the industry, stimulate investment, give preference to local suppliers in public procurement and of course encourage shipowners to buy their ships here at home.

When shipyard representatives appeared before the committee, they reiterated that they wanted a program to facilitate accelerated amortization that buyers of Canadian ships could use, and a structured financing mechanism.

On the question of support for struggling industries, the Conservative government is practising a hands-off, laissez-faire policy, as I said earlier, a free enterprise policy: free trade will solve everything, all by itself. That is not true.

In the case of shipyards, as in the case of manufacturing, where we have lost many jobs, we believe this policy is quite simply irresponsible.

We know how the Americans and the Europeans support their industries. We need to do the same so that we can become more competitive. That is why the Bloc Québécois will press the government to quickly introduce a series of measures to promote the development of our shipbuilding industry. I ask the opposition parties here to support us.

In closing, even though we support this agreement, we need to be aware that its impact will still be limited. The four members of the association represent nearly 12 million people and account for roughly 1% of Canadian exports. The real trade issue is the European Union. With its 495 million inhabitants who generate 31% of global gross domestic product, the European Union is the world's leading economic power. We believe that Canada should be pursuing a free trade agreement with the European Union.

As we know, Canada's petrodollar has risen substantially in value against the American dollar, which has led to a major crisis in the manufacturing industry. What people may not know is that the dollar has gone up in value much less against the Euro. As I said earlier, if our trade were more diverse and our exports less focused on the United States, our manufacturing sector would be much stronger and more robust. The European Union is an essential trading partner.

Moreover, a free trade agreement with the European Union would have benefits in terms of investment. Together with NAFTA, the agreement would make it attractive for European companies to use Quebec and Canada as their gateway to the North American market and consequently to move some of their production there. We will support such a free trade agreement. As nearly 40% of European investments in Canada are in Quebec, it would certainly be a desirable location for European companies that want to invest in North America.

We hope that the federal government will quickly reach an agreement with the European Union, because it would be the best way to diversify our economy and reduce our heavy dependence on the American market.

I am willing to answer any questions hon. members might have.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.


Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague spoke of how the government should be focusing on negotiating a free trade agreement with the European Union. I have a question for him on this. We are already part of NAFTA, which includes Canada, the United States and Mexico. This creates distortions because Mexico has a free trade agreement with the European Union.

Companies in Quebec, including Bombardier, currently have plants in Mexico. Bombardier has a small problem with regard to competition because it can export its product duty free from Mexico, while in Quebec and Canada it cannot export to the European Union without having to pay $800 or the equivalent in duties.

As far as employment is concerned, however, the company is managing quite well considering its performance, its modern equipment, and so on. It can be competitive in terms of its labour force. When it comes to duties, however, it cannot. We agree with the need for a free trade agreement with the European Free Trade Association, but I think there is an urgent need to negotiate an agreement with the European Union.

I would like my colleague to provide more information on this.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.


Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

As he was saying, the European Union is a market of capital importance to Quebec and Canada. If we do not have an agreement with the European Union, companies will be tempted to move to countries that have access to the European Union. In that respect, the hon. member for Sherbrooke is right.

Concluding a trade agreement with the European Union should be a priority. If we do not have a trade agreement with the EU, in the coming years we will see companies move to countries that have signed such agreements in order to access this huge market.

One of the priorities of parliamentarians would be to work on establishing an agreement with the European Union. This agreement with the European Free Trade Association is a step in the right direction.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.


Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I really enjoy discussing things with my colleague from the Standing Committee on International Trade because of his expertise, his experience and his knowledge.

Businesses in his riding have suffered quite a bit from the Conservative ideology that we have seen in recent years. In his presentation, he mentioned the loss of 150,000 jobs in Quebec, including 80,000 lost since the Conservative regime began.

We are concerned about two factors, as we indicated in our supplementary opinion in the report: supply management and the shipbuilding industry.

My hon. colleague will recall that when we met with representatives from the shipbuilding industry, two important points were raised. One was the accelerated capital cost allowance that the Conservative government readily granted to the oil industry. The shipbuilding industry deserves the same.

The NDP member mentioned it earlier. In the west, the shipbuilding industry represented nearly 31,000 jobs. There are far fewer today. This industry deserves to be supported, however, as it was subsidized in Norway for many years. Businesses have had the time to modernize, restructure and build a strong, lucrative industry.

In the meantime, this government has long since abandoned all types of subsidies. Yet no one is asking for subsidies for the shipbuilding industry, but rather assistance that could be in the form of accelerated capital cost allowance, as mentioned by industry representatives, or loans, loan guarantees or funding through EDC. These are all possibilities.

