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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.

Topics

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Independent

Louise Thibault Independent Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by saying that I will support this NDP amendment, which I feel is very important. Moreover, I invite my colleagues to support this amendment so that the committee can examine this whole issue in greater detail.

Since the debate began, we have heard numerous opinions that have been more or less well documented, more or less scientific, more or less emotional. I myself have a number of opinions. I believe that for the sake of the people we represent, it is important that each and every one of us in this House consider the advisability of using a natural resource, a raw material as precious as our most beautiful farmland.

I am thinking of Quebec, among other places. I am familiar with the Montérégie area, for example, where corn grows perfectly and in huge quantities. Even in my region, the Lower St. Lawrence, we have corn. We can think about wheat in the west.

We are using our beautiful land to produce something that we call a biofuel or agrofuel to ease our consciences. It will give us a clear conscience, because with 5% or 2% in our tank, we will feel as though we are helping to save the environment. In my opinion, we should not kid ourselves.

First, as I just said, we are using a precious resource, precious materials, namely our land. I will digress for a moment. Yesterday, I listened as a Conservative member who had gotten upset said he hoped we would never get to the stage in this House where we would tell farmers what they can and cannot do. I believe that in 2008, we should be telling them what they can and cannot do, because the land belongs to all of us. More importantly, it belongs to future generations, and we have to be responsible stewards. When we look at agriculture regulations—I will talk about Quebec, because I know the regulations in Quebec—we see that more and more, they are being imposed with good reason on our farmers so that they will keep environmental sustainability in mind as they farm. In my opinion, we are giving them a responsibility.

They have been landowners for decades, perhaps centuries, but they are responsible for this wonderful piece of land. They have been given something very valuable on behalf of a community. Just because they are landowners does not mean that they can do whatever they want, just as a city dweller, an owner of the smallest piece of land with the smallest home, cannot do whatever he or she wants on land in the middle of a city. We have a responsibility in both rural and urban areas. To get back to the point, this greatly concerns me, along with a number of my constituents, because it is important to also consider the process used.

This is evident in the case of the oil sands. All of the contaminated water must be stored somewhere, while it waits to be decontaminated. We hope that it will not contaminate our streams, our lakes, our rivers, and that there will not be any human errors that could lead to spills in some areas, which would be a concern. That would be an environmental nightmare. We should remember that this has happened in the oceans, on the shores and the coasts. These things can happen.

The water needed for this process is another very precious natural resource which is ultimately being used so that we can have a clear conscience and produce biofuels, so-called because they come from a biological source. Most people think that because of this name, the product must be good, since it is bio. I think we need to go beyond that.

There is some irony in using some of our most precious natural resources literally to run our cars and to ease our consciences.

All of us, as citizens, elected members of this House and representatives of the public, have the responsibility to dig deeper and ask questions. What does a government, of any political stripe, have to do to ensure that the environment is truly taken into account? What does a government have to do to help us reduce our dependence on oil sooner rather than later? There is no miraculous solution, but if we all do our part, what methods could we use to run our vehicles on sources of energy that produce less and less pollution? We will definitely continue to drive, but we have to become far less dependent on petroleum, whether it has ethanol additives or not. This is very important.

Earlier, when I asked the hon. member for Victoria a question, I raised a point that is important to me; that is, how farmers use their resources and the painful choice our producers are faced with. On one hand, they are being told they will be encouraged and even subsidized, so that they can contribute to this economy. The epitome of a market economy has to be asking farmers to produce additives for our gasoline instead of food for human consumption. In fact, why would environmentally conscious farmers simply continue to produce food for human consumption, and punish themselves financially by choosing not to produce biofuels?

That is the difficult choice they are faced with. On one hand, they are told what they can do to produce “natural” additives for gasoline, in order to allow us to drive more and to ease our conscience, as I was saying earlier. On the other hand, a number of producers are currently taking this a step further and are taking action to achieve food sovereignty. It is increasingly clear that this is the best route for the environment and for food security.

Of course I always talk about what I know best: Quebec. As everyone knows, we have extraordinary measures in effect for food crops. We have a traceability system for our animals as well as codes for our produce, for example. Similar systems likely exist elsewhere, as well. When people buy their food from local producers, they know that for the most part they are getting quality products at a reasonable price.

We are faced, however, with a difficult decision. Would producers rather produce biofuels, because they are more lucrative, or provide good food for people? If they do the latter, will the population return the favour? As we say where I come from, in the Lower St. Lawrence, we are real happy to be able to buy potatoes, carrots and other summer produce. We can stock up on them when buying in our own region, just a few kilometres from home. Many people do it. The same is true for berries. People preserve them, make jam out of them and so on. It is very ecological and, by doing so, we allow our producers to live well and meet their needs. Like everyone else, they have every right to live well and provide for their families.

On the other hand, producers must make a difficult decision. Should they not bother because their motto, like everyone else's today, would be to make money when we can? Should they convert a portion of their land to biofuel production?

This issue is of great interest to us all, and for good reason. We have to keep talking about it. We cannot simply dismiss this person as being completely unrealistic. People say that that is what things have come to with the global economy, and that is what has to be done. But I do not think that we need to get carried away with wild imaginings and accusations against everyone. We have to be responsible. We have to look at the consequences of this.

When it comes to biofuels, there is no doubt that in addition to speculation, it has become profitable for many people around the world to use their agricultural land for purposes other than growing food, for the least environmentally friendly purposes possible to meet a need and, as I was saying earlier, to make things, such as our cars, go.

Somebody was talking about China yesterday. People who visit China can see that, unfortunately, the Chinese are making all the same mistakes we made decades ago. Instead of using new technologies, they are doing exactly as we have done. Why not use fossil fuels as long as they are available? Why not pollute for as long as possible?

They are planning to shield the city for the Olympic Games so that the athletes can perform. After that, pollution will resume once again. Unfortunately, they are making the same mistakes we did as though they had inherited our ways. That is a real shame.

