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House of Commons Hansard #8 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was lanka.

Topics

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, if the hon. member asked me right now what my preference would be, I am very concerned about a free trade deal, but as Liberals we support free trade. However, it has to be fair trade as well.

With regard to exceptions to trade arrangements, people consider the United States to be the great free trader of the world, but it has carved out shipbuilding since 1920. The United States takes care of its industry.

Norway has subsidized the industry for many years. They will not stop doing that because they have a free trade agreement with Canada.

We can have free trade, but it is only normal to have some exceptions. I also think that the bottom line is that we do need a shipbuilding strategy for Canada. We need to look at the structured facility financing and the accelerated capital cost allowance being put together to help the industry. We need to have a buy Canadian plan, just as the United States has a buy American plan in some industries.

We need a strategy first, and then we need to look at the deal and the impact the strategy would have on the deal. Whatever happens, Canada needs and has a remarkable level of integration, in my view, between management and labour.

Canada needs a strategy. It is out there. It is possible for us to find it, to come up with a solution and to move forward in a way that not only protects but enhances our shipbuilding and gets us back to the levels of employment we have seen in years past.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Questions and comments. The hon. member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

John Weston Conservative West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, thank you for saying the name of the riding, because if I did, I would use up all my speaking time.

I listened with considerable interest to the last several speeches. Certainly the plight of the workers in this industry is one we should all care about.

However, I would like to ask the Liberal member opposite who just gave his speech to reply to a question. We have heard his colleagues chiding the government for not dealing with the “buy American ” policy that could result in the loss of Canadian jobs. As he advocates a “buy Canadian” policy, how does he rationalize that position with the need for us not to spark trade wars that would hurt not only Canadians but also our trading partner friends?

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, when I talk about a buy Canadian policy, it is not with specific reference to any trade deal. If we need coast guard vessels or frigates or anything similar that can be made in Canada, it just makes sense that as a Canadian government we would look first to the Canadian industry to do it.

I am not suggesting we should enter a deal and say no to everything right up front. I just think it makes sense. When the hon. member and his colleagues were on the opposite side of the House, they used to raise these same questions about doing or not doing this or that to protect the industry.

When we need vessels, I think it makes eminent sense for us to say that. For security reasons, most nations have specific regulations about shipbuilding and would like to have the shipbuilding done on their home soil. That approach only makes sense. There are all kinds of reasons to look at a buy Canadian policy.

The United States has the most rigorous controls over its shipbuilding industry, in the form of the Jones act. It carves it out so it cannot be hurt by trade deals.

Whether it is fair trade or free trade, we need to go forward. The world is getting smaller. We need to do more, but we also need to make sure we protect Canadians workers here at home.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, could the member differentiate between free trade and fair trade? We have seen what happened with the softwood lumber industry and now the impact on our jobs here in Canada. Yesterday, Tembec announced that it would be laying off about 1,500 more workers. We do not disagree that there needs to be a fair trade agreement. The problem is that the free trade agreements have not been working in our favour.

We need to look at what we are doing with regard to our shipbuilding. If we want to promote a buy in Canada procurement policy or program, how can we do that if we are not building our ships or similar products here in Canada? Will the member acknowledge that the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement with regard to the softwood lumber certainly was not to our benefit at this point in time given the fact that we are losing a lot of our mills? Would he not be supportive of carving the shipbuilding out of this agreement we are talking about today?

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, no matter what happens to the EFTA deal, our first priority is to have a national shipbuilding strategy. We need to get everyone at the table, especially the people who run the companies and , the people who work in the companies, and anyone else we need to get at the table. That is the first and most important thing.

Will we have a national shipbuilding strategy by the time this bill comes back for a final vote? I do not think we will but we need to make some serious strides toward getting this done. It is really important for this industry which means a lot in my area and in other areas of the country.

Alleged Misuse of Intraparliamentary InternetPrivilegeGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, thank you for coming back to the chair in order to take my question of privilege.

On Monday, February 1 at 10:59 a.m., I received on my House of Commons BlackBerry an email from the member of Parliament for Ahuntsic. This email, from the list of names to whom it was also sent, appears to have been sent to all members of this House.

When I perused the articles and images contained in the email from the Bloc Québécois member of Parliament for Ahuntsic, it immediately became clear to me that it contained text and images supporting and glorifying three organizations that the federal government has deemed to be terrorist organizations.

