This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #6 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was agreements.

Topics

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

When debate was interrupted prior to question period, the hon. member for Berthier—Maskinongé had the floor. He has 15 minutes to complete his remarks.

The member for Berthier—Maskinongé.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for allowing me to continue my remarks. I will repeat part of my speech on Bill C-2 An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the States of the European Free Trade Association. Earlier, I examined the advantages and disadvantages of this agreement. There are, of course, more advantages than disadvantages and this is why we are supporting this free trade agreement.

One major disadvantage, however, involves the shipbuilding industry. We in fact tabled a motion with the Standing Committee on International Trade to have government support the shipbuilding industry in the coming years. When this agreement comes into effect, Norway's significant investment in its industry could pose a threat to the economic viability of some Quebec and Canadian businesses.

I continue in this regard. We might well expect that Swiss pharmaceutical companies might consider manufacturing their products in Quebec in an effort to penetrate the American market more easily. This would be an advantage for Quebec and would mean more investment there. This is one reason we support the agreement.

Let us take a look at the case of Norway. Nickel represents over 80% of Canada's exports to Norway. This is another advantage. The largest mine in Canada, which belongs to a Swiss company and is third largest in the world, is located in Quebec, in Ungava. So the agreement could significantly benefit Quebec and its mining industry.

I could list other benefits, but, overall, we support this agreement because it offers sizeable trading possibilities for Quebeckers. It has the added benefit of not incorporating the failings of previous agreements. For example, as we all know, the North American Free Trade Agreement and the agreements with Costa Rica and Chile contain an unfortunate chapter on investment. There is the agreement the Conservatives have just signed with Colombia, a country with a poor human rights, labour and environmental record, which is not the case in this agreement. The chapter in question allows businesses to sue a government adopting measures that limit their profits.

This sort of provision is not contained in the free trade agreement with Europe, which pleases the Bloc Québécois. In short, these four European countries respect human rights and, of course, workers' rights.

I should also say that the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the States of the European Free Trade Association covers only goods and not services. This provision ensures that services to the public will not be opened to competition, whether they are provided by the government or not, because they are simply not included. The same is true of financial services. Bankers will therefore not be exposed to competition from the famously efficient Swiss banking system.

This is also true of government procurement. The federal government will be able to give preference to Canadian suppliers, except as provided in the WTO agreement on public procurement. This is very important because the federal government is the largest purchaser of goods and services in Canada.

I would also like to mention agriculture and especially supply management. My colleague from Richmond—Arthabaska tabled a motion protecting supply management in Quebec and Canada. This is also very important in my riding of Berthier—Maskinongé. The Bloc Québécois and our colleague, who had this motion passed, will continue to defend supply management and insist on preserving it in its entirety.

We do not think that this agreement poses any threat to the integrity of the supply management system. We are very proud of how we protect supply management, hence the importance of the Bloc Québécois, which made sure that this motion was passed. We believe that our farmers and consumers are best served by this system.

It is hardly surprising that the Bloc Québécois would continue to insist on preserving the supply management system under this agreement. We are satisfied with the bilateral agricultural accords in it because goods produced under supply management are still protected, and that is the important thing.

The agricultural agreement with Switzerland provides for the elimination of the within-quota tariff, but this applies only to the market segment already covered by imports. The elimination of this tariff will therefore have only a marginal impact on our dairy farmers because the tariff quotas and the over-quota tariffs stay the same. We should also not forget that milk proteins are excluded from the agreement. On the other hand—and this is very important—the elimination of the 7% tariff under this agreement makes it even more imperative for the federal government to maintain a firm position at the WTO, that is to say, supply management is simply non-negotiable and the Bloc Québécois will continue to insist that the supply management system be defended in its entirety at the WTO. I hope that the Conservatives and their Liberal friends—who sometimes surprise us, as with the passage of this budget—have fully understood this message.

However, we are worried about the future of our shipyards. I spoke about this a little bit before question period, but I want to come back to this very important point within this agreement. At present, imported vessels are subject to a 25% tariff. Under the agreement, these tariffs will gradually decrease and will be completely phased out in 15 years. Obviously the planned adjustment period will not be useful unless it is coupled with a vigorous adjustment and modernization program for shipyards.

Norway has grasped this quite well. In recent years, the Norwegian government has invested heavily in modernizing its shipyards. Because it receives support from its government, the industry in Norway is now productive and highly competitive in foreign markets. In Canada, the federal government, be it Liberal or Conservative, has done nothing to support our shipbuilding industry. It has not supported shipbuilding since 1988. The Liberals and Conservatives have totally neglected, if not abandoned, our shipyards to the point where today they are less modern, less productive and thus less and less competitive in international markets.

With this free trade agreement, the federal government cannot drag its heels any longer. We have 15 years—a decent amount of time—to prepare ourselves before the tariffs on imported vessels are phased out completely, hence the importance of implementing a real maritime policy. This is the only recommendation that was included in the report from the Standing Committee on International Trade and it was part of a Bloc Québécois motion moved at this committee.