I would like to know if my colleague believes that the Conservative government will take the necessary action to help the industry develop. People are demanding it. It is possible for the government to do something about this.

I wonder if my hon. colleague can tell us how we can incite the government to do something. Do we have to go as far as replacing the Conservatives with the Liberals, if the Liberals believe in it? For eight years, the Liberals took part in free trade agreement negotiations with the European Free Trade Association. If changes had to be made, which of the two parties would be most likely to implement such measures?

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.


Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, once again, I would like to thank my colleague for his question.

In response to his concern about shipbuilding, for some time now, the Bloc Québécois has been urging the government to bring in a real marine policy to ensure the development of this industry, which is of strategic importance to Quebec and essential to the protection and environmental safety of the river. As others have pointed out today, the federal government stopped subsidizing the industry in 1988. The government stopped subsidizing it, so Quebec brought in tax credits for the industry, but the federal government clawed back between 20% and 25% of the money allocated to support Quebec's shipbuilding industry. Shame on the government, with its multi-billion dollar surplus, for not offering more support to this industry.

To answer my colleague, the Conservative Party will have to understand this eventually. The government saw what happened in the manufacturing sector where many jobs have been lost in the textile industry and all other manufacturing industries. Despite the fact that it rakes in so much money, the government never offered that industry any support. Its surplus was in the billions—$11 billion last year—but it did not offer any help. I think there is a lesson in that, and we hope that the Conservative government gets it. We cannot leave the industry to its own devices without providing some support to help it deal with competition. Under this agreement, it has 10 to 15 years, depending on the type of vessel, to bring in a real marine policy to support the shipbuilding industry. It has the means. I hope that the government will wake up.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand in the chamber and speak to this important issue.

There are so many different facets to any trade agreement. The principle behind it should be, for obvious reasons, to ensure a fair and principled trading relationship is developed so that it not only fosters economic development and social prosperity in our country, but also leads to greater relations with other countries and improves their trading and prosperity as well.

However, in that discussion there needs to be a balance and restitution when there are policy changes that will affect workers across this country, whether they are in Quebec, in British Columbia or in my home province of Ontario. We have seen some very significant shifts in people's lives when a trade agreement is brought into place by the government, although we are not sure whether we will be doing that here yet as we are just discussing it right now.

We have expressed some concerns on this one from day one with regard to the shipbuilding industry and also supply management for the agricultural industry. What we have sought to do is to find remedies to those main elements because workers will be exposed to some unfair practices and procedures. Until we actually get those things taken care of, that is the reason we object to this trade agreement.

I find it a little naive for the other parties to raise these issues of concern and then blindly hope the Conservatives will bring something in later on. Those things need to be put in the structure of the agreement now because, if we then start to take other measures, there will be challenges by other governments about the faith of the agreement and whether we were acting in good faith when signing it but then we were going to then do something different later on. We will create another complicated situation.

With this trade agreement, we need to ensure that all the parties understand there are a couple of areas of particular concern that are heightened here and which need to have a different set of rules to them.

For the shipbuilding industry, it is a real concern related to the fairness. Norway, in particular, is after this Canadian gem. It really is an opportunity. There has been discussions about the erosion of the industry but there is also an incredible opportunity right now to rebuild our shipbuilding capacity. I will talk a little about that later. However, it is an exciting opportunity for Canadian manufacturing and also Canadian value added work that could be done in our home ports.

It has been done in the past. We have an opportunity right now that we are squandering if we are going to be entering this agreement, because the phase out period, from 10 to 15 years, depending upon the circumstances, is not sufficient to put the proper policy in place. Once again, if we take other measures to try to do that after signing an agreement, I am sure we will end up being challenged on that. These things need to be fixed first before they go forward.

The second element that we have had increasing concern about is the issue of our supply management. What we would be doing right now is giving up our agricultural independence in many respects. Some elements would go to the WTO and there will be trade dispute mechanisms there. I will talk a little about that later. We would also be giving up our sovereignty.

Coming from a community that was reliant on jobs in the auto sector and still is to this day as we try to transition to a certain degree and win back some of the jobs in the auto sector, we witnessed first-hand the catastrophe of trade agreements and also the WTO.