That is not all. Several of the text and the images contained in this email can only be characterized as hate propaganda against a religious group; that is to say, they incited hate against Jews.

I am proud to have been part of a government that amended Canada's Criminal Code to include the criminal offences of hate crime and to provide a legislative framework with a clear, objective criterion for determining whether an entity is a terrorist organization and thus be listed as such with all of the legal ramifications that follow.

However, even more to the point, it is a privilege to be elected to this House of Commons, which is a point I made today in my Standing Order 31 statement. In my view and, I believe, in the view of all members of this House of Commons and reflected in our standing orders, is that part of the privileges that ensue from being elected to the House is that we are each allotted moneys through a member's operating budget and equipment that we are allowed to use in fulfilling each of our parliamentary duties and privileges.

We have a Conflict of Interest Code for Members of Parliament. We also have the standing orders that explain and determine how these resources can be used. However, beyond that, we each have an ethical and a moral duty, beyond any requirement under our Conflict of Interest Code for Members of Parliament, beyond but including our standing orders, to use the resources, material and human, provided to us as members of Parliament through the House of Commons and which are paid for from the public purse, wisely, prudently, legally and in full respect of our laws and the rules of the House of Commons.

The content of the email from the member of Parliament for Ahuntsic can only expose and did expose myself, other members of this House, communities within my riding and communities in the ridings of other members of Parliament to anti-Semitic propaganda. They were an incitement to hate and, in my view, constitute a clear misuse of the resources of the House of Commons.

It was not even sent to my House of Commons email. It was sent to the BlackBerry, which is the personal email address of each member of Parliament which normally is given to us precisely so that we can screen out and ensure that we only receive emails from certain individuals and certain organizations, and it is not widely publicized. It is only publicized to other members of Parliament as a matter of course through the whips' offices and then each member of Parliament can determine to whom else they will allow access to the BlackBerry email address.

Mr. Speaker, I would urge you to actually view and peruse the email that was sent from the member of Parliament for Ahuntsic. I believe it will become clear to you that there is an incitement to hate against Jews, clear anti-Semitic statements and images that are contained in that email, and that there is a glorification of three organizations that have been deemed to be terrorist organizations by the federal government under our duly adopted and constituted laws.

I believe that it was a clear misuse by the member for Ahuntsic to have used parliamentary equipment and parliamentary services, i.e. our intraparliamentary Internet service, in order to disseminate this information.

The member apparently has stated that she had not viewed all of the images. Given that we do not pay for this equipment or the services and that it is paid from the public purse, I do not know how she was raised, but I was raised by my parents to take care of whatever was given me. If it belongs to someone else and I am using it through the good graces of someone else, in this case the public, it is a privilege that is given to each and every one of us as a member of Parliament to have access to a member's operating budget, to have access to all of the services provided to us, including Internet services and intraparliamentary Internet services through the House of Commons, then I have an added duty to ensure that I do not intentionally or unintentionally expose members of the House to incitement to hate, to anti-Semitic comments, statements and images, and statements and images that glorify terrorist organizations that are all dedicated to the eradication of a certain population, the Jewish population.

If the member did not do so intentionally, then she was derelict in her duty because when using parliamentary services and resources she must ensure that anything that she sends out is not contrary to our laws, is not contrary to our morals and is not contrary to the privileges of every other member in the House.

I have not heard an apology from her because the statement she sent the following day was not an apology. Nowhere in that statement did I see the words “I apologize for not having carried out my duties, to ensure that I did not expose my colleagues to hate and to the glorification of terrorist organizations, and that I used parliamentary resources in order to do so”.

Everyone who was sitting in the House when I made my statement about Black History Month now knows why I take that kind of hate propaganda and that kind of incitement to hate seriously. I find it repugnant that a member of the House would misuse services, which are paid through the public purse and which are a privilege to each and every one of us, to expose other members and other Canadians to that kind of hate propaganda and incitement to hate.

Mr. Speaker, I hope you will rule that it was a misuse of parliamentary services and it did indeed constitute a violation of my privilege as a member of Parliament and as a Canadian.

Alleged Misuse of Intraparliamentary InternetPrivilegeGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Bloc Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the question of privilege raised by my colleague from Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine.