This is the motion, and I hope that the government will take action to this effect:

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

The purpose of the motion was to urge the government to take action and introduce a comprehensive support strategy for the shipbuilding industry, a strategy to facilitate the industry's access to capital, stimulate investment, give preference to local suppliers in public procurement and, of course, encourage shipowners to buy their ships here at home.

After so many years of government inaction and apathy with respect to the many challenges facing our shipbuilding industry, the federal government must bring forward, without delay, an effective, comprehensive policy to support and develop the shipbuilding sector in Quebec and Canada.

When it comes to supporting industrial sectors that are experiencing problems, the Conservative government practises a laissez-faire approach. For shipyards, as for the manufacturing sector—a major presence in my riding, Berthier—Maskinongé—in which Quebec has lost thousands of jobs, we believe that this laissez-faire policy is totally irresponsible and must stop.

I have to say that, in light of the Conservatives' most recent budget, which received Liberal support, we will have to devote a lot of energy to making sure that the federal government does not abandon Quebec's shipbuilding industry. In the latest budget, the Conservative leader chose to respond to the demands of Ontario and its automotive industry by offering some $4 billion in assistance, while Quebec's manufacturing sector will be getting just a few million dollars.

These measures, which are unfair to Quebec and were supported by the leader of the Liberal Party, are further proof that we must be vigilant. Let me make it very clear that we still believe this free trade agreement is a good thing, and we support it. But we have to insist that the federal government bring forward an effective plan to help the shipbuilding industry. Promises are not enough when it comes to this.

I would like to close by emphasizing that I think this free trade agreement is a step in the right direction. As I said earlier before question period, I think it is important to diversify our markets and reduce our dependency on U.S. markets. This agreement with the European Free Trade Association is a good one, but it is limited. What we really want is the power to sign a free trade agreement with the European Union that will produce meaningful, productive results in all of our trade with European countries.

Although the four countries that make up this association represent only 1% of Canadian imports, the European Union has 495 million inhabitants who generate nearly 31% of global gross domestic product. The fact that Canada has not yet signed a free trade agreement with the European Union considerably diminishes the competitiveness of our businesses on the European market. It is important to note, for example, that Mexico has had a free trade agreement with the European Union since 2000. Thus, a company that does business in Mexico would definitely have a greater interest in moving part of its production there, since that would open up access to the European market, while maintaining its access to the American market through NAFTA. This situation must be corrected.

We support the agreement we are discussing here today, but negotiations must be ramped up, so that a free trade agreement between Canada and the European Union can finally be reached. Furthermore, a free trade agreement with the European Union would also prove beneficial in terms of investments. Indeed, together with NAFTA, the agreement would make it attractive for European companies to use Quebec and Canada as their gateway to the North American market and consequently to move some of their production here.

As a final point, since nearly 40% of European investments in Canada are in Quebec, it would certainly be a desirable location for European companies that want to invest in North America. We hope this government will quickly reach an agreement with the European Union, because it would be the best way to diversify our economy.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I understand the premise of my colleague's comments that trade deals are not inherently a bad thing. If they can assist our economy, our workers and our material products, that is a good thing, but the reality is that in every trade deal one has to trade something away to get something back.

In an earlier intervention, my colleague indicated that this is possibly a very good deal for pharmaceutical companies, but as he has pointed out, it is not such a great deal for shipbuilding companies. In fact, in 2001, gentlemen he is probably aware of, Philippe Tremblay, Les Holloway, Peter Cairns and Peter Woodward, along with Brian Tobin, the industry minister at the time, came up with some recommendations. The document, “Breaking Through”, gave five recommendations for the shipbuilding industry. Unfortunately, it is eight years later and not one of those recommendations has been implemented.

If this bill ends up in committee and the government refuses to accept any amendments that would assist in aiding the shipbuilding industry, will he on behalf of his party continue to support this deal, if there are no improvements in the deal for the shipbuilding industry in this country and in Quebec?

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague from the NDP for his question. I would also like to point out to him that, of course, this bill has been referred to committee. As he knows full well, a Bloc Québécois motion currently before the committee calls upon the government to provide greater support for shipbuilding.

Together with the NDP and Liberal members who voted for the motion, we will press the government to take action to support shipbuilding. However, as the hon. member indicated, other aspects of this agreement promote Quebec's interests and meet its needs.

Reference was made to the pharmaceutical industry, which we think is a very important industry, but we must not forget the nickel industry, nickel representing 80% of our exports. The largest nickel mine in Ungava is owned by a Swiss corporation. Aluminum is the main export product in Iceland as well. Again, production is overwhelmingly concentrated in Quebec. These are all reasons for us to support Bill C-2.

Of course, I agree with the hon. member: when the Bloc Québécois votes in favour of a bill in this House, it is always with the needs and interests of Quebeckers in mind. As long as this bill meets the needs and aspirations of Quebec, we will support it. Should the bill be referred to committee and no longer meet the Bloc's expectations, we will have to reconsider.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague a question. Just this morning I asked the Minister of International Trade a question about measures for the shipbuilding industry.