In Quebec, we have other ways of doing things that do not involve doing what big Canadian and multi-national corporations want us to do. I think the government has a responsibility. I will always think that. It is responsible for the common good and for redistributing wealth. In this case, as in others, it must play its part. The population expects nothing less from a government of any political stripe that calls itself accountable.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for her participation in the debate. I know she has been paying close attention to it over a number of days. I know it is something that is very important to her and to her constituents.

I think she was very correct in stressing the whole understanding of food sovereignty. I think it is something that Canadians and the people of Quebec are becoming much more aware of. For a number of us who are city dwellers and who do not have much of a relationship to the production of food in Canada, it seems to be something that miraculously appears at our supermarkets.

I think through issues related to food sovereignty and certainly the growing debate around biofuels that all Canadians are developing a new appreciation for the production of food and what that really means in the grand scheme of things. I think it is very important.

I remember a few years ago when farmers were demonstrating on the Hill about the income crisis that they were suffering through and one of their slogans was “farmers feed cities”. That is certainly a concept we do not want to lose track of in this whole debate on biofuels.

I wonder if she might expand a little more about how that appreciation of food sovereignty, of the importance of locally grown food is part of this debate, but also the larger debate about the need to have a greater appreciation for what is produced locally by our farmers.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Independent

Louise Thibault Independent Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

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

Not just rural residents but city dwellers also are gaining a greater appreciation of this fact. Furthermore, there are many ways to learn about this issue and a multitude of articles are written on the subject every week.

One concept in particular has led to much greater awareness among citizens. I am referring to our environmental footprint. There are sites, especially on the Internet, where we can calculate our environmental footprint and determine the amount of pollution created by our daily individual activities and our work. We are responsible for the pollution we create. Obviously this encourages us to make changes.

City dwellers are becoming increasingly aware of the fact that food does not miraculously appear on the table. The member used the right expression. More and more, people read the labels when grocery shopping to determine where the strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, parsnips and other food comes from. That is a growing trend where I come from.

There are cities in eastern Quebec and not just small, very rural municipalities. People are asking whether the food is local or if it comes from very far away, from abroad. They know that the produce leaves an environmental footprint because transportation and other factors cause pollution.

In my opinion, it is our responsibility to continue to raise awareness so that citizens have a better understanding of the issue. That is done through their representatives. It is one of our responsibilities to continue this work and to do it well. I have no doubt that the hon. member who asked the question does this very well.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

11 a.m.

NDP

Denise Savoie NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to continue on the same train of thought. Food security is an issue that is very important to me.

I wonder if the hon. member could explain what measures the government could take to provide additional help to farmers to better meet this emerging yet recognized need, namely, food security. That is, crops must be grown in a sustainable manner, instead of encouraging the large multinationals.

I would like to hear the member's comments on this.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

11 a.m.

Independent

Louise Thibault Independent Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Victoria. I think the answer can be found in her question.

The government must take action to really promote food security. This is done through regulations. Of course, my colleagues in this House will not be surprised to hear me say that this must be done while respecting provincial jurisdictions, since Quebec already has regulations in place. We have a department, the ministry of agriculture, fisheries and agri-food, as well as an agricultural producers union, which is made up of several branches and covers various types of products.

We must have regulations at a level that is as close as possible to the farmer. We must work together, in partnership, to make our products as safe as possible and to encourage new methods, something that is done regularly.

When it is within its prerogative and its jurisdiction, the federal government must take action through subsidies and other means in order to allow our producers to innovate, to use the best methods that are the least polluting and as safe and secure as possible.

As I said earlier, when food is produced and harvested as close as possible to the people who consume it, people can ask the producer directly, at the market, for example, what kind of pesticides, insecticides or other products were used on the food. Thus, people know what is in the food they eat. It is all right in front of them. The closer it is to them, the more responsible people become and the more likely they are to ask questions, and rightfully so.

To begin with, encouraging people to assume more responsibility will ensure food security. Of course, government regulations must also be obeyed and all jurisdictions must be respected.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

11 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Questions and comments. Resuming debate. Is the House ready for the question?

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

11 a.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

11 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The question is on the amendment. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the amendment?

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

11 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

11 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

All those in favour of the amendment will please say yea.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

11 a.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

11 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

All those opposed will please say nay.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

11 a.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

11 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

Accordingly, the vote stands deferred until 3 p.m. this day.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was caught off guard because I thought there would be someone speaking before me.

Bill C-55 would implement the Free Trade Agreement with the European Free Trade Association. The Bloc Québécois will be in favour of Bill C-55 primarily because this agreement does not have the same flaws as some previous agreements. There is also the fact that it does not affect supply management in the agricultural sector.

Obviously, one important point has to do with shipyards, but another is the fact that what is really at stake is the European Union. I will provide some context for the Bloc's position on this agreement, or rather the supplementary opinion of the Bloc Québécois. I will conclude with a caution about free trade agreements throughout the world.

The international economy is currently in an era of globalization. Multinational companies and big businesses are practically in a mad dash to make money from situations all over the world. They are making profits from the working conditions, human rights conditions and environmental conditions in various countries.

A closer look reveals that there are plenty of multilateral agreements. The WTO has 152 member nations, while the UN has 192. In 1955, the WTO had 89 members and the UN had 76. Twenty years later, in 1975, 157 countries belonged to the WTO and 144 to the UN. Today, the UN has 192 member countries and the WTO has 152. It seems that a lot of countries have signed on to multilateral agreements.

In the current context, however, particularly in the context of WTO negotiations—the Doha round, to be precise—more and more countries are taking part in the headlong race to sign bilateral free trade agreements. Nearly 200 countries want to sign free trade agreements—bilateral ones, of course.

