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.