We know very well that Norway, a party to this free trade agreement, provided very large subsidies for many years to its industry to develop its expertise and global competitiveness. Given the new guidelines for direct subsidies to industries, Norway now has less leeway.

Today, to compete with Norway and shipbuilding firms from all over the world, Canadian and Quebec shipbuilders need a certain amount of assistance in order to modernize while tariffs are being phased out. This process will start in three years and will take place over 15 years. The Bloc Québécois presented several measures in this regard and firmly believes that the government should implement them.

I would like to go back to the question I asked the minister this morning. Rather than stating that he would be introducing measures to assist with the development of the shipbuilding industry, he merely stated that he would be watching carefully that Norway does not provide further subsidies. However, that is not the problem. If we want to have a healthy shipbuilding industry, we need to have measures in place.

I would ask my colleague to elaborate on the measures presented by the Bloc Québécois.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned in my remarks, the Bloc Québécois has put forward various measures. My colleague from Sherbrooke referred to one in his question to the minister. In the budget, $175 million is to go towards promote shipbuilding and refitting, among other things. With this agreement, the government can promote local purchasing, in Quebec and Canada, for new vessel construction. This is a step toward encouraging and supporting shipbuilding. In the case of bus manufacturing, as one example, the government spent our money in dealings with countries outside Quebec and Canada. This does not help our industries. This is a specific measure. Money has been allocated to promoting buying in Quebec and Canadian.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with considerable interest to the remarks by my colleague, a former member of the Standing Committee on International Trade. I have a question for him.

In the case of softwood lumber, we saw the mistake the Bloc unfortunately made. We know just what a mistake it was to vote in favour of an agreement that cost tens of thousands of jobs in Quebec. The bill before us will do the same thing. Jobs will no doubt be lost in the shipbuilding industry in Quebec. The Conservative government will not admit this. That is their style.

I want to know whether the Bloc members are prepared to vote with the NDP to block this bill. We know it will do more harm than good to industry in Quebec and throughout Canada. It will hurt industry.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, the question from my colleague and my former colleague on the Standing Committee on International Trade is a good one. He raises the matter of softwood lumber. It is a very good question, and I have had discussions with him a number of times to help him understand that we, the Bloc Québécois, are here to defend the interests and aspirations of Quebeckers. When the softwood lumber agreement came along, unions and a number of businesses, such as Conseil de l'industrie forestière du Québec with Guy Chevrette, told us to support it. We did. We consulted all the economic players concerned with the Quebec forestry industry, which were unfortunately caught in a financial stranglehold, and they told us to sign—

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

By the Liberals and Conservatives.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

They were being strangled by the Liberals and Conservatives, as my colleague from Sherbrooke has said. So, they told us to sign the agreement.

In the case of this free trade agreement with the European free trade association, we will work along the same lines. If the agreement meets the needs and aspirations of Quebec, we will support it. If it does not, we will oppose it. In the present context, and as I said earlier, we support this free trade agreement in a number of sectors, such as that of the pharmaceutical industry, nickel and aluminum. Shipbuilding needs more attention in this agreement. We will work on it in committee.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank the House for the opportunity to discuss one of my favourite subjects, which is shipbuilding. Since I arrived here in June 1997, it is one of the issues that I have been raising over and over and over again. In fact, our party is the only political party that has a designated critic for the shipbuilding industry and that is because we understand the vital importance of this industry to our economy from coast to coast to coast and within our inland waters.

I also want to thank my colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster for his great work not only on the softwood lumber deal, on which he has proven to be correct time and time again, but now on the EFTA deal and the effect it will have on shipbuilders. I am not going to reiterate his speech in the House, but he quoted verbatim various people from labour and industry, as well as consultants who work in the industry and follow the industry very closely. It is their livelihood. When they appeared before the committee, they mentioned their concerns and the murky waters that Canada is getting into when it comes to this agreement and the effect it will have on the shipbuilding industry.

We have looked at it very carefully and the reality is this agreement will do no good for this particular industry. I know that does not sound proper English, but I do not have my thesaurus with me, so I will muddle through this. The reality is the EFTA deal will not be of any benefit at all to our shipbuilding industry. We hear consistently from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade that our shipbuilders can compete with anybody in the world. He is absolutely correct, but the reality is it is very difficult to compete against a country like Norway, whose industry has been heavily subsidized for over 30 years.

We do not have much of a problem with Liechtenstein, Iceland or Switzerland. They are great countries. In other aspects of our society, when it comes to shrimp products, blueberries, possibly pharmaceuticals and others, this deal would probably be beneficial for both sides. There is nothing wrong with getting into trade deals with countries that have modern civil rights, human rights, environmental standards and labour standards. This is what we should be doing to lift the rising tides of all workers and companies in all of those countries.