At some point, Canada wants to sign as many as possible. It is hoping to sign agreements with close to 200 countries, and each of those 200 countries wants to sign agreements that will benefit them. We all know that for an economic transaction to work, both parties have to win. That is not always the case, but most people try to win most of the time. In many cases, a country might have general considerations that are not industry-specific.

That is the spirit in which Canada has signed some agreements and is negotiating others. We find such agreements perplexing. For example, consider an agreement that is currently being negotiated and that Canada would like to sign as soon as possible: the agreement with Colombia, a country with a deplorable human rights record.

I would like to go back to the European Free Trade Association, which is an association of four countries: Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland. We believe it is a good agreement because, for one thing, Quebec stands to benefit the most.

Take the example of Switzerland, which has a very vigorous pharmaceutical industry producing brand-name drugs. Prescription drugs account for 40% of Canadian exports to Switzerland and 50% of imports. To break into the American market, Swiss pharmaceutical companies might think about manufacturing drugs here in Quebec, or rather on the other side of the river, to be more precise.

In addiction, the mecca of brand-name drugs, with its pool of skilled researchers and advantageous tax rules, is Quebec. So a free trade agreement to facilitate trade between a corporation and its subsidiaries would likely bring new investments in the pharmaceutical industry in Quebec.

As for Norway, nickel accounts for over 80% of what we export there. The biggest mine in Canada, ranking third in the world, is in Quebec, in Ungava, owned by the Swiss company Xstrata. Our leading export to Iceland is aluminum. There again, production is concentrated in Quebec.

I was saying earlier that we were also in favour of this agreement because it did not have the same flaws as other agreements Canada has signed in the past. For example, NAFTA, the agreement with Costa Rica and the agreement with Chile all contain a bad chapter on investments that gives corporations the right to bring proceedings directly against a government if it adopts measures that reduce their profits.

There are no such provisions in the agreement with the European Free Trade Association. The agreement with that association covers only goods, and not services. So there is nothing that will mean we have to open up competition in public services, whether they are delivered by the government or not, since they are not covered. Similarly, financial services and banks will not be exposed to competition from Switzerland, which has a very solid and also very discreet banking system.

Liechtenstein is a veritable paradise for the financial world because of its tax system and bank secrecy. That country, with its population of 35,000, has no fewer than 74,000 corporations, primarily financial. In fact, the Prince of Liechtenstein himself owns the largest bank in the country.

The same thing is true for government procurement. The government will continue to be completely free to give preference to procurement here, subject to the WTO agreement on public procurement. Obviously it would be somewhat ridiculous for the government to negotiate latitude for itself and then decide not to use it actively. We fervently hope that the federal government, the largest purchaser of goods and services in Canada, will give preference to suppliers here and think about the benefits that flow from its purchases.

I started out by saying we would support it because when it comes to agriculture, supply management is not affected. Bill C-55 also allows for implementation of the bilateral agricultural agreements in addition to the free trade agreement with the European association. Those agreements, which are no threat to supply management, will have no great impact on agriculture in Quebec. Milk proteins are excluded from the agreement. The tariff quotas and over-quota tariffs remain unchanged. In other words, products that are under supply management are still protected. In fact, it is mainly the west that will benefit from the agricultural agreements because they provide for freer trade in certain grains, but the impact will not be significant.

There is some concern in relation to shipyards. We know that a policy to provide for support and development in that industry is needed quickly. That is the main point on which concerns could be expressed.

Naturally, we have concerns about the future of our shipyards. At present, imported vessels are subject to a 25% tariff. Under the agreement, these tariffs will gradually decrease over three years and will be completely eliminated in 15 years.

However, our shipyards are far less modern and in much worse condition than Norwegian shipyards. Norway has made massive investments in modernizing its shipyards, whereas the federal government has completed abandoned ours. If our borders were opened wide tomorrow morning, our shipyards could disappear.

For economic, strategic and environmental reasons, we must have shipyards. Imagine the risks to Quebec if no shipyard could repair vessels that ran aground or broke down in the St. Lawrence, the world's foremost waterway?

For years the Bloc has been calling for a real marine policy, and for years the government has been dragging its feet. Now that the agreement has been signed, time is of the essence. A policy to support our shipyards is urgently needed. 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. It reads as follows:

Therefore, 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 practically the only major recommendation in the report. The Conservative policy of leaving companies to fend for themselves could be disastrous for shipyards. We expect the government to give up its bad policy, and we call on it to table a real policy, by the end of the year, to support and develop the shipbuilding industry.

Given the urgency, we will not be content with fine talk, something the government specializes in. This time, we will not be content with rhetoric. We need a real policy that covers all aspects of the industry.

The four member countries of the association offer good opportunities for Canada and Quebec. They represent a total population of roughly 12 million inhabitants. These are economically sound countries. The GDP per capita is $60,000 in Switzerland, $82,000 in Norway, $62,214 in Liechtenstein and $60,000 in Iceland. Canada's is $44,389.

This is a good endeavour. Somewhere at the end of the tunnel, we can see a dim light. Does the Conservative government intend to drop the philosophy it might have had during previous negotiations? This is a good endeavour. The outlook is good, but there are far higher stakes for a number of industries in Quebec and Canada, namely the European Union.

We see the government putting its energy into free trade agreements, like the ones with the European association and Colombia. The agreement with Colombia has not been ratified by the U.S. Congress for human rights reasons, but Canada is proceeding with the negotiations. In fact, two weeks ago, we went to Colombia and Panama.

We have heard witnesses and met with government representatives, people from non governmental organizations, unions and businesspeople.

Of course there have been some improvements, but there is still a nagging doubt. Without prejudging the Bloc Québécois position in these negotiations, there are nonetheless some points that need to be considered. In today's context, as far as international agreements are concerned, whether they are multilateral or bilateral, there is a growing sense that certain elements need to be incorporated into various trade agreements.

