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House of Commons Hansard #110 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was home.

Topics

Economic Recovery Act (Stimulus)Government Orders

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Conservative Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

Madam Speaker, I ask that you see the clock at 6:30 p.m.

Economic Recovery Act (Stimulus)Government Orders

6:25 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Is it agreed?

Economic Recovery Act (Stimulus)Government Orders

6:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Madam Speaker, last June, I asked the Minister of Natural Resources a question about medical isotopes. I asked her what the government was doing to ensure that Canadians diagnosed with cancer or whose doctors suspect cancer did not have to wait for diagnostic procedures because of a shortage of medical isotopes due to the closure of the Chalk River nuclear facility.

The minister went on about how the government had considered it a very serious issue since November 2007, but the reactor at Chalk River served to produce industrial and medical isotopes which, as I said, are used to diagnose and treat various cancers and heart disease.

There are approximately two million cancer tests using radioactive isotopes that are normally performed in Canada every year. According to the specialists here in Canada, about 80% of these tests will not be able to be performed while the reactor is shut down. That is not me talking. These centres are being forced to import isotopes at a much higher cost to the provinces in order to conduct the tests.

There have been delays. Thousands of cancer patients or Canadians suspected of suffering from cancer have been told that the diagnostic tests will not be performed within the normal delay but will be further delayed. It has led to a worldwide shortage of medical isotopes because Chalk River supplied approximately one-third of the world's supply. The lives of thousands of Canadians and around the world are at risk.

According to AECL, the isotopes supplied by Chalk River on a daily basis in the past were used by 76,000 individuals spanning 80 different countries throughout the world. The first shutdown of Chalk River was clearly a warning call to the government to begin a plan for an alternative source, to secure suppliers for that, and to determine what Canada was going to do on a long-term basis.

The concerns were first raised almost two years ago after the first Chalk River shutdown, but we lost critical time because the government did not come up with a plan the first time that Chalk River was shut down. In fact, it was only this past summer that the Minister of Natural Resources announced an expert panel to assist her in reviewing and assessing proposals submitted by the private and public sectors for alternatives to producing molybdenum-99 and technetium-99m, which are the key medical isotopes that are currently in short supply around the world.

She only launched this expert review panel on June 19, 2009. That in itself is proof that the government did not take the first shutdown of Chalk River in November 2007 seriously or begin to produce an alternative plan should it be required to shut down again. According to the government's own press release, the expert panel will report to the Minister of Natural Resources by November 30, 2009. That is some 10 months after the second shutdown of Chalk River.

As a result of this, we have provinces that are being forced to supply themselves with isotopes from outside of the country at a much greater cost. It is—

6:30 p.m.

NDP

6:30 p.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands Saskatchewan

Conservative

David Anderson ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and for the Canadian Wheat Board

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to this issue because, although it has been months since the member asked the question, we have been busy taking care of this issue in ways that she obviously does not understand. If she had talked to medical providers, provincial governments and the federal government she would have known that we are working together to address this problem and deal with a tough situation.

We actually owe thanks to the medical providers and to the governments for being able to deal with the situation as we find it. We should avoid the politicization the Liberal Party has engaged in with so many of these health issues over the last few months.

If the member were to take the time to talk to the people in the medical community, they would tell her of the people who are willing and have been working overtime and of the people who have been moving their shifts in order to accommodate the supply of isotopes. They would talk about administrators who will admit that they are now working far more efficiently than they have in the past in order to get the procedures delivered to the patients. They will talk about patients who are receiving appropriate care. She can go to the news media to find those reports but she certainly can talk to the healthcare providers who would give her information about the fact that adjustments have been made, Canadians are receiving their treatments and this issue is being dealt with.

It is interesting that we have also been able to work with the international community in ways that the Liberal government never could. It seems to me that there is no use in politicizing these issues. The Liberals are struggling to get traction on any issue and it is obvious that they want to politicize these issues. It is almost like they are throwing lines out trying to snag something desperately that they can use to try to save themselves but it is not working. It is not working with isotopes and it is certainly not working with H1N1 because the government, led by the health minister, has been able to come up with an emergency plan to see the approval process through in record time. We have been able to work with the provinces and healthcare providers to distribute the vaccine across the country and we began to move ahead on the immunization process ahead of schedule.

Do the Liberals thank us for a job well done? Of course they do not. They want to politicize this as much as possible, and that was seen in the H1N1 discussion when one of their members had to apologize for the types of communications that she was sending out to deal with this issue.