Specifically, we can see it across this land right now with manufacturing. We now have more service jobs in Canada than manufacturing. We have lost around 250,000 jobs in the last five years and 60,000 of those lost jobs have been since January this year alone. That is unacceptable. We have witnessed this basically from a false economy, by having a high export of natural resource commodities, especially in the oil and gas sector, and it is not sustainable. We have driven our dollar so far up so quickly that rapid escalation has taken place and we have not been able to adjust in many ways.

We actually have not had the opportunity to prepare for this. Often what is not discussed in this whole debate is the fact that we had a lot of assembly and manufacturing that did not get the proper research, development and procurement for new equipment because we did not have a proper capital cost reduction allowance program in place to increase productivity levels. That was missed out.

What often ends up happening in a branch plant economy is that even knowledgeless jobs are lost to China, Mexico and the United States. Many of the jobs that are being lost right now in my constituency are sister and feeder plants that are being relocated to the U.S. because of the high dollar. The government has simply not done anything about it.

The new auto policy that it put in place is very vague and it is a modest amount of money. Ironically, it is derived upon a new tax on the auto sector itself and people are furious about that situation. The government has not shown any goodwill to address this issue.

I am not sure why the other parties think that the Conservatives will somehow get it and then, on top of that, politically act and put measures in place that will protect the shipbuilding industry. I do not think that is a realistic expectation. Once we make these decisions, we can change significant features of the Canadian economy. Even though shipbuilding is not at the peak that it was in the past, it has the opportunity to go forward.

I want to touch a bit on what happened with another trade deal. The Auto Pact in Canada was one of the best trade agreements ever entered into. It is a good example of dealing with the situation. Essentially, the deal was that if people wanted to ship vehicles into Canada, the vehicles had to be built here too. It opened up the North American market between Canada and the United States and a lot of value added jobs were added to the Canadian economy. It was very successful.

A number of new plants opened and a whole series of supply elements came with that. We had research and development and headquarters were located in Canada. It created an evolution, in many respects, in the automotive industry. Windsor was where the first automobile was produced in Canada. Despite that, there had not been the big progression that we wanted.

However, when the Auto Pact came into play, it really took off and was very successful. It was different than some of the manufacturing and service sector jobs. The service sector jobs are important too but they do not bring in the type of income that is necessary to sustain and support the average Canadian family. We have seen that through a series of statistics and heard it in testimony from constituents who are having a hard time getting by today and making the payments on their ordinary bills. These manufacturing jobs really became the basis for many progressive values in the Canadian system.

What also came about because of that trade agreement was the first program in Canada, developed in Windsor, that provided payments for prescription drugs as part of people's health care plans. That resulted from the trade agreement and the auto policy. Later on it became a feature of negotiations by the CAW and other labour organizations. Now the system is used is many places across Canada. It is a way of compensating employees by providing partial coverage for drug plans.

We entered into NAFTA with the United States and we became exposed to the WTO that then ruled against Canada having the Auto Pact. What became the recipe to create a good environment then became another one to dismantle it. The result is that we have gone from being the fourth largest assembler of vehicles in the world to number ten, and we are slipping further on that. We are continuing to witness a decline.

It is sad. At a time when the industry is starting to change significantly because of newer technologies and an exciting future, we are not there. Some projects in this country have gone forward and have been positive but, by and large, we are missing out on greater opportunities for vehicle development that is now happening in other countries for a whole host of reasons. A lot of that is over policy.

I see the same type of situation taking place with the WTO in the supply management situation that we will be facing with this trade agreement deal. I have a lot of concern. When we look at the WTO and how it rules, it has been described in some categories as a kangaroo court because the bodies listening to complaints are often controlled by corporations and business interests and can override domestic laws and sovereignty issues.

It is very important to recognize that the dairy and some of our other agricultural sectors will be giving up terms and conditions that could be favourable to Canadians in having other people set our rules. I do not particularly get great comfort in that given the experience we have had in the auto sector on this.

I want to turn my attention to this agreement and the shipbuilding industry. Right now there is a current tariff of 25% and Norway has been really good. It is interesting because Canada, despite having the largest coastline of any nation, really does not have the shipbuilding industry that it should have and historically has had since World War II. What is important about this deal is that there was an attempt by the shipbuilding association and the unions to carve this out of the actual agreement.

People might say, that is fine but they cannot get their way, so we should just go ahead with it anyway and see what happens and that is the way we do things. It is not. In the United States the Americans have the Jones act. The Jones act was something they put in place to protect their industry, not only just in terms of military ships but also other ships so that they are not only going to be built there, but they are actually going to be repaired and serviced there, and they are going to protect that industry.