In the context of the European Free Trade Association, there are no cases of exploitation of people or workers. As far as the environment is concerned, some countries are cited as models. Nevertheless, the international economic movement is expressing its will to include in trade agreements such elements as human rights, labour rights and environmental aspects. These elements will increasingly have to be incorporated into agreements and will have to be assessed according to the situation in each country.

A country is responsible for distributing wealth among its population. Canada has not set the best example because, in 1989, this House unanimously adopted a motion whereby Canada was committed to the elimination of poverty in 10 years. That was almost 20 years ago and we now have more poverty than at that time and the gap between rich and poor is widening. Yet, it is a governmental responsibility.

On the international scene, governments will also have to give greater consideration to this international responsibility towards countries with much bleaker economic situations than ours. This responsibility must be reflected in agreements by including provisions covering human rights, labour law and the environment, of course.

Let us return to the main issue, that is the European Union. A free trade agreement with Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein is quite positive but we must be aware of the limits of this agreement. The total population of these countries is about 12 million and they account for 1% of Canadian exports.

The real opportunity lies with the European Union. With a population of 495 million generating 31% of global GDP, the European Union is the global economic powerhouse.

Canada is far too dependent on the United States, which has accounted for more than 85% of our exports; today, that figure stands at 79%.

That is the warning I wanted to convey. We should remember the committee's recommendations contained in the Bloc Québécois Supplementary Report. I would advise the Conservative government to truly realize that it must now follow the new direction being laid out—and it is unfolding quickly—and which consists of including employment rights, human rights, environmental considerations and even, in the near future, food sovereignty in bilateral agreements. This should also be adopted by the WTO.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am quite happy to engage in the debate today on Bill C-55. It is actually a happy event. It is a trade agreement and my party, the Liberal Party, is in the normal flow of events very supportive of trade and has been for all 140-some odd years of our country's existence.

Before I get into remarks on this actual trade bill, a related matter has to do with what we can call ratification. I recall when the current government took office there was some talk, in fact I believe there was a statement, that the government would be submitting international treaties to the House for some informal ratification. It certainly was not a formal statutory required ratification, but I am not too sure whether the government has forgotten about that or whether it is going to live up to its commitment or not.

However, in this particular case, the treaty that has been entered into by Canada requires legislation that has to come to the House in any event, so there certainly is not a practical need for any kind of an informal or specific ratification. I wanted to put on the record that the announcement by the government that it would embark on this ratification mechanism was quite a significant change in the parliamentary process.

I will give credit to the government for that. We have not yet seen the fruits of that announcement. It has not played out the way we believed it would, however, I want to remind the government that it did make the commitment and while government officials in the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade are probably squirming with that commitment, that is the way I believe the House is headed and the government has certainly reflected that in its announcement. I encourage the government to live up to its commitment.

Now, I will revert to this trade bill. As previous speakers have said, this is a new trade agreement which Canada has entered into with four European countries. It is a happy event with the trading stars of five countries coming into alignment with all of the countries potentially benefiting from the freer trade and access provided for in this treaty.

There is something actually quite grand happening in Europe which most of us and the world are aware of. But after some thousand years of conflict and fighting, killing, burning, looting, shifting of borders, and tribal inter-tribal conflicts, Europe, after the last war, came together and decided to form a union, and to adopt mechanisms which would pre-empt and get rid of this sordid history of war and conflict. It is succeeding beyond the dreams of most people who lived through the horrors of the first half of the 20th century.

The European Union has adopted models for trade, international relations, monetary and fiscal matters, criminal law, the environment, and certainly succeeding in making the EU a new focus for global presence. I was going to use the word “power”, but there is more going here than just that. The EU is certainly a focal point for economic and political leadership in the world. Recently, at a meeting Europe of course is grappling with what we sometimes call multiculturalism. We can see dozens and dozens of cultures and languages in Europe, not so much coming together, but living together, interspersing, accommodating and flowering, and that is all happening in Europe now, as much as it is happening in Canada. In fact, I heard the Europeans refer to the Canadian model of multiculturalism when they were looking for a kind of a road map as to how to handle many of their internal issues involving culture, language, religion, heritage and preserving these things.

The European Union has approximately 20 to 30 countries and it is a market of about half a billion people. The EU and the countries we are dealing with here is a part of the world that is highly educated and very well off. The point I want to make is that the four countries we are dealing with are not in the EU. They are interspersed throughout the geography of the European Union but they are not actually members. For their own reasons they are not a part of the European Union. Those four countries are Norway, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Iceland.

Those particular countries, while they may each individually seem small, are actually a fairly significant group of traders with Canada. As I said, my party is usually very keen to endorse, support and promote improved trading relationships around the world, and I know the current government is following a similar policy.

We are a big exporting country. We would like to have access to as many world markets as we can gain access to. I should say that in this particular set of circumstances as we enter into this trade agreement and change our domestic laws to align with the treaty, and they are minor adjustments, not major ones, but as we do this, one of the issues we do not have in this particular trade agreement is the potential problem of having a trade agreement with a country that has a labour force that is very inexpensive and has low labour wage rates. We do not have that issue here because these European countries all have fairly standard European level wage rate structures.

If we were doing a trade agreement with a country that had very low labour wage rates, organized labour and labour generally here in Canada would have some concerns. Those types of arrangements often involve significant adjustments in the marketplace with one country making use of the relatively valuable low wage labour rates in the other party to the treaty. In this case, those adjustments are not present. The labour wage rates are pretty typical and similar to those in Canada.

Some people will wonder what we are really dealing with here. We are talking theory; we are talking some money, but what are we talking about when we are talking about trade with these countries.

In this particular case Canada exports to these four countries which call themselves the European Free Trade Association. This is what we in Canada sell to them: pharmaceuticals, copper, nickel, machinery, precious stones, metals, medical devices, aluminum, aerospace products, pulp and paper, organic chemicals, autos and auto parts, art and antiques. That is a pretty eclectic list. What do we buy from them? Not the same type of things. We buy specific types of mineral fuels, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, machinery, medical and optical instruments, clocks and all those expensive watches that we see in the jewellery stores at the malls. A lot of those come from these countries in Europe.