I plead with the Liberal opposition to stop this bottom trawling. It is time for us to begin to work together and recognize what has actually been happening. As the member opposite is well aware, the resources have been put into AECL. The minister has instructed it to give absolute priority to the safe and reliable return to service of the NRU as soon as possible. AECL has advised us that based on the evidence collected to date, those vessel repairs can be made and the NRU will be safely returned to service in the first quarter of 2010.

The member mentioned the international leadership the minister has provided, and she certainly has done that. As well, we have chaired a high level group to carry the international agenda forward and the expert review panel will be making its report in just a few short days here. We look forward to it coming forward with suggestions. As far as I know, it has received 22 different proposals on how to move ahead with the nuclear industry and the isotope production in the future. We look forward to seeing the report and to moving ahead on those issues.

6:35 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Madam Speaker, I am quite dismayed that the member would accuse me and my colleagues of trying to politicize the situation. In fact, with the terms that he used in his speech, he and his government are politicizing this. I asked simple questions and I asked for simple answers. I did not blow anything out of proportion. For instance, the Minister of Natural Resources pointed out in a speech in September that:

Canada is by no means obligated to coordinate global efforts or ensure global isotope supply levels.

That is not me speaking, that is the minister for the government speaking.

The Coalition Priorité Cancer au Québec said:

In 2009, in Quebec, more than 40,000 people will be diagnosed with cancer and 20,000 people will die of the disease. “The federal government owes it to these people to address the issue immediately”, said a spokesperson for the Coalition Priorité Cancer au Québec.

That is not--

6:35 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The hon. parliamentary secretary.

6:35 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Madam Speaker, the thing that is clear here is that this government has gone beyond obligation. It has gone toward cooperation and leadership, which is what we can be most proud of. In every area, not just in terms of the medical isotope issue, this government has brought Canada to new levels on the international scene.

We are proud of the fact that we are leading the way in fostering a new global direction for medical isotope productions. A reliable, resilient global supply will be dependent on more than one provider. We look forward to working with the expert review panel and its solutions and the presentations that it will o be making for the future direction for isotope supply in this country and around the world.

6:35 p.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Liberal Willowdale, ON

Madam Speaker, my question this evening relates to the buy American clause of the U.S. stimulus package known as the U.S. recovery act.

It states that only American-made iron, steel and manufactured goods can be used in U.S. stimulus projects. Because the clause is subject to U.S. trade obligations, it is subject to NAFTA and thus applies to the U.S. federal government. However, it is the U.S. states and municipalities that are not subject to NAFTA, and it is exactly the states and municipalities that the buy American clause is directed at. That, unfortunately, is exactly what is happening to the significant detriment of Canadian business.

Let me quote a description of just one example from a recent Canwest article, if I may. This was an article from just this past week.

For the second time in six months, pipe fittings in California are being ripped from the ground because they were stamped “Made in Canada,“ a move manufacturing companies say hurts both sides of the border.

Cambridge Brass Inc., a Canadian brass fittings manufacturer, discovered Thursday that it stands to lose more than $1.5 million in this most recent fallout from the Buy American protectionist measure.

Greg Bell, vice-president of sales and marketing for the Cambridge, Ont., company, received a call Thursday from the City of Sacramento, where the parts were being fitted into the public water system. He was told his product was no longer acceptable because it was not made in the United States.

Two months ago in this House I asked a question of the Minister of International Trade. I stressed at the time that words were not enough because, to the minister's credit, the minister acknowledged that the buy American clause was problematic and that we who stood for free trade found that the U.S. protectionist measures were offensive to the concept of free trade. We acknowledged that it was harming Canadian business. To the minister's credit, he said all of the right words.

Unfortunately, and as I raised in my question two months, words are simply not enough. We needed to see action. The minister acknowledged at the time that in fact Canadian provinces and territories had gathered together and agreed on a procurement process, which is a very big step in the right direction. We all agreed, acknowledged and wanted to congratulate Canadian provinces and territories for coming to such an agreement.

The real question remained unanswered, because Canadian action clearly was not going to be enough on its own. The real question, and this was what I had asked the minister, was what the government had done to recognize that a quick visit did not address the fundamental issue that states and municipalities were in fact continuing to cause real problems for Canadian businesses by being required, under the stimulus act in the United States, to not buy Canadian products but to buy only American steel and iron and manufactured goods. By a quick visit, I am referring to the fact that the Prime Minister's last visit to Washington for photo opportunities was a mere 42 minutes long.

I will repeat the question that I had asked at the time, with a reminder to the government and this House that we are no further along, now two months after the original question, in dealing with the buy American clause, which is causing such difficulty for Canadian firms.