I do not wish to discuss the merits of the matter. However, with all due respect, I would like to say to my colleague that there is a certain confusion of issues when we refer to use of parliamentary equipment and disregard for the code of ethics. In my opinion, we should stick to the facts and to the apology sent by email.

Having said that, by virtue of the rules of natural justice and the right of all individuals to be heard, given that my colleague from Ahuntsic is not present in the House, I would ask, Mr. Speaker, that you give my colleague from Ahuntsic the opportunity to explain herself before this chamber before giving a ruling and examining any further this question of privilege raised by my colleague.

Alleged Misuse of Intraparliamentary InternetPrivilegeGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The Speaker will certainly consider the situation. I think it would be appropriate to wait for the hon. member concerned in this complaint to explain herself before the House.

Perhaps the reactions to this matter will be different after her remarks.

We will leave the matter there and go back to the debate that was before us.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Halifax.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, thank you for allowing me to speak to Bill C-2, the enabling legislation of the Canada EFTA trade agreement, signed on January 26, 2008, by the government. This enabling legislation is something of the utmost importance to my riding and the country as a whole.

I would like to begin by quoting a question, “I'd love to see someone answer the question, what is Canada going to get out of this agreement?” Those are the words of Mr. Karl Risser, union president of the Halifax shipyard and a constituent of mine when he appeared before the Standing Committee on International Trade in April of last year. They are words we should be asking ourselves whenever we are considering international trade agreements.

Ships are a part of my family's past, as they settled on the shores of Georgian Bay when they came to Canada. My grandfather, Allan Leslie, worked on a steamer called the SS Caribou to pay his way through university. When I was little, we used to go down to the grain elevators to have a good look at whatever freighter was docked. My grandfather talked about what a blow it was to the area when the Collingwood shipyards closed. Half the jobs in the area were lost and the economy suffered greatly.

This trends continues across the country, leaving us with the limited shipyards we see today. Despite having the largest coastline in the world, Canada has no strategy for the shipyard building industry and the neglect of this industry makes it vulnerable.

Now, as the member for Halifax, I represent a place with even stronger roots in shipbuilding, and the great work of this sector continues today. We can be proud of our strong traditions in this area, from the construction of wooden sailing ships in the 19th century to the establishment of our powerful navy in the 20th. Through it all, Halifax has been a central force in that development.

However, as my colleagues, the members for Sackville—Eastern Shore and Burnaby—New Westminster and others, have pointed out during this debate, we have deep concerns about the impact of trade deals and, in particular with the bill, their impact on the shipbuilding industry.

Speaking with workers down at the Halifax shipyards recently, I heard about the need for targeted investment in the shipbuilding industry as part of an economic stimulus plan. With the government's plan to construct new joint supply ships and Coast Guard vessels delayed, workers are left hanging. While the shipyard there presently employs 400 to 500 people, that number could rise to 1,000 or more if it were working at full capacity. Those are good paying jobs. It has been noted that one shipbuilding job created creates about four spin-off jobs. The economic benefits of a strong shipbuilding industry are obvious.

Unfortunately, the government has no industrial strategy. Whether it is forestry or manufacturing, our industries are being hindered by the lack of vision for a sustainable and prosperous economic future. In my consultations for the budget, constituents made it very clear that investment in shipbuilding was a priority. The government's budget may promise of a $49 million investment over two years to the industry, but there is worry that much of that will go to small craft and perhaps to repairing larger ships that will continue to be built elsewhere.

That is hardly the kind of stimulus that the members in my community were hoping for. My constituents wrote to me in my call for budget submissions. They called for investments in the green economy of the future. They called for housing and EI reform. However, they also wrote to me about shipbuilding. I would like to share some of those today.

Bob Cameron, a constituent in my riding, wrote to me:

In reply to your request for budget items, I would like to suggest that with the need to replace aging destroyers our shipbuilding industry could certainly use at least one to be built in the Halifax metro area.

Leslie Pezzack wrote:

First I want you to know how pleased I was to see in The Chronicle Herald, you along with Liberal, Independent and Provincial NDP together supporting local shipbuilding.