However, we notice that the government signed a trade deal with Colombia. Colombia has openly had a bounty on labour personnel. If a person in the labour union is killed, there is a particular bounty. Many people from the religious and labour sectors have disappeared in Colombia and we hear from the parliamentary secretary that the Conservatives had concerns about this when they signed the deal. Well, they never should have signed the deal unless those human rights violations were addressed and stopped immediately. That is how one works on getting a proper deal.

Getting back to EFTA, the reality of the situation is that in every free trade agreement that has been signed by the United States since 1924, America, our largest trading partner, has carved out and excluded shipbuilding and marine industries from the discussions. If the United States of America, our largest trading partner, can do that, why cannot Canada? In fact, I would like to see anyone from the Liberal Party or the Conservative Party stand up and tell us in what industry, in what area we have ever asked for a carve out on anything.

We are also very concerned about our farmers and future trade deals through the WTO and all those other things and what is going to happen to supply management. As we know, when members of the Reform Party came to this House, they were opposed to supply management. Just recently, they had an epiphany and now vocally state that they support supply management. If the parliamentary secretary is to be taken at his word that our shipbuilders should be able to compete with the entire world without any protective barriers, then would the same not apply to our farmers? We know New Zealand and other countries want to get rid of our supply management, but we say no to them because we want to protect supply management. We are willing to protect a vital industry in our country called agriculture. We support that, but why then can those same principles not apply to shipbuilding?

Ever since 1924 the United States has carved out this industry from them. When we entered into a free trade deal with the United States in the 1980s, Senator Pat Carney from B.C. was there. The United States brought in the Jones act which excluded shipbuilding and marine services exclusively from the trade deal with Canada. Why did it do that? Because in order to operate between New York and Florida, it has to be American built, American registered and American crude. We do not have those rules in Canada. The reality is that an American ship from Chicago can come to areas of Atlantic Canada, pick up goods and bring them back. We do not have the ability to do that with the United States because of that carve out.

When it comes to the EFTA deal, the serious concern we have is the Norwegian component. Norway is very, very anxious to get its hands on our industry, not just for the ships themselves, but also for future oil and gas exploration that may happen off the coast of British Columbia, that may happen in our Arctic and that will continue to happen on the east coast. That is really what Norway is going for.

We have heard time and time again from the Liberals and the Conservatives that we are going to build ships here in Canada. I remember my colleague from Halifax West who said in 2005 not to worry, that we are going to build those Coast Guard vessels right here in Canada. It is 2009 and we still have not built them.

I love the way the Conservatives framed the budget. First of all, I want to give them credit. They actually mentioned shipbuilding in the budget, but they know and I know that we need an investment of $22 billion to reinvest in our industry for the military, the Coast Guard, the laker and the ferry fleets. What did the Conservatives present? There is $175 million for a bunch of smaller vessels. We call it the canoe budget, not that there is anything wrong with canoes, but the reality is a canoe will not do very much at the 200 mile limit off the east coast when we encounter people who are spilling oil into our waters, or raping and pillaging our fish stocks, or bringing in illegal immigrants, or drug interdictions. They are not going to do much to stop them.

We also had a contract for our joint supplies vessels and that was cancelled by the government because it lowballed the bid when it out to tender. The mayor of Marystown, Newfoundland, Sam Synard, has asked repeatedly that this contract get back on the table so those people can get back to work. The Washington yards, the Marystown yards, the Halifax yards, the Port Weller yards, and the Davie yards in Quebec all deserve to have these contracts now. We have $22 billion worth of work to do just on the domestic side and it could be done over a 20 year period.

In 2001 the then industry minister, Mr. Brian Tobin, said very clearly that he wanted to have a report on the status of the shipbuilding industry and where to go forward. Four members of that committee came up with five major recommendations to assist the industry. Not one of those recommendations has moved forward yet.

One of the biggest ones we have asked for repeatedly from the Liberals and the Conservatives and have been denied each time, although we did get bits of it, is that structured facility financing be incorporated over a five year period and on top of that, accelerated capital allowances for five years. That would assist this industry and would go a long way in employing thousands of people. We would buy Canadian materials, such as steel, and get the ships built that Canada so desperately needs. What did we get? We got structured facility financing for a couple of years and accelerated capital allowances for a couple of years, but never the full recommendation that we asked for. The reason the finance department gives is it did not want to give this industry a double benefit.

We have said repeatedly that all we wish the government would do is pay half as much attention to shipbuilding as it does to the aerospace industry. If it did that, our industry would be on solid footing right now, and quite possibly, the EFTA deal would not have such a devastating effect upon our industry. But it will, because the government has refused to initiate the recommendations of that 2001 report. It has refused repeatedly my requests, questions, statements, news conferences, representations and recommendations and those from people throughout the industry. We have to ask ourselves why.

In 2003 I was sitting in this House when the then finance minister of Canada, John Manley, said, “Shipbuilding is a sunset industry”. When he said that, it all came to light. It was very devastating when he said that. We realize there are many in the bureaucracy who would love to see the end of the shipbuilding industry and who would trade it off for something else, for example, pharmaceuticals, farm products or whatever it is. We think that is absolutely wrong. We saw what happened in Newfoundland and Labrador when fish was traded off for other industries in these trade deals. It was devastating to that province.