They see it through the lens of not only just in terms of the protection of jobs but also what I think is important and being missed in this debate, and that is the ability to maintain sovereignty over national defence along with the security of the country.

If Canada sees a further erosion of our shipbuilding industry, and we have had some recent success stories because there is now a maturation in some of the fleets and there is a requirement to build at quite a significant increase in pace, we are going to witness a loss of that capacity, and we will be dependent upon others. I cannot understand how a country, with such a large coastline and such a strong tradition with regard to building and being engineers on the cutting edge in many respects of advancement, would want to pass up that opportunity.

For example, in the Great Lakes, when we had the last period of shipbuilding, there was a large influx that came in about 30 to 40 years ago or longer actually. Collingwood evolved as a shipbuilding community and a lot of the Great Lakes shipping was replaced there. Now the industry is having to change its ships, extending their life cycle, and there needs to be a large replacement of them over the next number of years.

That is a challenge because there are environmental issues, a whole host of manufacturing issues, but also it is an exciting opportunity at a time when we are witnessing the erosion of other types of employment in manufacturing in the country.

Why not now use this as an important opportunity to redefine the Canadian lens on shipbuilding and also manufacturing? We know that the work has to be done. The association admits it. It has been out there advocating because it needs to replace its fleets. At the same time we have this incredible opportunity.

Instead, by signing this agreement, we are actually going to be like Norway, having a different set of rules, and it will have more access to Canadian jobs and we will lose out on this.

We can see the characteristic comparisons with the auto industry quite clearly. After the second world war, Japan and Korea set up very specific strategies to get into the automotive market and the manufacturing market to rebuild their economies. They set up national strategies that would make them efficient and also would support the development of the industry because they knew that the jobs would be good and important, and they could create a based economy on that which was stable.

Therefore, they went ahead and did that, everything from Kia Motors in South Korea and Japan was very much supported by the American industry at that time. They got into an industry where they are now shipping into our industry quite lucratively and we cannot ship back to them.

Meanwhile, it has been the same thing with Norway. It has been very aggressive building its industry and good for it. Norway decided that as a public policy and decided to move forward with it. Now it has phased out that support, but it has done it at a time when it is really at the top of the game. It will be very difficult for us to be able to penetrate into that market. Therefore, we are going to be losing out on jobs which is unfortunate. Once again, this is a clear economic opportunity for Canada to move forward.

The testimony just did not come from the unions that are concerned about losing jobs and opportunities for the workers. Some of the shipbuilding association members actually came forward as well and presented this evidence. That is important to recognize because once again there was an attempt to say, “Let's carve it out and make sure the proper policy is there. At the same time, the deal could go forward if there were going to be those changes.”

So, as we are faced with this decision, we have to ask the fundamental questions about whether or not we should be entering into this agreement right now. The government has a period of time right now to consider it before signing this or bringing it back to the House of Commons for a vote.

I would argue that if the other parties are sincerely concerned about the shipbuilding and supply management issues, they should not support this bill until we get those clear indications from the minister and, as well, from this government. That would be the strategy that we would employ. There is no requirement right now for us to hang out this opportunity and to lose it.

What we should be doing is exercising our leverage as political parties to say, “Listen. This is a minority Parliament. There are some issues here that have been identified with this particular bill”. There are some strengths in it as well, recognizing that there are some positives, but we believe that these two things need to be examined and dealt with. That is the responsible way to go about dealing with other nations when we are entering into agreements.

If we think, and the other parties think, that once again we can just basically in a couple of years from now try to roll out some big policy that is going to shift investment opportunities that other people have already tried to go after or terms and conditions of this deal, and that they are just going to stand down, that is not going to happen.

They are going to challenge Canada on those things. We have even seen that with the softwood lumber sellout. There is a signed agreement right now. It was a sellout, a bad deal, but at the same time, despite it being a bad deal, the United States is now challenging what the provinces are doing. So we have to be accountable and upfront on this.

At the very least, we have an opportunity right now to say no to this and send it back to the government and say, “Let's fix this”. We can go to the partners that have actually said that they have some terms and conditions. They have some financing suggestions, as well as a couple of cash reduction allowance suggestions, and also a few other measures smaller than that, that they would be willing to negotiate with to derive a solution to this. Let us go back to them and actually sit down and come up with that type of a strategy.

The shipbuilding aspect, in terms of this trade agreement, is really focused on Norway. So, our leverage is quite good in many respects because only one other nation is really seriously interested in this shipbuilding component.