Sally Hodgson, who is not from my riding but from Dartmouth, felt compelled to write in, and I will share these comments with my colleague for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour. She wrote:

We have been learning that both the Naval Fleet and the Coast Guard/Department of Fisheries fleets are again aging and there is need to replace several vessels. Also the cost of maintaining these older vessels is becoming prohibitive. The other part of the consideration is the inability of the Canadian Ship Yards to handle this type of work because they cannot obtain and retain the necessary skilled personnel due to the Spike nature of equipment acquisition programs.

This long term program also has to be viewed as obtaining and maintaining a “Strategic” resource. We have basically three choices of shipyard: Vancouver or Victoria, Lauzon, Quebec and Halifax. These yards should be told to build a ship a year and their instructions as to what to build will be given in January of each year.

These were responses to a call for submissions about people wanted to see in a budget.

I was not asking, specifically, for shipbuilding feedback, yet I received so much of it. It is clear that this is an important issue to Halifax. I would like to point out what Paul Ellis from my riding wrote. He wrote:

Being from Halifax, I feel that shipbuilding requires a boost. We have the means but not the work.... Please vote for the people...

In the budget consultations, I had the opportunity to take Tim Bousquet, the news editor of The Coast, a Halifax weekly newspaper, around on an economic stimulus tour of the riding. We stopped by shovel ready projects in the riding that were waiting for federal investment.

I would like to read from the article he wrote in The Coast, which states:

From there, we go to the Halifax Shipyard and speak with Karl Risser, union president at the yard.

There are unfunded plans for two "joint supply" naval ships, four Arctic patrol vessels and 12 smaller coastal patrol vessels, says Risser. “All we have to do is get that work on the ground. We start building ships, all of a sudden we can say to our workers, 'We're not going to employ you for three months, lay you off for a month, employ you for three months, lay you off for a month.'”

Many of the laid-off went to find temporary work in Alberta to hold them over the lean times, but that work too has dried up. Presently, there are 400 to 500 people employed at the yard, but contracts for just two Arctic Patrol vessels would bring the yard to full capacity, with 1,000 workers, says Risser.

While shipbuilding was failed by the budget, we are standing in this honourable House debating enabling legislation that, if passed, will fail this industry again.

We have seen the shipbuilding industry fade due to lack of investment from consecutive Liberal and Conservative governments. It is clear that this industry is facing hard times, and much of that is due to unfair trade deals that pitted our shipbuilders against those in other countries where the production was subsidized. A 25% tariff is all that protected our industry from being erased entirely. Now, this otherwise innocuous trade change could be the final blow for this struggling industry. Workers and their families in my riding deserve more.

To return to Mr. Risser's testimony before the committee last April, he testified that:

—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.

The hasty signing of this trade deal would unfairly disadvantage workers in my riding and across Canada. For this reason, I must voice my opposition. However, there is a very simple solution before us. The NDP is calling for shipbuilding to be removed from the trade agreement and for the government, instead, to invest in the industry to increase its competitiveness. It is a simple solution that could save our shipbuilding industry and hundreds of jobs in Halifax and elsewhere.

I ask that other parliamentarians to join us to ensure that trade deals like the EFTA are fair to both partners.

Just yesterday, I met with Bernie MacDougall and Jack Ferguson, two dairy farmers from Nova Scotia who are concerned about their industry and how the WTO negotiations would impact the production of Nova Scotian dairy products. Not often do we see dairy and shipbuilding linked in the House of Commons, but their question was, “What will Doha negotiations do for Canada? What will it do to support our dairy industry?” It is a different industry, but it is the same questions and it is the same demand for fairness in trade negotiations.

While there are no dairy farms in my riding, the people of Halifax pride themselves on being able to buy locally and support Nova Scotian agriculture.

When the subject of the EFTA came up while I was meeting with the dairy farmers, the farmers noted that the impact of the EFTA on shipbuilding is similar to the situation that they face regarding trade in the dairy industry. They also acknowledged the importance of the shipbuilding industry as part of a strong Nova Scotian economy and they said that they hoped it worked out for those shipbuilders because those were good jobs, and if they were employed, they would benefit.

I reiterate, one shipbuilding job creates about four spinoff jobs.

Once again, it shows that folks on the ground producing goods and working in the real economy understand what a fair deal is. It seems the government has not come to the same understanding.

It brings us back to the question of what Canada is going to get out of this agreement.