What we are asking for is what the people who work in these industries are asking for. They want to know that when it comes to Canadian procurement, they will get the jobs. They also want to know that they can compete worldwide. It is very difficult to compete against a country like Norway which has subsidized its industry for over 30 years while we are not doing anything to help ours.

We did do one thing. During the frigate program we gave the Irving company an awful lot of money to upgrade the Saint John yard. The mistake was that the frigates were built more or less at once and then the yard was shut down, and the Irvings were given another $55 million of taxpayers' money to shut it down. It was one of the most advanced shipyards in North America, and it was shut down. After the comment by John Manley, people started to believe that the industry was in a sunset phase and there was no sense in building ships.

How many western nations in the world actually have their military vessels built somewhere else? The JSS would be a great program for Canada. In 2002 I was part of a defence committee report that recommended sealift capability be initiated very quickly in this country. It is seven years later and we are still waiting.

During the 2006 campaign, the future defence minister told folks not to worry. I remember the press conference very well. There was a big map of the Arctic. He said that if elected in 2006, the Conservatives would build three armed icebreakers. Well, it is 2009. I wonder where those armed icebreakers are. That is another broken promise.

In the last election campaign we heard the Conservatives say that they would build a $780 million icebreaker called the Diefenbaker. When is it going to come? It is not in the estimates and it is not in the budget. We are $34 billion in the hole now, and the projection is to go to $84 billion in the hole. When is this project going to happen? We simply do not know.

With respect to coast guard replacement vessels, we get the smaller version, a fraction of what is required. It is still not enough. When is the JSS going to come? Our men and women who sail the seas, who serve our country, deserve better protection than that. They deserve to have the equipment they need.

We do not need to sacrifice our industries at the altar of the free trade deal when it comes to EFTA. EFTA has some good points; we are not arguing that. However, we want to make sure that shipbuilding is exempted from this deal, that it is carved out. Then the government can trade all it wants.

If the Bloc Québécois or the Liberals allow this deal to carry forward as it is, it is going to have a devastating effect on the shipbuilding industry across the country. I would ask them to go to the Davie yard and tell the shipyard workers that they are prepared to give up shipbuilding for aluminum, tin, pharmaceuticals or other industries.

We are asking the Bloc Québécois to join us in stopping this deal from going forward, to make sure our shipbuilding industry is protected. It does not necessarily mean putting x number of dollars in a budget on domestic procurement for small vessels. That does not protect the industry. Our big shipyards need to have long-term projects. Just imagine if we had already initiated the recommendations from the 2000 report, “Breaking Through”. A lot of people would not have had to leave Newfoundland and Labrador or Halifax to find work elsewhere. Those people could be back working in the yards making good money and looking after their families.

Why would we not do this?

I know when my good friend and colleague, the member for Welland, speaks on it, he will have personal stories of what happened in the Welland yards.

There we are with the great lakes and the beautiful laker fleets that need to be replaced. What a perfect place to get them done.

The reality is that we do not know yet what we are paying them now. The people have to move away. The reality is that we have $22 billion worth of work to do on the domestic side, which would aid these companies in competing internationally for foreign work and for other work in the oil and gas sector and so on. The longer we delay it, the longer these yards are going to suffer. How many of these yards will be left in a couple of years if we do not do it? If we do not have the yards and we do not have the tradespeople and we do not have the industry, then who is going to build our coast guard and military vessels of tomorrow? Who is going to build the ferries and the laker fleets of tomorrow?

Oh, I know. I have a suggestion.

Recently the British Columbia Ferry Services and the B.C. government had three ferries built in Germany for over $550 million. That was $550 million of British Columbia money, and it did not create one job in British Columbia.

What are they asking for now? They told us it is cheaper to have these ferries built in Germany. If that is the case, how do they explain that if they had been built in Canada, B.C. and the federal government would have got 40¢ back on the dollar through GST and other income taxes? That money was not even accounted for.

Then what did British Columbia Ferry Services do? It asked its friend David Emerson, who used to be head of the B. C. ferry services, for a waiver reduction on the import fees of over $20 million. If it was cheaper to build them in Germany, why would it ask for that waiver? We hope this government does not grant that waiver. It should get them to pay it. That money should go directly into British Columbia to aid and assist in the shipbuilding industry. That is where it should be going.

The next time any province or Canada wants to build vessels, it should look inside its own yards and create jobs right here in Canada. What is wrong with using Canadian taxpayers' dollars, Canadian ingenuity, Canadian industry and Canadian shipyards to build Canadian vessels? Who can be opposed to that?

The Conservatives can, and the previous Liberals could, because this did not start with the Conservatives. It started long ago with the Liberals. Through various elections, it has withered away, in a sense. I give my colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster a lot of credit. He has done everything in his power to delay this thing and to get the message out about what the Conservatives are about to do to our industry.