It is not words but action that we must have from the United States. That is not how it works in the United States. It is not enough to write letters, to have nice words and to provide weak protest. It was 42 minutes with the president, giving the Prime Minister a photo op and a few pat-on-the-back words, but that was it. We must have people on the ground right from the beginning, not just premiers and territorial leaders, but the municipalities and the states throughout the United States—

6:40 p.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Willowdale for her interest in this subject. It gives me an opportunity to further explain the buy American issue.

Our government has been working on a number of fronts to resolve the Canadian industry concerns regarding the expanded buy American requirement in the recent U.S. legislation. We are also working closely with the provinces and territories to secure immediate relief for Canadian businesses from the buy American provisions of the recovery act.

The provinces and the territories have truly stepped up to the plate. They have reached an unprecedented agreement on an ambitious package of sub-federal procurement commitments. This has given the government the consensus needed to engage the U.S. administration and seek an exemption for Canada from the buy American provisions of the recovery act.

Canada's proposal also seeks agreement from the United States to explore a permanent reciprocal government procurement agreement, an agreement that would help us avoid these kinds of challenges in the future. The government sent this proposal to the U.S. in late August and the Minister of International Trade announced that Canada's chief negotiator, Mr. Don Stephenson, assistant deputy minister, Trade Policy and Negotiations, would lead Canada's negotiations efforts.

Since then Canadian and U.S. negotiating teams have held several sessions to work toward an agreement on this issue.

Senior members of government, including thePrime Minister and the Minister of International Trade, continue to raise Canada's concerns with the buy American provisions at every opportunity, including at the Prime Minister's meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama and with key members of the Congress and the administration. As President Obama noted, our teams have been working together to ensure that these sources of tension diminish.

However, we are not stopping there. We also recognize the importance of getting our message out to all levels of decision makers in the U.S.

We are pursuing a robust advocacy strategy, building a coalition of U.S. allies to advocate in favour of keeping procurement markets open with Canada and engaging consuls general and the industry groups. Provinces and territories are supporting these efforts, while working to ensure that U.S. decision makers understand that open procurements are in the best interest of both our economies.

The Government of Canada has also undertaken traditional advocacy, delivering our messages directly to U.S. legislators, the U.S. trade representative, the secretary of commerce and their respective officials.

Finally, the government is conducting information sessions for Canadian industry to inform businesses about the opportunities created by the recovery act and strategies to access U.S. government procurement.

In particular, we are helping to clarify the process for obtaining waivers from the buy American requirements. A number of waivers have been issued so far for Canadian products, a testament not only to the integration of supply chains between Canada and the United States, but to the fact that the U.S. recognizes the importance of the integration.

For example, of the 17 project specific waivers issued by the Environmental Protection Agency, 10 have been for Canadian products, many of which are state of the art water treatment products.

Our efforts will continue in the time ahead. Both Canada and the United States depend on strong unfettered trade between our countries. Canadians can count on their government to work with our American counterparts at all levels to address this issue as quickly as possible.

I appreciate having the opportunity to address it here this evening.

6:45 p.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Liberal Willowdale, ON

Madam Speaker, I appreciate very much the comments from my colleague. I think we both appreciate the legion of other colleagues here to give us our respective support.

However, we continue to have the same problem of words. We have heard words, “we have been working”, “the provinces and territories have done their work”, which I have already acknowledged full credit there, “but we continue to raise Canada's concerns” and “there is a coalition of effort”.

These continue to be words. We have not seen any reduction in the buy American effort that requires U.S., states and municipalities to buy only U.S. steel, iron and manufactured goods when using any of the stimulus funds that have been provided by the U.S. federal government.

This continues to be a problem. Could the hon. member please provide some concrete answers to Cambridge Brass that has been based in southern Ontario for more than a century, but has acknowledged that this might be the final straw that causes the company to—

6:45 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The hon. parliamentary secretary.

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Conservative South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

On the contrary, Madam Speaker. We are moving forward. The Government of Canada is working hard on a number of fronts to keep markets open to Canadian suppliers, particularly in a time of global economic downturn.

Both the Prime Minister and the Minister of International Trade continue to raise Canada's concerns with the buy American provisions and press the U.S. for a quick resolution at every opportunity. Our objective is for both countries to partner in economic recovery by providing Canadian and American companies with secure, predictable access to procurement markets on both sides of the borders at all levels of government.

Quite frankly, these are not simply words. We have pursued this at every level. We are continuing to negotiate with the Americans and fully expect, at the end of the day, to have a better agreement in place than we presently do. Unfortunately, with the buy American provisions of the economic recovery act, it presents a challenge for us but that is a challenge we are working on non-stop 24/7 and we intend to overcome.

6:45 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:48 p.m.)