We have to deal with the supply management issue, as well, but I think it can be done. I think it can go forward in that context. However, until that time we, as New Democrats, are not willing to hang this industry out to dry by itself. There are too many workers.

It is interesting. I had a chance to go down to the shipyards, and speak to the workers and management as well. There is a lot of pride there. There is also a lot of willingness to work and to do the right thing. Some of those workers in the skilled trades who have been laid off have actually gone to other communities to work and then come back home.

They are willing to do those things to be productive for Canada and to be basically a breadwinner for their home, despite the fact that they cannot write off their travel expenses. This is an interesting side subject. Those workers who work in the skilled trades cannot write off the travel expenses if they travel for their work; however, curtain salesmen can. It is just unbelievable that we can have one set of standards for one group who are in sales and another set of standards for Canadians who are skilled tradespeople. It makes no sense.

I know the government has talked about this a bit and has not shut down the discussion on this, but it really needs to move on that right away. The mobility of people moving back and forth from their families needs to be dealt with. I have talked to those workers and they are willing to do that, whether the work be in Halifax, whether it be in British Columbia, or whether it be even in Alberta, when they are actually working on different projects.

I would say, just to summarize as I know my time is up, that living with the trade agreements, and coming from a constituency like mine, we are seeing the demise of the auto industry based upon the loss of trade agreements and by going to the WTO. There is an opportunity that we have in front of us, not just the challenges but the opportunity with the new procurement that is necessary for shipbuilding. With the massive loss of manufacturing jobs right now, the opposition parties need to tell the government strongly no to this deal. Let us take advantage of the opportunity of shipbuilding in our country and do it right. We can do that and we can move forward. But until then, we will not support this deal.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.


Francine Lalonde Bloc La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this bill and to say that the Bloc Québécois supports the free trade agreement with EFTA, the European Free Trade Association. This association refers to Europe but EFTA does not represent the Europe we know. It represents four small countries—Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland—with a total population of just over 12 million and a small percentage, about 1%, of Europe's GDP.

However, we support this agreement because it has significant benefits for Quebec. The free trade agreement will liberalize trade between Canada and these four European countries. I am referring to trade in non-agricultural goods. In fact, this agreement covers only goods and not investments or services.

Why do we support it? Why are we saying that it benefits Quebec? For example, Switzerland is known for its pharmaceutical industry which is very active in the area of brand name drugs. Drugs represent 40% of Canadian exports to Switzerland and 50% of imports. That is a great deal of trade. To penetrate the American market, Swiss pharmaceutical companies might be tempted to manufacture drugs here. Quebec is the home of the brand name drug industry because of its pool of skilled researchers and its tax breaks. Given that a free trade agreement facilitates trade between a company and its subsidiaries, it is likely to mean new investments in the pharmaceutical industry in Quebec. That is fortuitous.

As for Norway, nickel accounts for over 80% of our exports to that country.The largest mine in Canada and the third largest in the world is owned by the Swiss company Xstrata and is located in Ungava.

Aluminum is our main export to Iceland. Aluminum production is also concentrated in Quebec.

Thus, we have a de facto agreement with respect to production in Switzerland and in Quebec.

One of the extremely important factors, in the Bloc Québécois's opinion, is that this agreement does not include the same condition as previous agreements, which we did not approve of. I am referring to the agreements with Costa Rica, Chile and Colombia. I am talking about the infamous chapter on investments that gave companies the right to directly sue any government that adopted measures that caused a reduction in their profits.

We fought against those provisions, which are contained in several bilateral agreements between Canada and the countries I named. There are no such provisions in the agreement with the EFTA, no doubt because this is not a situation where Canada can impose such provisions, which it can do when dealing with underdeveloped countries. We will come back to that at another point.

As I have said, the agreement does not deal with goods or services. Accordingly, there is nothing to open public services to competition, whether or not they are provided by the state, because they are not covered. In the same way, banks and financial services will not be exposed to competition from Switzerland, or from the very solid and very discreet banking system in Liechtenstein, a veritable paradise—we will say it a whisper—for the financial world, because of its tax regime and its banking secrecy.

It is a similar situation for government purchasing. The government retains complete freedom to promote buying at home, subject to the World Trade Organization's agreement on government procurement. Obviously, it would make no sense for the government to negotiate some room to manoeuvre and later to decide not to make use of that option. Let us fervently hope that the federal government, the largest buyer of goods and services in Canada, will favour domestic suppliers and consider the spinoffs from its purchases.