We have a great trading relationship. In 2007 we sold to them about $5.1 billion worth of merchandise trade and they sold to us approximately $7.4 billion of merchandise trade. There is lots of other trade going on as well in agricultural goods and in services.

There is investment moving around. In 2006 Canada invested $8.4 billion in these countries and the four of them invested $15.6 billion in Canada. There is a fairly healthy foreign direct investment movement going on here. I think Canadians should be aware of that. Our entrepreneurs and our investors do not only invest in Canada, but Canada now is a capital exporting nation. We invest in businesses, places and countries all over the world. That may scare some people, but many of us have pension plans and I think it should be reassuring that Canada's investments now span the world, at least the investments of individuals and of our pension plans, and on a global scale, our pension plans are looking rather large.

There are some highlights that I want to mention for the record. There are special provisions in this trade agreement. Do not forget that this agreement has been negotiated and there were some Canadian interests that needed to be recognized in the agreement, just as there were interests of these four countries that had to be recognized.

The first one has to do with agriculture. As we all know, Canada has a fairly robust system of supply management for many agricultural products. We think this has served our country well, domestically and internationally. There is some debate about some components of our supply management system here in Canada, but generally, I think the agricultural community believes that it has served us well.

When we enter into a trade agreement such as this, it is necessary to take some steps to protect the supply management system we have here, because supply management is not total unrestricted free internal trade; it is a supply managed pricing and supply. The countries with which we trade want to know, are we really free traders with the market governing freely or do we have a supply management system. In this particular treaty, for those countries themselves that have some supply management mechanisms as well, we have recognized the Canadian supply management system in agriculture and it will carry on unimpaired by the provisions of this trade agreement. That should be good news that makes entering into the treaty a lot easier.

The second is in terms of shipbuilding. Canada's shipbuilding industry has been under pressure economically for many years now. Many members of the House ensure that their remarks and their work in Parliament are calculated to support and sustain the shipbuilding industry where it carries on in Canada.

This treaty, therefore, had to be adapted to ensure that our Canadian shipbuilding industry was reasonably protected. The means chosen for that involves tariffication, putting tariffs on ships that would come into Canada from these countries. I am sure that Liechtenstein does not have much of a shipbuilding industry, being landlocked in the European Alps, but I know that Norway does and I think Iceland does.

We have created a very long period of tariffication for different types of ships, which runs 10 to 15 years. For 10 to 15 years after this treaty is put in place there will be protective tariffs for the Canadian shipbuilding industry. At the end of 10 or 15 years, however, those tariffs must come to an end. They will be tapered off. Our Canadian shipbuilding industry must compete with these other countries, but there is 10 to 15 years of adjustment. That is good news for our shipbuilding industry.

The third component that was added is a component one finds often in trade agreements like this. It is called a snap back provision. I believe that in most treaties it is invoked unilaterally. It is there to protect areas of the domestic market where there is a serious threat by the import of a foreign product.

Where there is a threat, perhaps by very low predatory pricing or dumping of a product from outside Canada in Canada, Canada would have the ability under this agreement to adopt the snap back provision which would reimpose a tariff. We have to keep in mind that this is a free trade agreement where there are no tariffs. If there were a dumping situation and a serious threat to a Canadian industry, Canada could reimpose a tariff up to the level of what is called most favoured nation. That tariff would be reimposed to protect, for a period of time, against the unanticipated threat from this offshore dumped product, merchandise, whatever it might be.

Those are the three specific provisions. In retrospect, it looks like this trade agreement was actually quite easily reached. However, let the record show that it took 10 years to put it together. Negotiations on this trade agreement began in 1998 and were completed in 2007, and we are now moving to implement the completed treaty.

In the view of this particular member and my party, on balance this trade agreement is a keeper. It is a good one. It will serve our country well. It will serve the four countries of the European Free Trade Association well. Our trade showing will undoubtedly increase and improve. Exports, jobs, and prosperity in all the countries will undoubtedly improve.

We are planning to vote in favour of the bill.

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11:45 a.m.

NDP

Denise Savoie NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, as a member of Parliament who represents a coastal city, I am keenly aware that Canada has the largest coastline in the world and yet has no strategy for its shipbuilding sector. This sector is very important in my riding.

I listened carefully to the hon. member and he seems satisfied with the tariffication system that is being proposed in this agreement over a 15 year period. Given that the United States has managed to carve out shipbuilding from NAFTA through the Jones Act, I am wondering why he thinks that what we have managed to negotiate is adequate, given what the Americans have insisted on to protect their shipbuilding industry. It seems to me that after that period of time there would be absolutely no protection. In the meantime, there seems to be no strategy to develop and support our shipbuilding industry.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is quite right. The protection in this trade agreement would only last for 10 or 15 years, depending on the type of ships involved in the shipbuilding. However, there is no solution. If one is going to have a free trade agreement, that means we need to have free trade. This particular provision is an exception. The 15-year adjustment period is quite a lot longer than would be normal in a treaty scenario.

The member's offering as a solution is the Jones act, which the Americans adopted many years ago. The solution for her and her party may be to join the U.S.A. and live under the auspices of the Jones act. The Jones act solution would not be available to Canada in this scenario. She has reflected on the need for a strategy. Either we are going to build ships in Canada or we are not. She is quite right when she says that the government will need to ensure it has some kind of a strategy as we move through the next 10 or 15 years.

We must keep in mind that these provisions only apply to these four countries. The Canadian shipbuilding industry currently is having to compete globally with shipbuilding nations around the world. It is a fact that while our people build very high quality ships, it is very difficult for them to compete with some of the low wage labour scenarios in many of the countries around the world.