As my colleagues have pointed out over the course of this debate, EFTA has some merits, but let us carve out shipbuilding until it can fairly compete with subsidized European shipyards.

This has been the testimony of witnesses who have testified before the international trade committee. There are simple solutions. These are some of the solutions that were proposed.

Andrew McArthur from the Shipbuilding Association of Canada and Irving Shipbuilding Inc. testified:

So our position from day one has been that shipbuilding should be carved out from the 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?

We have to do something to ensure shipbuilding continues. The easiest thing is to carve it out from EFTA. And 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.

Even those who are from the business community and who have a vested interest in actually accelerating the implementation of the EFTA, such as the Canadian Shipowners Association, justify their support on the basis that Canada has forever lost its ability to build ships.

We do not share its pessimism. With proper and intelligent support from the federal government, Canada's domestic shipbuilding industry could be rapidly up and running, as Karl Risser has testified and said repeatedly to media and to government. All that is missing is the political will of the government.

The U.S. has always refused to repeal the Jones act, the legislation that has been in place since 1920 and that protects the U.S. capacity to produce commercial ships. The Jones act requires that commerce between U.S. ports on the inland and intracoastal waterways be reserved for vessels that are U.S. built, U.S. owned, registered under U.S. law and U.S. manned.

The U.S. has also refused to include shipbuilding under NAFTA and has implemented in recent years a heavily subsidized naval reconstruction program. Why are we not doing that here in Canada? Why are we not learning from both the mistakes and successes of other parties?

While we are learning from the successes of other parties, I would like to bring up the case study of Norway.

During the last 20 years, Norway, Canada's EFTA main competitor in this sector, has built a strong shipbuilding industry by initially protecting its market and heavily subsidizing production. Now Norway is actually able to compete in a zero tariff environment, something that Canadian industry is not currently able to do.

During all that time Canada had kept a 25% tariff on ship imports, but without a shipbuilding policy of any kind and no money to support the industry, something for which my friend from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour recently called.

The so-called generous 10 to 15 years phase-out term simply means a stay of execution for Canada's shipbuilding industry. It is precisely this type of policy that allowed Norway to become the world-class player it is today, and it is precisely what the federal government has failed to do by completely gutting Canada's shipbuilding industry.

When we talk about business being an unlikely supporter, because it does want to fast track the benefits of the EFTA, we can point to Mary Keith, who is the spokeswoman for Irving Shipbuilding Inc. This is a situation where labour and industry are on the same page, singing from the same fire book so to speak.

Ms. Keith was quoted in the Chronicle Herald, my local paper, as saying:

Canadian shipbuilders and marine service operations should be carved out from the agreements in the same way that the Jones Act carves out U.S. shipbuilding and marine operations from NAFTA and in the same way that Canadian agriculture is protected. We have been advised that this will not be done. The future of skilled Canadian workers and the communities where they live is being traded away by our own federal government.

We have lost workers at the Halifax shipyards to the west. I do not begrudge the west for the work that it is doing, but our workers are skilled specifically in shipbuilding. They are taking whatever jobs they can because they know those jobs will be for the long term, or at least for the medium term, whereas in Halifax with shipbuilding we get a little contract here, a little contract there. There is absolutely no security. I do not blame those workers for leaving, but they have skills and talent that they can bring to this industry.

Earlier I talked about meeting with the dairy farmers and how it was a bit of an unlikely allegiance between farming and shipbuilding in this situation. I would like to read a quote from Terry Pugh, the executive secretary of the National Farmers Union. He also testified before the standing committee and brought a new perspective to this issue from the perspective of farming. He said before the committee:

But the most critical and highly negative aspect of this deal, from our point of view, is its impact on supply management, for example, in the dairy industry. It's true that our access commitments remain in place for imports of certain commodities, as specified under the WTO agreement, but the tariff rates on some of those imports have been dramatically lowered, some of them to the point of elimination entirely.

It's good when the tariff rates on our exports are reduced. It's another matter when we see tariff rates on imports of dairy products, for example, coming into Canada reduced.... I think the Ag Canada representative, in early March, pointed out that, for example, on butter, under 4,000 tonnes of butter coming into Canada, which is our access quota, right now under the WTO--that's a 7% tariff. Under this deal, that 7% goes down to 0%. That is, without a doubt, a tariff cut from 7% down to 0%. The amount that's coming in stays the same, but the tariff rate is actually reduced.