I am sure that many people are concerned about the provisions on agriculture. What is important for us and for Quebec producers is that supply management is not affected. Bill C-55 allows for the implementation of bilateral agricultural agreements, which would be added on to the free trade agreement with the EFTA. There are bilateral agreements that in no way threaten supply management and will not have a great impact on Quebec agriculture. I should mention that milk protein, for example, is excluded from the agreement.

The agricultural agreements will primarily benefit the west, since they liberalize trade in some grains. But even there, the impact will not be huge. Where there are problems, however, and it must be said—I heard my NDP colleague speak about this as well because he is familiar with the problems facing shipyard workers in Canada—is in the area of shipyards.

We will try to fix these problems by calling for a shipyard support and development policy, and I am sure many members in this House will join us in doing so. We also have some concerns about the future of our shipyards.

Imported vessels are currently subject to a 25% tariff. Under the agreement, these tariffs will gradually decrease over three years, and will be completely eliminated in 15 years. Our shipyards are far less modern than Norwegian shipyards and in worse condition. Norway has invested heavily in modernizing its shipyards, while the federal government completely abandoned ours long ago.

If the borders all had to be wide open tomorrow morning, our shipyards could end up whisked away like straw in the wind, or swept away with the tide, I should say. But, for economic, strategic and environmental reasons, we cannot give up our shipyards.

Imagine the risks to Quebec if no shipyard could repair vessels that ran aground or broke down in the St. Lawrence, the largest waterway in the world? It is unthinkable, and we will not give up on our belief—this is more than just a flighty idea—that we need shipyards that are equipped with the latest technology, robust and able to stand up to competition. A little later we will see that there are several conditions that need to be met for shipyards to truly be able to develop.

For years, the Bloc Québécois has been calling for a real policy.

For years, the government has been dragging its feet. Now that the agreement has been signed, time is of the essence.

Moreover, this is the only recommendation in the report of the Standing Committee on International Trade on the free trade agreement between Canada and the European Free Trade Association. The committee agreed to insert the recommendation proposed by the Bloc Québécois international trade critic and deputy critic:

—the Canadian government must without delay implement an aggressive Maritime policy to support the industry, while ensuring that any such strategy is in conformity with Canada’s commitments at the WTO.

This is the only recommendation in the report. The Conservative policy of leaving companies to fend for themselves is deadly for shipyards. We expect the government to give up its bad policy, and we ask that, by the end of the year, it table a real policy to support and develop the shipbuilding industry. Given the urgency, we will not be content with fine talk. We need a real policy that covers all aspects of the industry. I will come back to this at the end of my speech.

I want to say that when it comes to free trade, the real issue is the European Union. A free trade agreement with Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein is nice, but we have to realize—and everyone does—that it is limited. As I mentioned, it represents just over 12 million people and roughly 1% of Canadian exports.

The real issue is the European Union, with its 495 million inhabitants who generate 31% of global gross domestic product. The European Union is the world's leading economic power.

Canada is far too dependent on the United States, where we send over 85% of our exports. The American economic slowdown, coupled with the surge in value of Canada's petrodollar against the U.S. dollar, reminds us that that dependence undermines our economy. Quebec has lost more than 150,000 manufacturing jobs in the past five years, including more than 80,000 since the Conservatives came to power, with their laissez-faire doctrine.

To diversify as we must do, we should not look to China or India, countries from which we import, respectively, eight and six times more than what we export to them. The European Union is an essential trading partner if we want to diversify our markets and reduce our dependence on the United States.

The fact that Canada has not concluded a free trade agreement with the European Union considerably diminishes how competitive our companies are on the European market. With the rising value of the petrodollar, European companies tend to skip over Canada and open subsidiaries directly in the United States. The Canadian share in direct European investments in the United States went from 3% in 1992 to 1% in 2004.

Add to that a free trade agreement between the European Union and Mexico since 2000. The Europeans are saying that they can negotiate a real tariff reduction with Mexico, while that is not really possible with Canada. They are saying that there needs to be a reduction in non-tariff barriers with Canada.

When Pierre Pettigrew was Minister of International Trade, Pascal Lamy, European Commissioner for External Trade, said he would negotiate another type of agreement.

No such negotiation is known to be taking place. I think it will not happen because it is too difficult. Just consider the fact that Europe requires GMOs in products to be identified, while in Canada, as we know, the government just recently refused to accept this measure.

The European Union has a free trade agreement with Mexico. That is an advantage for Mexico, an advantage that is prompting companies in Quebec to invest more in their own operations in Mexico since this gives them access to the European market as well as the U.S. market.