There is not a simple solution. It does require government leadership and government-led strategy in relation to the several parts of Canada where ships are built. However, I do not believe we can piggyback that issue and look to this particular agreement to solve that broader problem.

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11:45 a.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. member a question about the shipbuilding industry.

The negotiations started in 1998 and finished ten years later, that is to say, early this year. The Liberals were around for eight of these ten years. It is well known that Norway provided huge subsidies to its shipbuilding industry. Now we know that all duties and tariffs will be eliminated over a period of 10 to 15 years.

If we do not want the shipbuilding industry to disappear along with the tariffs that are currently imposed, the government will have to adopt a strategy to re-invigorate and modernize the shipbuilding sector and give it the capacity to face the competition that will increase as duties and tariffs decline.

Since we are in a political situation where the government could change after the next election, would a future Liberal government be prepared to promise that the shipbuilding sector will get the support it needs to strengthen its infrastructure and ensure it will remain competitive in 15 years?

The Bloc Québécois wants to see a formal shipbuilding policy in accordance, of course, with what the WTO allows. There is room for things to be done. Can we expect a possible Liberal government over the next few months to make promises in this regard?

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11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is somehow suggesting that this particular trade agreement does a wraparound policy around all of our shipbuilding policies, or the lack thereof, in Canada. In fact, this treaty only concerns the four countries involved, one or two of which may produce ships. We need to make an adjustment with respect to those one or two marketplaces.

As he has pointed out, if Norway heavily subsidizes its shipbuilding, Norway will need to deal with that same adjustment period vis-à-vis Canada. If a country heavily subsidizes a production, the other party to the treaty will then point it out as a countervailing situation and then a countervailing duty will be invoked. Therefore, Norway, similarly, must make an adjustment.

What is happening is that all the countries to these trade agreements are signalling the end of subsidies.

We have made an exception for supply management in the agricultural sector. However, in shipbuilding, if we cannot subsidize but we can have tariffs, we get rid of the tariffs. If the other country cannot have tariffs and cannot subsidize, then we are on a level playing field.

Both Norway and Canada will need to have strategic plans in place, either to keep their shipbuilding, let it go or modify it so it can live on in the face of intense global competition from low wage countries.

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11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like all the same to reassure the hon. member. If the negotiations were very drawn-out, it was precisely because Norway used to provide heavy subsidies to its shipbuilding industry. The reason why the negotiations have finally reached a conclusion is that we are told—and our negotiators have confirmed—that Norway does not provide subsidies any longer.

We are obviously not going to start providing subsidies that are not allowed by the WTO. However, there are many things that can be done, including loan guarantees, better tax rules on leases, refundable tax credits for shipowners, measures based on maritime transport, and something like a Buy Canadian act for the shipbuilding industry.

I want some confirmations. Apart from the subsidies that used to be available in Norway, what would a Liberal government do tomorrow morning to help develop the shipbuilding industry and strengthen its infrastructure?

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, as much as the member had difficulty cramming 50 years of wisdom into the last minute of his speech, I will have difficulty cramming into 30 seconds what the Liberal Party might or might not do in relation to a shipbuilding strategy in Canada.

Suffice it to say that all parties possess and have this additional baggage of a need to deal with our Canadian shipbuilding industry. The issue here today is the adoption of this treaty. I appreciate the member wants to hear the Liberal Party's position. However, the current government policy may or may not come up, which I am sure it will, during the foreseeable upcoming election campaign.

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11:55 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the NDP, I am happy to join in the debate on Bill C-55.

What I understand from the speeches of my colleagues from Scarborough—Rouge River and Sherbrooke is that the NDP might be the only party standing in opposition to Bill C-55, the enabling legislation for the Canada-European free trade association agreement.

We in the NDP have some compelling reasons to oppose this legislation, most of which have been cited by the other opposition critics, and yet they still seem fit to support the bill even though they have raised very legitimate concerns about its shortcomings and potential hazards in the context of the shipbuilding industry in Canada, or what is left of it, and in agriculture.

As my colleague from the Bloc pointed out, the supply management of our agricultural products is important to our Canadian agricultural-industrial strategy and we do not want to do anything that will jeopardize, undermine or diminish, in any way, our commitment to supply management.

I point out to my colleague that this particular bill was criticized heavily by Mr. Terry Pugh, the executive director of the National Farmers Union, because he noticed that the provisions of the agreement concerning agriculture defer to the World Trade Organization's principles and mechanisms if there is arbitration or a disagreement.

We know the World Trade Organization's view on supply management and we do not trust its dispute mechanism when it comes to maintaining the strength and integrity of the Canadian supply management, be it the Canadian Wheat Board or supply management in various sectors in the province of Quebec. I would have thought that alone would be reason enough for my colleagues in the Bloc to oppose the adoption of this enabling legislation.

Until the shipbuilding provision was carved out and until the provision of using the WTO's dispute mechanism was pulled out, the NDP was not prepared to support this bill, and we maintain that principle today. We are not alone in that. Even though there are a few people who agree, apparently, in the House of Commons today in standing up for the Canadian shipbuilding industry and supply management, there are important third party validators in civil society who have made their opinions known at the committee and who spoke very well in defence of the NDP's stated position that we cannot support this legislation as it stands currently.

I will get into detailed specifics about the bill in a moment but I want to express my bewilderment over how it was that Canada abandoned and walked away from shipbuilding as a key industrial sector that we want to promote, support and maintain. What gang of chimpanzees decided that Canada should get out of shipbuilding? It seems to me that was the policy decision that was made.

I was the head of the Carpenters' Union in my home province of Manitoba and I know, from the history of my union, that in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s the Carpenters' Union had 30,000 members working in the Burrard Dry Dock shipyards alone in downtown Vancouver. Those were 30,000 good paying union jobs in my union alone. That does not include the marine workers, the boilermakers, the ironworkers or the other tradespeople who were involved in the fitting out and production of ships in British Columbia.