That is a key point, because what that does is effectively facilitate access to the Canadian market for imports of dairy products. We have to keep in mind that the more we open up our market to imports, the more we shut out Canadian producers from their own domestic market. As I pointed out, that cut from 7% to 0% for some dairy products coming in is definitely a cut in tariff rates.

This is exactly what the Dairy Farmers of Nova Scotia came to talk to me about yesterday.

We have an opportunity to learn from the shortfalls of previous trade agreements. I urge all members of the House to join the New Democrats in opposing this bill as it stands to ensure that Canada's shipbuilders get something out of this agreement.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Conservative Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I note that the NDP members have voted against all of the investments in the armed forces since we have been in government, so I am gratified today to hear that the hon. member and her party are very supportive of some of the investments that we are making in our brave men and women in the armed forces.

I wonder if the member would agree that Canadian workers and businesses are among the best in the world and able to compete with anyone in the world. The best way in which to protect jobs and in fact create new jobs is to open up markets so that our businesses can sell their products around the world. When we do that, they will be able to do it better and more productively. This agreement will create more jobs. It will help protect Canadian industry and in the long run will be better for Canadian business.

I wonder if the member could comment on that.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, while I very much believe in the Canadian shipbuilding industry and in our ability to compete, I would like to point out to the member that other countries support their industries.

I would like to draw attention to Norway as an example on this issue. First of all, in Canada we are not operating anywhere near our maximum capacity. That is because we lack support from the federal government. Unlike Canada, Norway has actually used its period of tariff protection to heavily invest in and expand its shipbuilding industry, making it competitive and efficient. That is what has not been happening in Canada.

Norway was actually able to phase out its government subsidies by 2000. Because the shipbuilding industry has been worn away here for so long by a lack of interest by the federal government, by the time the tariffs are dropped in 15 years, if no aggressive policy is put in place, there will be very little left in Canada other than foreign shipbuilding firms.

I actually disagree with the member. I think it is time for us to have an industrial strategy all around and that industrial strategy should include making firm investments in shipbuilding because the industry is hurting, my riding is hurting and the workers are hurting.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, allow me to commend my colleague from Nova Scotia on her speech. I must say that she conducts herself very well as a member of Parliament. In spite of the fact that I hope the Liberals win in Halifax next time, I think she is doing a very good job as a member of Parliament.

She was part of a press conference that we held just before Christmas. There were two Liberal members, two NDP members and also the independent member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley. We called upon the federal government to follow through on a commitment it made to make shipbuilding part of a stimulus package.

One of the issues with shipbuilding is that it cannot just ramp up and ramp down, as she and others have mentioned, as we lose our skilled workers to other parts of the country. We just cannot run an industry by ramping it up and ramping it down. That is why things like direct allocation of contracts and having a national shipbuilding strategy are so important.

After having that press conference about shipbuilding being part of a stimulus package, as the Minister of National Defence indicated it would be just before Christmas, how does she think that shipbuilding did in the recent budget?

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour for his question and for his kind words. And I am hopeful that an NDP member will take the seat in Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, but until then the hon. member is doing a fine job in the House of Commons. It is nice to see him here.

That was one chilly press conference. There we were at the harbour in Halifax. It was -20° with the wind chill, although I know that is nothing compared to Ottawa. We were out there with the workers. We came together for a non-partisan press conference to say that we need to invest in shipbuilding in the budget. The workers were there with their flags. They rallied around us. It was quite an optimistic moment.

Then the budget came out. While there is a line for shipbuilding in the budget, and if we do scan, it does pop up, it is simply not enough. It seems to be only for small craft, which would mean about six months of contract work. There is some money in there for repairs, but generally that is repair of vessels that are built in other countries.

When I talked to the locals at the shipyard, they said that the problem with these short-term contracts is that we cannot lure our workers back home. Sure, it is six months' worth of work, but will people actually come back home so that they can work for six months and then be out of a job?

We need a long-term strategy and the budget absolutely fails the shipbuilding industry. I am proud to say that is why I voted against it.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I commend the hon. member on her speech. She certainly speaks to something about which we all have concerns, and that is how we protect the traditional industries of this country and the jobs that they provide to our communities.