Again, Quebec would benefit from a free trade agreement with Europe. In fact, it would probably be the primary beneficiary. For example, 77% of the people who work for French companies in Canada are from Quebec, as are 37% of those who work for U.K. companies here and 35% of those who work for German companies here. In contrast, just 20% of people working for U.S. companies in Canada are Quebeckers, hence the great interest for Quebec of having a free trade agreement with Europe.

The Government of Quebec has been working with companies since the Quiet Revolution, and that is a major advantage when it comes time to seek out European investment. We have everything we need to become the bridgehead for European investment in North America.

I will use my last few minutes to appeal for a real marine transportation policy. It would include several factors, because otherwise, it will be impossible to revive this complex industry. I would remind the House that the federal government has been ignoring it since 1988. The industry needs funding, assurances and loan guarantees linked to sales contracts. In this case, access to credit at a reasonable rate is an important determining factor for the buyer. It needs loans and loan guarantees intended for shipbuilders who must invest or deposit a financial guarantee to bid for new contracts. It needs better fiscal regulations for leasing and a refundable tax credit for shipowners. Those are some measures that would help the industry.

We also need measures specifically for marine transportation in Canada. For example, we must eliminate the fees charged to marine transportation companies that practice cabotage. Truckers' employers do not pay for the damage caused to highways—and Lord knows it is extensive—although those who practice cabotage pay ice breaking fees, among others. It makes no sense.

Second, the government must implement a plan for major investments in port infrastructure. It must also bring up to standard all the ports that have been left to crumble and it must strengthen the Coastal Trading Act. It must also do something to fight against flags of convenience and poison ships. It is the federal government's responsibility to do something. It must negotiate an agreement like the Auto Pact and, lastly, eliminate all subsidies to shipyards. This House owes it to shipyard workers to pass real legislation that will allow shipyards to prosper once again.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.


Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great attention to the member from the Bloc. My own perspective is that this trade agreement is a very positive thing for Canada. It gives us a window into enhancing trade and investment with Europe. I think it is a very good start.

I have a question for the member with respect to shipbuilding, which I know has been a matter of contention. I wonder if she could comment on the state of the shipbuilding industry in places such as Lévis, for example.

The member talked about the need for various incentives or subsidies, if I may call them that, to help this industry compete with the Nordic countries. I wonder if anything within the EFTA agreement would preclude that, anything that would say it would constitute a subsidy. Are there any provisions in the agreement that address those particular matters?

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.


Francine Lalonde Bloc La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is a good question. Perhaps my hon. colleague, whom I have known for a long time and who supports the sector, could help me answer it.

I do not believe that it would prevent this development. I know—and so does he undoubtedly—that, in 2000, there was an agreement with the European Free Trade Association. However, the agreement was blocked because it was not satisfactory to the shipbuilding sector.

This time around, we reached a consensus because the agreement—which will lead to competition and enable Norway in particular to be a fierce competitor, if nothing is done in the interim—will cover a 15-year period and will begin implementation in three years' time.

I do not believe that we would have signed this agreement, even unwillingly, if shipyard representatives had believed that this would prevent even governments from helping them to revive their industry.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.


Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that good answer by the member from the Bloc.

Within the EFTA agreement itself, what growth areas does the member see as possibilities for Canada and for her home province of Quebec? Are there any particular sectors, products or services in which Canada and the province of Quebec would be poised to take advantage of this agreement? Does she see any possibilities for investment back and forth between Canada and the EFTA countries?

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.


Francine Lalonde Bloc La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, I cannot cover all aspects of this question. I do know, however, that several sectors in Quebec are complementary and have significant industries.

For example, the pharmaceutical sector is clearly complementary. Had this agreement not been signed for Quebec, which has a strong pharmaceutical industry, investments might have been made in the United States given that the euro and the dollar are almost at par. However, with this agreement, Switzerland will be inclined to invest more in Quebec and Canada.

In other sectors, we have mining products and there again there is a complementarity.

I did not examine the question from the perspective of the rest of Canada. However, I do know that the agreement is very favourable for certain sectors in Quebec.

Simon HouseStatements by Members

1:55 p.m.


Rob Anders Conservative Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to bring to the attention of the House a wonderful institution in my riding of Calgary West.

Simon House is an addiction treatment centre with one of the best recovery rates in North America. It was founded in 1983 by Brother Bernard Barry.

