Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to respond to the hon. member's Bill C-392 now before us.
Let me be clear. The bill is yet another protectionist measure emanating from the benches opposite. It would require that every department and agency of the Government of Canada give preference to Canadian products when purchasing goods and services and when transferring funds to the provinces, municipalities and private parties. It would apply not only to every department and agency of the Government of Canada, but to any crown corporation and any foundation with 75% of its income or funding from the government.
The best way to promote jobs and growth in our country is not by protecting Canadians from foreign competition. Canadian workers and Canadian businesses can compete with anyone in the world. The best defence is always a good offence. Ask my London Knights. The best way to create jobs and growth is to guarantee that our products and services have access to markets worldwide. How do we do that? By ensuring world markets, including our open, stay open to competition.
The bill runs completely counter to world trends and the work of the last 20 years to guarantee Canada's access to international markets.
Beginning with the landmark Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, signed in 1988, the Government of Canada has entered into many free trade arrangements to ensure this access. These included agreements with Mexico, as part of the North American Free Trade Agreement, with Chile, Israel, Peru and Costa Rica and with Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, as part of the agreement of the European Free Trade Association.
As we look forward, we know that as a small market economy, Canada's future growth depends on our ability to reach markets beyond our own borders. That is why at the Canada-European Union Summit in Prague earlier this year, the Prime Minister announced the historical launch of negotiation toward an economic partnership between Canada and the 27 member states of the European Union.
Canada is and always will be a trading nation. Many of the first nations people who populated this land in early times were traders. When the first Europeans arrived on these shores, they traded manufactured goods for furs. Voyageurs paddled their canoes deep into the interior to trade with aboriginal peoples, while other first nations traded at outposts set up by the Hudson's Bay Company. The fur trade shaped the social, economic and political history of our country.
Make no mistake, today, trade continues to dramatically our lives. One in five jobs in Canada is linked to international trade. Why would any member opposite want to kill good Canadian jobs? Seventy per cent of our gross domestic product is dependent on it.
We are the second most open economy to trade in the G8. Consider, for example, the significance of our trade with the United States. Canada and the United States are each other's most important partner in economic growth. It is a partnership that has developed and grown over the last 20 years and, frankly, over its history.
Since the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement was signed in 1988, and then NAFTA in 1992, our bilateral trade has been one of the major components of economic growth. During those two decades, Canada-U.S. trade has tripled. Investment flows have also increased substantially. Two-way trade crosses the Canada-U.S. border at the rate of $1.6 billion a day. That is well over $1 million per minute.
Close to my city of London, trade over the Ambassador Bridge, connecting Windsor and Detroit, is greater than twice the value of all U.S. exports to Japan.
There are now over 40,000 exporting enterprises in Canada in areas ranging from information and cultural industries to finance and insurance and from construction to manufacturing.
An estimated three million jobs in Canada depend on our trade with the United States.
Given this scale of success, it is clear that protectionism is not Canada's friend; it is our mutual enemy. In fact, it is a threat to our economic recovery, a recovery that is nascent but remains fragile. Indeed, restrictions on trade could stifle the recovery that has just begun. That is because these restrictions reduce real growth prospects in both the developed and developing world, alike.
Protectionist policies might superficially look like an effective way of supporting economic growth, but our companies cannot compete if they are coddled. In fact, such actions prepare Canadian businesses not to complete on the world stage at all, but to fall behind.
In addition, we are committed to respecting and upholding our trade commitments with our partners, and we expect our partners to do the same.
Our government is committed to building to Canada's capacity to successfully participate in the ever-changing global economy. Through our Advantage Canada initiative, we have taken important steps to create the right conditions for Canadian businesses to compete here and abroad.
Our plan lays out five key advantages that make up the groundwork for even greater prosperity for Canadian businesses and individuals, both today and in the future. Key among these are our tax advantages. A competitive business tax system that is responsive to changes in the economic environment is important to encourage investment, growth and job creation in all regions of Canada.
To come out of this global recession, we need to continue trade as free of barriers as possible. We just have to look at our history. If the great depression taught us anything at all, it is that the downward spiral of protectionism only leads to a more dire situation. That is why our economic action plan protects Canadians during the global downturn, not by restricting trade but by promoting it.
Our Budget Implementation Act revoked additional tariffs to increase international trade. This plan works to create new good jobs for the future and to equip our country for success in the years ahead.
We are acting through the most appropriate means to protect our economy and Canadians affected by the downturn. That includes the tax system, the employment insurance program and direct spending by federal and provincial governments. It includes lending by crown corporations and partnerships with the private sector.
The plan, which is among the largest fiscal stimulus packages in the world, is working. For the first time in a generation, Canada's unemployment rate is a full percentage point less than the United States rate.
Furthermore, the International Monetary Fund forecasts that Canada will be among the least affected by the global downturn this year and our recovery will be one of the strongest among G7 countries in 2010.
What our plan leaves behind is protectionism in the dustbin of history where it belongs. Canadians know we cannot build a fortress and lock ourselves inside. We must continue to engage with the world and work together to solve common challenges.
I believe the evidence before us can only lead to one conclusion. For the sake of Canada, for the sake of our families and the sake of our kids, I call on my colleagues in the House to oppose the bill.