I remember being in New Brunswick in 1987 and visiting the shipyards in Saint John. I remember seeing the Algoma Steel stamp on big sheets of steel that had come from my own city. In seeing that I understood the interconnectedness between these industries.

When we build ships in Nova Scotia, we provide an opportunity for a steel mill in Sault Ste. Marie or Hamilton to sell its product and that provides jobs in those communities. Shipbuilding in Nova Scotia, British Columbia, or wherever it happens in this country has a major ripple effect on other parts of the country that we cannot ignore or deny.

I wonder if the member would comment on that.

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4:45 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, the member's comment is a very good one. This is something I was alluding to earlier. People who are working on the ground understand the connection. They know exactly what is going on. I could cite the statistic that one shipbuilding job creates four spinoff jobs, but what does that mean?

I find it quite remarkable that a dairy farmer from Antigonish county, which is nowhere near the shipyards in Halifax, would say to me, “Gee, I hope things work out for those shipbuilders because that could really help my industry”. I can only imagine the pride of seeing the stamp that something was made in Sault Ste. Marie when one is in Halifax.

This is not just about using steel from mills in Sault Ste. Marie or Hamilton, it is about local economies everywhere. It means that workers have good-paying jobs. They will be able to weather this recession. They will be able to purchase goods, which means that we have to create more goods. It is a win-win situation for local economies and communities, but also for the federal economy. That is why we are calling for investment in infrastructure through shipbuilding and to have a dedicated industrial plan that includes shipbuilding.

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4:45 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I, too, would like to congratulate the member for Halifax for doing such a fine job in representing Halifax. I am sure she is going to win the riding again next time, not only because she is doing such a fine job but because the Liberals are supporting the Conservatives.

In her statement, she said that for every shipbuilding job that is created, four other jobs are created in the offset industries.

In the budget the Conservatives added five weeks to EI at the end of the period. I would like the hon. member for Halifax to tell me what kind of a difference it would have made if the government had added two weeks at the start of EI and then three weeks at the end. Would this have helped the shipbuilders who are currently unemployed?

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4:45 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, that is a very good question. That two weeks at the beginning would have made all the difference in the world. Two weeks is a very long time to wait before one evens apply.

The one thing that we often forget is that a person applies and then the person continues to wait. It is quite a bit more time before the person sees any money coming in. Despite what the minister has said in the House that two weeks is plenty of time to find a new job, two weeks is not sufficient. People need that support at the front end, and it is something we would like to have changed in the EI regulations.

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4:45 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to join with my colleagues in denouncing this bill which will have long-term implications for the workers of this country. It is a bill which further commits Canada to a free trade agenda when what we should really be pursuing is a fair trade agenda.

I find it interesting that we are continuing to negotiate these types of trade deals given the difficulty we have had recently with the rise in protectionism, particularly from the U.S., our biggest trading partner and close signatory in the North American free trade agreement. It can be argued that we are the poor cousin in that arrangement, bringing only concessions to the table and having to live with the whims of our partners. We are seeing this with respect to iron and steel procurement in the U.S. stimulus package.

We have also witnessed the long struggle to get an acceptable softwood lumber agreement with our American partners. In northern Ontario we are particularly aware of the failure of successive governments, both Liberal and Conservative, to protect an industry that goes to the heart of our economy. In northern Ontario we have watched the trend in the softwood industry as workers are being asked for concessions, mills are shutting down and those lucky enough to still have jobs in the forestry sector are not confident those jobs will be there in the future.

It is not because of a crisis in confidence of our products, work ethics or the future of the resource. It is because these people recognize that they are working within the confines of a flawed agreement that does little to protect jobs here in Canada.

In my riding, there was the loss of 120 jobs at the Haavalsrud mill in Hornepayne, the closing for four weeks of the Tembec mill in Kapuskasing and its announcement yesterday of lay-offs in Hearst, not to mention the concessions that Columbia Forest Products in Hearst tried to obtain from its workers. All these events have an immediate impact on our small towns.

Forgive me if I fail to see the silver lining in this latest free trade agreement with the European Free Trade Association, comprised of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. Although we are the larger partner in this agreement, at least in terms of population, once again we are conceding ground and making it difficult to ensure the future survival of important national industries.