My colleague from Victoria has tried to defend what is left of the shipbuilding industry in her coastal city. We had a burgeoning shipbuilding industry in this country. We were at the leading edge. At the Burrard Dry Dock alone, where my colleagues in the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners worked, they were producing a ship a week for the convoy to support Great Britain during the second world war, the merchant marine supply ships. The Burrard Dry Dock was setting the industry standard in the massive production of a certain category of ships that today cannot be built in Canada. That was 60 years ago.

We were at the leading edge, but by somebody's design, by some convoluted pretzel logic, somebody in the policy and decision making area of the federal government decided that shipbuilding was not really an industry in which we wanted to specialize as a nation. Maybe that someone had a grandiose idea that we would go on to more high tech industries or into the knowledge industry sector.

That is all well and good, but we should not think for a minute that shipbuilding is some smokestack blue-collar industry that is obsolete. It is not. Anyone who has ever been to Norway, as I have, would know that in Oslo the slips and the shipyards that build some of the world's finest ships are in a state of the art, computerized, high tech facility. It is on a par with the technology associated with the Canadarm in the robotics and magnificence of the machinery.

I have been to Lévis in Quebec, where there has been a fabulous tradition of shipbuilding throughout the 1800s and 1900s right up to today. If that were prioritized and nurtured the way other industry sectors have been, Canada would be right up there with Norway, Korea and Japan as one of the leading shipbuilding countries in the world.

However, there was a policy decision made many years ago to abandon that sector. People said, “Our kids do not want to work on those dirty tradesmen types of jobs, so we will move on to other types of work”. That was a tragic mistake.

No one can claim ignorance on this, because they have been reminded time and time again that abandoning the shipbuilding sector was a mistake. This bill that we are debating today compounds that mistake. It adds insult to injury in terms of abandoning that important sector.

Yesterday we sat in the House and listened to the president of the Ukraine outline the many bold, courageous moves that his struggling, burgeoning and newly independent country is going through. One of the things he focused on in his speech is how proud Ukraine is of the inroads it is making in getting competitive in shipbuilding.

Ukraine will be surpassing Canada in shipbuilding capacity and capability, because its government, through what I would argue is bold leadership on this front at least, has targeted shipbuilding as one of the industry sectors that it intends to promote.

We have a lot more shoreline than the Ukraine. We have deep sea ports in three oceans, including the port at Churchill, Manitoba. Of all countries, Canada should be at the leading edge of the shipbuilding industry. We are being left in the dust.

Members have talked about phasing out the tariffs on shipbuilding in order to enable and facilitate trade with these countries in this free trade agreement. Some have said that Norway has phased out its subsidies and is willing to drop its tariffs and therefore it is a fair trade relationship with a comparable country with high wages, et cetera. I am willing to admit that it is a social democratic country with a high wage, high cost economy similar to Canada's. That is a level playing field.

However, where it is not a level playing field is that Norway's shipbuilding industry was very heavily subsidized right up until the year 2000, when shipbuilders could stand on their own two feet and they did not need that subsidy any longer. We cannot compare that with the industry in Canada, which has been starved and systematically dismantled and is a mere shadow of its former self.

I argue that our shipbuilding industry cannot stand in fair competition with an industry that was nurtured, developed and fed for many years by public subsidy until the year 2000 and now is a successful, burgeoning, contemporary industry sector. It is folly to not acknowledge the inequity in these two businesses in these two countries as an example.

I said at the outset that the NDP is not alone in its opposition to this particular free trade agreement. While it has few supporters in the House, it seems, and our arguments have not moved MPs of other parties off their positions to support our position, there are many important third parties in civil society who validate and support the NDP's position.

Let me mention one. It is perhaps no surprise that the president of the Shipyard General Workers' Federation of British Columbia, Mr. George MacPherson, says:

The Canadian shipbuilding industry is already operating at about one-third of its capacity. Canadian demand for ships over the next 15 years is estimated to be worth $9 billion in Canadian jobs. Under the FTAs with Norway, Iceland, and now planned with Korea and then Japan, these Canadian shipbuilding jobs are in serious jeopardy. In these terms, this government's plan is sheer folly and an outrage.

Les Holloway, the Atlantic Canadian director of the Canadian Auto Workers and an outspoken champion of the shipbuilding industry, has made representations many times at committees before Parliament and before the House of Commons and said to the international trade committee that it “should not recommend this Free Trade Agreement without first recommending that the federal government first address the issues facing the shipbuilding industry that would allow the industry to compete in a fair and equitable manner with” these new trading partners.

That in and of itself, I would have thought, should have motivated my colleagues from the Bloc to say that this bill in its current form is not acceptable until some of these very real concerns are addressed.

Andrew McArthur, from the Shipbuilding Association of Canada and the Irving Shipbuilding yards, said before the Standing Committee on International Trade on April 2:

--our position from day one has been that shipbuilding should be carved out of this trade agreement. We butted our heads against a brick wall for quite a number of years on that and we were told there is no carve-out. If the Americans, under the Jones Act, can carve out shipbuilding from NAFTA and other free trade agreements, as I believe the Americans are doing today with Korea, or have done, why can Canada not do the same?

That is a legitimate question. The Americans are better negotiators than we are. Their negotiating stance is from a position of strength. They have decided that they are going to protect their shipbuilding industry under the Jones act. Eleven separate times, the Americans have challenged the Canadian Wheat Board as being somehow an unfair trade subsidy or advantage. We have never challenged the Jones act even though it is protectionism pure and simple, in its purest form.

I remember going down to Washington to argue with American senators on trade related issues. One time, in fact, it was on Devils Lake. One senator put it very succinctly to me and Mr. Lloyd Axworthy, who was the minister of foreign affairs at the time. We were sitting around a table with that American senator, who looked us in the eye and said, “Son, if it ever comes down to what is good for you and what is good for us, we are going to do what is good for us. Thanks for coming”. Then he showed us the door.