The Catholic diocese provided two houses to develop safe housing for indigent men. It has helped over 2,400 men with alcoholism, drug addiction and physical and mental disabilities.

In 2007 Simon House was the recipient of the William H. Donner Award for Excellence in Delivery of Social Services, the Donner Canadian Foundation Award for Excellence in the Prevention and Treatment of Substance Abuse, and the Peter F. Drucker Award for Non-Profit Management. The Donner Award is the highest award achievable in Canada for addiction treatment.

Simon House is a privately funded institution that does not receive any government moneys. It relies on donations from corporations and the public.

I express congratulations to Simon House on its 25th anniversary.

Khilafat JubileeStatements by Members

2 p.m.


Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise in the House of Commons to recognize a very special anniversary. This year marks the Khilafat Jubilee for the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam, Canada.

I am very fortunate to have many Ahmadiyya community members in my riding of York West and I am blessed to enjoy a wonderful friendship with the entire community. I applaud their ongoing positive initiatives as we work together to build a stronger and more united country.

On behalf of all members of the House of Commons, I am delighted to congratulate the Ahmadiyya community on its 100th anniversary.

Saint Vincent de Paul Social ClubStatements by Members

2 p.m.


Robert Carrier Bloc Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, on May 31 I will be proudly attending the 25th anniversary gala of the Amicale Saint-Vincent-de-Paul , an organization that has been operating in my riding since 1983. This social club organizes activities for seniors, including weekly get-togethers, community suppers and group outings.

The organization, which has been run by Gaston Lavoie for 12 years, has nearly 200 members from all over the eastern part of Laval, and particularly the Saint-Vincent-de-Paul neighbourhood. They meet every Thursday evening at the Groulx community centre to play bingo and dance. Every major holiday is an opportunity to hold a dinner and dance, many of which I have had the pleasure of attending.

On behalf of the Bloc Québécois, I congratulate Mr. Lavoie and his entire board of directors for their commitment to seniors.

AsbestosStatements by Members

2 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, asbestos is the greatest industrial killer the world has ever known.

More people die every year from asbestos than all other industrial toxins combined, yet Canada remains one of the world's largest producers and exporters of asbestos, dumping nearly 220,000 tonnes of asbestos every year into third world countries and developing nations.

Canada not only allows and promotes the use of asbestos, but it subsidizes the asbestos industry and blocks international efforts to curb its use.

The Minister of Health recently commissioned a Health Canada study on the health effects of asbestos. He has refused to release the report because the report affirms that asbestos kills.

All asbestos kills. Even the type of asbestos mined in Quebec kills. There is no such thing as benign asbestos, but the Minister of Health is sitting on the report because he does not want Canada to be further embarrassed by the fact that it is polluting the world with asbestos.

International Remembrance FlameStatements by Members

2 p.m.


Peter Goldring Conservative Edmonton East, AB

Mr. Speaker, first leaving Australia on a journey through 33 of the world's countries, the torch arrived on Parliament Hill to remind all of the evil of genocide.

The torch, the International Remembrance Flame, brightly illuminating the darkness of the past, commemorates the Holodomor, the planned genocidal famine inflicted on Ukraine by the hand of a despotic Joseph Stalin 75 years ago when millions of Ukrainians died.

Canada's government yesterday added its voice, formally recognizing the Holodomor for what it was: a genocide of unspeakable horror, of man's supreme inhumanity to man.

This International Remembrance Flame will continue on its world journey to arrive in Kiev in November for the concluding ceremonies of this 75th anniversary year of remembrance.

The torch's world trek is just a reminder to humanity to learn from history and to not repeat past crimes. As the International Remembrance Flame continues its mission across the globe, let it burn brightly.

Sealing IndustryStatements by Members

May 27th, 2008 / 2 p.m.


Nancy Karetak-Lindell Liberal Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Nunavut Legislative Assembly unanimously passed a motion calling upon the Government of Canada to act now and ban the use of the hakapik as a sealing tool in order to protect our traditional seal products market.

The imagine of the hakapik is being used successfully in misinformation campaigns against Canadian seal products even though the hakapik accounts for only 10% of the seals taken each year in southern Canada.

Inuit communities are under threat from this outdated, incorrect and misleading information by the animal rights fundraising industry, which wants European legislators to ban all trade in seal products within the European Union.

Inuit have always hunted seals for food, clothing and fuel, although not with the hakapik. This is a very important part of our culture.

Even if the Europeans permit an Inuit exemption, the entire market will be destroyed, so what help is that? If the Conservative government really wants to stand up--