I am talking about our shipbuilding industry now. We are entering into an agreement that will all but guarantee that our shipbuilding industry continues to contract and loses ground to foreign producers. This trade agreement will reduce tariffs on ships from 25% to zero in a period of 10 to 15 years, depending on the type of ship.

The main source of competition for shipbuilding will be Norway. Norway has pursued a long-term industrial strategy for shipbuilding. It has a state-of-the-art yard that has been subsidized and is well established. Canada does not. We do not have an industrial policy for shipbuilding and the infrastructure in the yards we do have is not state-of-the-art. Canadian yards are not on a level playing field as we set them loose to compete under the terms of this agreement.

I would be remiss to go on any further without mentioning the good work of my colleague, the hon. member for Sackville—Eastern Shore. Had governments listened to his call for improvements in Canadian shipbuilding capacity, we would not be voicing many of our concerns today. We would be entering into this agreement on a level playing field and be able to compete not only with Norway but Japan, Korea and any of the best shipbuilding yards in the world. Sadly, his repeated call for a shipbuilding industrial strategy has been ignored, and we in the NDP are forced to fight on behalf of the remnants of this once proud industry to ensure it does not simply vanish.

I would also like to echo the sentiments of my colleague from Thunder Bay—Rainy River. I too am appalled that not one ship is being built in the Thunder Bay shipyard, not now or even in the past year, yet at the same time we are moving ahead with an agreement that will forever hamstring this industry. It is inconceivable that we would like to merely walk away from these good jobs in a time when we are meant to be moving heaven and earth to protect jobs in Canada.

It does not end with shipbuilding though. Our concerns go beyond that. There are serious implications for our agricultural sector in this agreement as well. The provisions within the agreement concerning agriculture defer to the World Trade Organization principles and dispute mechanisms, which will have a very negative impact on supply management by weakening Canada's position. The NDP opposes these WTO mechanisms and has strong concerns about their effect on our domestic agriculture capacity.

Terry Pugh, the executive secretary of the National Farmers Union, told the Standing Committee on International Trade in April of 2008:

--the most critical and highly negative aspect of this deal...is its impact on supply management, for example, in the dairy industry. It's true that our access commitments remain in place for imports of certain commodities, as specified under the WTO agreement, but the tariff rates on some of those imports have been dramatically lowered, some of them to the point of elimination entirely.

He points out that butter coming into Canada in shipments of under 4,000 tonnes has a 7% tariff. Under this deal, that 7% goes down to 0%. The amount that is coming in stays the same but the tariff rate is actually reduced. That just opens up Canadian markets to offshore products, and every time we do that, we shut Canadian producers out of their own domestic market. Is that not a shame? It might be free trade but it certainly is not fair trade.

We have standards in Canada and our dairy farmers are demanding. They work hard and they deliver a safe product through reliable supply routes, operating under a supply management system that ensures as much.

They operate under the basic tenets of fair trade. These are commitments to health and safety, respect for human rights, worker rights and right to assembly. They operate in good faith. That is more than can be said about a government that rushes through trade agreements just to be seen to be doing something, a government that has made promises on icebreakers, the Arctic patrol vessel and the joint support ship project, none of which are moving ahead despite the fact that they could all be done in Canada.

I would like to quote Andrew McArthur of the Shipbuilding Association of Canada and Irving Shipbuilding who appeared before the Standing Committee on International Trade on April 2, 2008. I know it has been mentioned a few times in the House already, but I think it is important that we keep hammering away at it. He said:

So our position from day one has been that shipbuilding should be carved out from the 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? [...] We have to do something to ensure shipbuilding continues. The easiest thing is to carve it out from EFTA. And 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.

In closing, I would like to remind the government that this agreement threatens Canadian industry and agriculture. This agreement sets adrift, perhaps forever, our shipbuilding history and its industry. It could also have dire consequences on dairy producers and should be reviewed with a healthy dose of skepticism.

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4:55 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions with all parties in the House and I believe that if you were to seek it, you would find that there is unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That during the debate pursuant to Standing Order 52, following the first intervention of each of the recognized parties, members rising to speak may indicate that the period of debate be divided in four.

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4:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker Mr. Barry Devolin

Is it agreed?

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4:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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4:55 p.m.

Liberal

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

(Motion agreed to)