A declining scale on tariffs does not cut it. Norway can easily eat that up and end up going after our industries. This is not the deal that would protect the industry.

If I were talking about pharmaceuticals or blueberries or shrimp, I would say it was a great deal and we should go for it, but we are talking about an industry worth $22 billion just for domestic procurement. It does not include all the other work they could possibly bid and tender for in years to come, including the oil and gas sector, foreign vessels, and so on.

There are five major yards and a bunch of smaller ones left in this country. There is absolutely no reason that those yards could not be singing and humming and hiring thousands of workers.

We talk about an economic stimulus package. We were told in December by the Minister of Defence, the minister responsible for Nova Scotia, that shipbuilding would be a part of the stimulus package in this budget. That is not so. That did not happen.

What we are asking of not only him but of that entire caucus over there is to look in themselves, go down to the shipyards and tell those shipyard workers that they will do everything they can to provide protection for their jobs, protection that would extend into any foreign deals we make with other countries. If the United States can invoke the Jones act and carve out shipbuilding in deals with us, then we should be able to do the same, not only with the United States but also with other countries, including EFTA.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is well renowned for his work on the shipbuilding sector.

One of the interesting comments in his speech referred to defence procurement policy, especially as it relates the the United States. Under our current agreement it is different from the discussion we are having about buying American right now.

To be clear, the United States is pursuing a potential buy-American clause in its proposed fiscal update and stimulus package. Americans already have in existing legislation a bill that protects defence procurement contracts and has them go to their industries. This is a normal part of the NAFTA relationship that we have. It is something they have seen revitalize their economy. It is also to provide national strategic supports for their military. This is important because if the manufacturing base is hollowed out, they won't even be able to defend their own country.

In contrast, in Canada the Conservative government, supported by the Liberals, recently awarded a quarter billion dollar project for trucks to be built in Texas. The sad thing is that a plant we saved a few years ago in Chatham, Ontario, can actually build those same trucks with minor modifications. That plant is being closed and moved to Mexico and hundreds of workers are being fired, yet a quarter billion dollar contract is being awarded to Texas. This makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

This is within the current structure of our negotiations with the United States. It is something that we simply understand we would do. We do not contest when they have similar procedures in the United States. I would like to ask my friend to comment on that.

The budget promises some coastal vessels. My friend has referred to them as “canoes”. At the same time, we want to make sure they will be built here in Canada.

How can we believe that what is going to take place will actually stimulate our economy when we know that under these truck provisions, the Navistar truck plant is closing down despite saving all those jobs and despite the fact that it can produce the same vehicle that is going to be produced in Texas? I wonder if my colleague could respond to that.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I tend to believe that only the Conservatives would allow a quarter billion dollars of Canadian taxpayers' money to fly south to Texas and take all our jobs with it. It is unbelievable.

I remember the old glossy photos, the blue ones with a big C in them that looked like a Kremlin symbol with a star in it. I remember a big Conservative sign that said, “Stand Up for Canada”. All I have ever seen Conservative members do is sit down for Canada. All those jobs in Chatham, Ontario, are one shining example.

Those Canadian workers were proudly building military vehicles for our men and women who serve us not only domestically but overseas as well. Let members imagine what a novel idea it would be to use Canadian tax dollars to employ Canadian workers to build Canadian vehicles for the Canadian military. Colour me wrong, but if that is such a far-off, left of centre, leftist idea or socialist dogma, then call me a socialist. I happen to think it is a pretty good idea.

I would love to see one Conservative member go to Chatham, Ontario, and tell those workers and their families why they cannot do that work. We in the NDP can prove to them that with the right policies, those trucks could have been built to high quality in Canada, and probably at a better price than we would get in Texas.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am certain that during the Speech from the Throne and the fall budget, the NDP member lost any inkling of confidence in the Conservative government, as did we. We can hear it in his remarks; it is obvious.

As for government procurement, my colleague also knows that the government, within this free trade agreement, remains perfectly free to purchase in Canada, subject to the WTO agreement on government procurement, of course.

Furthermore, we see on page 172 of the 2009 budget, Canada's economic action plan, that, “The Government is investing $175 million on a cash basis for the procurement of new Coast Guard vessels and to undertake vessel life extensions and refits for aging vessels.” In this case, the government felt it had to specify “on a cash basis” because it wants to tell people that it will invest this year. “While contracts have not yet been awarded, work will be conducted in Canada.”

And just because there is a small component on page 172 that could help Canada's shipbuilding industry does not mean that we should vote for the budget. Overall, we know what it is and since the trust has been broken, we do not believe all of the Conservative Party promises.

Does the member not believe that we will be able to influence the government so that it will give the shipbuilding industry a chance to develop over the 15 year period when the vessel tariffs are in the process of completely disappearing?

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

He is right, Mr. Speaker. Time and time again we have seen grandiose promises from the Conservatives broken.