That is the bargaining stance of the Americans. The bargaining stance of Canadians seems to be one of weakness. We are lucky to get out of the room with some dignity after what we leave on the table.

I am no stranger to negotiations. I have negotiated collective agreements for the better part of my adult life. I know that we do not always get everything we want at the bargaining table, but I also know that we do not fold when issues of key importance to us are still on the table and there are still steps to be taken.

I put it to the House that there are still options for Canada if we want to make a statement about the integrity and the strength of our shipbuilding industry.

Mr. McArthur from the Irving Shipbuilding company also said:

We have to do something to ensure shipbuilding continues. The easiest thing is to carve it out from EFTA...if you do one thing, convince your colleagues in government to extend the ship financing facility, make it available to Canadian owners in combination with the accelerated capital cost allowance, and you will have as vibrant an industry as exists.

The capital cost allowance is something with which we are all familiar, something that is touted when it comes to promoting and supporting other industry sectors.

Those are two simple key recommendations that would be a vote of confidence in our industry instead of cutting it adrift and abandoning it to other actors and other players in other countries.

I was surprised at some of the things my colleague from Scarborough—Rouge River was saying. He said that we have to put in place these free trade agreements with no tariffs and barriers because we need to be able to compete with these countries of low wages and low costs that may be able to produce ships at a cheaper rate.

Korea is no longer considered a low wage, low cost country. Norway has a higher average industrial wage than Canada does. The people we have to worry about competing with are not, frankly, the low wage, low cost actors in this particular competitive environment.

Let us listen to what Karl Risser Jr., president, Halifax Local 1, Canadian Auto Workers Shipbuilding, Waterways and Marine Workers Council, said before the Standing Committee on International Trade. He said:

I am here on behalf of the workers in the marine sector of our union to express our opposition to this agreement. Canadian shipbuilders find themselves competing for work in domestic and international markets on far from a level [playing field]...Other governments, Norway for one, have supported their shipbuilding industries for years and have built them into [key] powers, while Canada has not. We have had little protection, and what little protection we have left is a 25% tariff on imported vessels into Canada, which is being washed away by government daily through agreements such as this and the exemptions being negotiated with companies.

Why are we giving this away? To what end? What greater power are we serving here? It boggles my mind. Mine is not a very scientific, professional or academic approach but a gut feeling that we are making a tragic mistake. I despair sometimes. Where are my kids going to work if Canada does not build anything any more, if everything is built somewhere else? Are we willing to abandon those key manufacturing sectors so lightly and so readily?

Karl Risser Jr. ends his comments by saying:

So this EFTA deal is a bad deal for Canada. I'd love to see someone answer the question, what is Canada going to get out of this agreement? I know we're going to destroy our shipbuilding industry, a multi-billion-dollar industry in Canada. It's on its last legs now and needs a real boost. We have that opportunity in front of us, but whether we take it or not is the question.

He closes by saying:

Again, the one question I have is, what is the benefit to Canada from this agreement? The last thing I would like to ask is, will this agreement be put before Parliament, as [the current Minister of Foreign Affairs] has said, for a full debate and vote?

I guess his question is answered. We are here for a full debate. We are not here in quite the context that we were told we would be when it came to free trade agreements and some of the points of concern that have been raised regarding the process, as we were told.

I do have some comments and notes to make on that subject. We are not entirely satisfied that free trade agreements are getting quite the vetting that was committed to us over the years. This debate today is still subject to the fact that the government “may” bring it before the House of Commons and “may” put it to a vote. I do not know at this stage what we can do to satisfy ourselves that the concerns of Canadians are being met in the context of at least the shipbuilding industry.

Second, with what time I have left, I would like to express again our concerns in the context of the integrity of supply management in this country, which is put in jeopardy by the dispute mechanism stipulated in this free trade agreement. If the government is going to subject disputes over supply management to the WTO, which we know is no friend of supply management, then the National Farmers Union and its counterparts in the province of Quebec would have serious concerns.

For those two reasons alone, we feel confident that we are doing the right thing in voicing our opposition to this bill. We are not opposed to free trade. We are not opposed to fair trade, especially with countries that are virtually our equals in terms of economies.

With social democratic countries such as Norway, I believe there should be a free movement of goods and services and products, but we should not trade away the farm. We do not have to be Jack and the Beanstalk here, where we trade the family cow for three beans, none of which may actually sprout. With that analogy, I will end my remarks.

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12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin my remarks by endorsing the remarks that the hon. member made in relation to Parliament's unmatured role in ratifying or consenting to treaties entered into by the Government of Canada. Up to now, of course, when a treaty was entered into by Canada with another country, if there was no change to our domestic law, there was no need for the government to bring the matter to Parliament at all, and the treaty was entered into, signed, executed and parliamentarians would just be spectators.

In this particular case, entering into the treaty requires some adjustment to our domestic laws, therefore not the treaty itself but the changes to our domestic laws have to be presented to Parliament, and we now have the opportunity to comment on the overall treaty.

The hon. member, in talking about how agricultural products are dealt with under this treaty, treated the subject area a little bit like it was a zero sum game. In every trade treaty like this there are undoubtedly winners, losers, and an adjustment period as the two or more economies adjust to the new trade environment.

Would the member not agree that even with an adjustment where there might be some losers, there are always winners and in fact it is not a zero sum game? In fact, a trade treaty almost always brings about a quantum jump in overall trade where there is growth and many more winners offsetting whatever people have been harmed by the adjustment phase, even though these treaties try to protect those who are potentially harmed in the adjustment phase.

Would the member not agree that with this treaty, if it is adopted by Parliament, the House and the Senate, that there will be a lot more winners, that all of us will win?