When we are asking for $22 billion over 20 years and we get $175 million, do we say thanks? Sure. We will thank the government for the mention in the budget and for that small amount.

The major yards will not be doing that small work. The reality is that a lot of this work will go to the smaller yards, which is good for them. We are glad to see that will happen.

However, there is absolutely no guarantee they will follow through. A company in Pictou, Nova Scotia, the defence minister's own riding, made knives for years for the military. It is gone. Its workers are laid off. Those knives are now being made in China.

If the defence minister cannot protect an industry in his own riding, how can I possibly hope that the Conservatives, in any way, shape or form, will protect anything when it comes to the shipbuilding industry?

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Edmonton Centre Alberta

Conservative

Laurie Hawn ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, the only thing I can guarantee to the House is that the member and his party will vote against every vote that comes to support the military or to support veterans.

We have been talking about support to shipbuilding. The budget and the economic action plan show that we are building 98 coast guard ships, we are refurbishing 40 more coast guard ships, and we have the Canada First defence strategy, which will spend billions of dollars on ships over a 20-year period. That work will be done in Canada. If that is not supporting a shipbuilding industry, then I do not know what is.

With respect to his comments on the truck bid, nobody else bid. It is very hard to give jobs to people who do not ask for the jobs and do not bid for the jobs.

I wish the hon. member would simply stick to the facts and quit pretending he actually supports the military, whereas in fact he votes against every single contract and every single budget that supports the military. He and his party vote against them. He should cut the hypocrisy and stick with the facts.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, let us go through it.

VIP promised every widow of World War II and Korea would get a benefit immediately. A budget came out two and a half years later. It was less than 10%.

We were told that every person in Gagetown affected by the spraying of Agent Orange from 1958 to 1984 would be covered. That was nonsense. It was for 1966 and 1967 only.

As for the SISIP clawback, the former defence minister said the government would fix it. It still has not been done.

We could go on to the other issues of the clawback of their pensions.

Recently, on September 9, 2008, the Prime Minister told Polish veterans at a hall that if the government were elected, it would institute the allied veterans war allowance for all those allied veterans. It is not in the estimates and it is not in the budget, so if anyone is talking about hypocrisy toward our veterans, it is that member and that government over there.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, after that despicable display by the Conservatives, we should get back to the subject, which is the European Free Trade Association agreement.

We know the Conservatives will not even stand in the House to defend this agreement anymore. They are simply absolving themselves from any responsibility for the bill.

I would like to thank the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore for his work in protecting the shipbuilding industry and standing up for veterans, and I would like to ask him a question. Why are the Conservatives so embarrassed by the bill?

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I can only deduce that many of the members of the Conservative Party do not have shipyards in their ridings. If they did, they would have a better understanding of the issue.

I remember when they were in opposition. I remember the Reform Party in 1997. I remember that the Alliance and the Conservative Party, before they were in government, used to stand up for shipbuilding in this country. Now it seems they are sitting down.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Guimond Bloc Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate on Bill C-2, which should lead to the implementation of the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the European Free Trade Association. The Standing Committee on International Trade has already studied it and I am glad to be able to add my thoughts to the current debate.

The Bloc Québécois has already indicated that it is generally in favour of this agreement. We think that it is a good agreement, especially for the Quebec economy. There are attractive opportunities for us in the countries that are signing it. Whether in pharmaceuticals, nickel mining or aluminum exports, Quebec is very well positioned and will surely benefit from its advantages. This does not mean, though, that the agreement is perfect. We have serious concerns, especially in regard to the inclusion of shipbuilding. The Bloc expressed these concerns in the supplementary opinion it attached to the committee report, and I would like to take this opportunity to draw this issue again to the attention of the members.

The future of our shipyards is very important to Quebec and especially eastern Quebec. This region lies along the shores of the St. Lawrence River, the largest navigable waterway in the world, and shipbuilding is an important part of its economy. This free trade agreement will therefore have a direct impact on the people of my region in a few years. That impact will be positive or negative depending on the choice that the government makes today.

Shipbuilding has suffered for many years from a flagrant lack of government support. Our shipyards have fallen well behind the Norwegian ones, and Norway is one of the signatories of this agreement. While Norway has been investing massively for years in modernizing its shipyards, it is sad to say that the federal government has long been ignoring our shipbuilders. There is no real marine sector policy in Canada today, and the results over the next few years could be very bad.

Under the existing agreement, the most sensitive shipbuilding products will enjoy a gradual reduction in tariffs for a period of up to 15 years in some cases. After that adjustment period, no tariff protection will be allowed, and vessels from Norway, for example, will enter the Canadian and Quebec market to compete on par with our ships. This would not be a problem, except that we lag far behind in this area. If our borders were to open wide tomorrow morning to the competition, our shipyards would disappear. And that would be very unfortunate, since our shipyards are essential for economic, strategic and environmental reasons. Now the question remains: how will our marine industry look 15 years from now?

If the past is any indication, we have every reason to be extremely pessimistic about the survival of this industry, given the increased foreign competition. Clearly, if the federal government continues to ignore the needs of our shipyards and refuses to take action to support them, we will definitely see them gradually deteriorate over the next 15 years. That is why the Bloc Québécois presented an important recommendation to the Standing Committee on International Trade in advance of this agreement taking effect. The recommendation reads, “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”.

That was the only recommendation made in the report. The Conservatives never see any problems with their policies and the Liberals, as usual, failed to propose any recommendations. The NDP, in its predictable opposition to free trade, opposed the agreement altogether.

The Bloc Québécois recommendation, which finally received the committee's support and was included in its report, meets the expectations of many shipbuilders in Canada and Quebec. Even though they have no hope of seeing their sector excluded from the agreement, they do expect the government to act quickly and forcefully. We read in the report that, according to representatives of shipbuilders and marine workers:

...without combined access to the SFF and ACCA, the impact of the agreement would be devastating to the industry and would lead to job losses. In their view, this additional government support was critical if the Canadian industry was to survive increased competition from Norwegian producers.

Some will say that Norway has announced that it has stopped subsidizing its shipbuilders and that that will enable Canada to compete on a level playing field with that country. But what are we doing to make up for all the years when there were no subsidies here, while Norway was achieving the high level of competitiveness it enjoys today, thanks to generous government support? Quite simply, there needs to be a dramatic shift in the federal approach to the marine industry, which means abandoning the laissez-faire policy the Liberals and Conservatives have followed to date.

I am happy that we are holding this debate on the trade agreement with the European Free Trade Association, because it reveals how fragile our marine industry is in the face of foreign competition and forces us to take a stand on these issues quickly. It is not the agreement that is bad, but our policy. That is why a change of direction is imperative. In 5 or 10 years, it will be too late. We must act now. With a few targeted measures, our shipyards can become modern, productive, financially healthy and extremely competitive. The biggest problem to date has been the lack of political will to change things, and it is high time that changed too.

Of all the aspects of this free trade agreement, this one concerned me the most. The other aspects of the agreement, including agriculture, seem to be well handled and in line with Quebec's interests. I would just like to add, as some of my colleagues have already pointed out, that this free trade agreement may open the door to a future agreement with the European Union. We must seize the opportunity when it arises and, more importantly, be ready to compete.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, because the tariff will be reduced to zero over 15 years, with the phase-out to begin after a three-year waiting period, the recommendation by the Standing Committee on International Trade suggested that the government adopt a vigorous policy to promote the development of the shipbuilding industry. In fact, the government should adopt that kind of policy, to be implemented as quickly as possible.

It must be recalled that for the 10 years that negotiations went on, particularly in 2000, the Shipbuilding Association of Canada did not agree with the government’s policy. The tariff reduction period was much shorter still. Ultimately, the Association agreed to the reduction in the tariff, but over a 15-year period, and after a three-year waiting period. When representatives of shipyards appeared at the committee, they asked that priority be given to two measures: allowing purchasers of Canadian ships to take advantage of accelerated depreciation and adopting a structured financing facility.

My colleague can tell you this, because I will give him an opportunity to reiterate it: the Bloc Québécois is making many more recommendations than this; there are numerous others. These are things that should be adopted as quickly as possible to assist the shipbuilding industry. I would therefore ask that my colleague elaborate a little on all of the proposals made to the Conservative government by the Bloc Québécois.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Guimond Bloc Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for giving me the opportunity to explain the recommendations made by the Bloc Québécois in the report. Because of the high cost of these products, the industry is calling for special financing arrangements for the shipbuilding industry so that it can purchase equipment of that value. Precisely because of the value of these products, which often comprise the bulk of the purchaser’s assets, the industry needs special tax rules in order to be competitive. Again, because of these major investments, the industry needs to share the risk it assumes at the research and development stage, in particular to facilitate access to credit.

Another very important measure involves offering financing to cover a large portion of the value of the contract, 87.5%. That is what we are calling for. To conclude, all these measures should be available both to Canadian purchasers and to foreign purchasers.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened very carefully to the speech by the member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques. If I understood correctly, he is against the agreement and deplores the repercussions it will have on the shipbuilding industry in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada.

We are well aware that with the loss, at least temporarily, of 1,100 jobs at the Davie shipyards, the shipbuilding industry is presently in crisis.

My question is very simple. The Bloc Québécois has already made the mistake of supporting the softwood lumber agreement, which led to the loss of thousands of jobs. We cannot blame Guy Chevrette for recommending the agreement. It was a bad agreement for Quebec and it led to the loss of thousands of jobs. At present, we know that hundreds of jobs will be lost, especially in Quebec, because of this bill and that it will be disastrous for shipbuilding throughout Canada.

Is the member prepared to vote against this bill?

We cannot act like the Liberal Party that always speaks against an issue but then always votes with the Conservative government. It is time for the Bloc Québécois to stand up, to follow the lead of the NDP and to vote against this bill. Is it prepared to do so?