Madam Speaker, I am very proud tonight to rise and speak to Bill C-2, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the States of the European Free Trade Association (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland), the Agreement on Agriculture between Canada and the Republic of Iceland, the Agreement on Agriculture between Canada and the Kingdom of Norway and the Agreement on Agriculture between Canada and the Swiss Confederation.
I do not know if I have ever told the House about my late uncle, John Lindsay MacNeil. He quit high school, which was common in those days, and he was a jackleg miner in the McIntyre Mine. I know members are thinking to themselves that MacNeil must be a Cape Breton name, and it certainly is. The MacNeils left the beautiful region of Iona to come to northern Ontario because working in the dangerous gold mines in northern Ontario was safer than working in the collieries in New Waterford and Glace Bay. John Lindsay worked underground on the drills and decided that he should get himself an education. It was not easy then. Actually it was a Russian immigrant who taught my uncle Latin on the night shift. This is a true story. I can see that I have the House's complete attention on this.
He learned Latin on the night shift and went back to university at St. FX, where all the Cape Bretoners go. He became a trade negotiator for Canada and he was in the first trade negotiations for Iceland. Iceland might seem like a small country to many, but we are a trading nation and we send out our trade negotiators to come back with great agreements.
As a very interesting aside, when he was in Iceland meeting with the Icelandic trade commission, he had another Cape Bretoner with him. After three days they had a few shots of Icelandic vodka and the Icelandic trade commissioner looked at my uncle said, “MacNeil, you are not one of those pithy little Celts. Look at your stature. You are one of us. You are a Viking. You are Neilson, not McNeil”. Not only was he able to deal with trade negotiations at the international level, but he also learned a lot about the heritage of the people from Iceland.
I say that because when a trade agreement comes back from our trade commissioners, who bring it to the House, it is the role of the opposition to ensure that the trade agreement is in the best interest of the country. That is our job. If we fail to do that job, we have no business being here.
There are many elements about international trade deals that are important. I know many people, for example, are looking forward to Norwegian cheese coming in. My kids have always wanted to have access to the famous Norwegian blue parrots, which have a beautiful, remarkable plumage. They stun easily though and one has to watch them, especially when they are pining for the fjords, but in a trade agreement that might be something that we might be able to assess.
We have to then ask ourselves, if we are making the trade agreement, what are we giving up? That is the rub of international trade. It is not to close our borders or to be protectionist. It is to ensure that we are on a level playing field. When we go up against a country such as Norway, which has a coherent national strategy in terms of shipbuilding, and we look at Canada that has been completely derelict in terms of a national strategy in key sectors such as forestry, auto and shipbuilding, we are not on a level playing field.
We are signing an agreement with the country of Norway and we have to ask ourselves what is on the table. We are looking at billions of dollars in lost opportunities in Canada, and I simply do not think there is any way we can sell that to the Canadian public and say that it is in their best interests.
Time after time, Canadians have been hosed at various levels of trade agreements. The most notorious of course was the softwood sellout, engineered as a photo op by the Conservatives. From northwestern Ontario to Abitibi region, we can count on one hand the number of saw mills that are still running. When we talk to anybody in those communities who are trying to get value added agreements off the ground, to get small manufacturers going, they do not have quota. They are not allowed to compete anymore, because under the Conservatives' idea of trade, we give up our ability to compete on a fair and open field against the Americans. We have seen that even if they actually produce value added products, they end up paying more in the softwood tariffs. The Conservatives' idea of trade was to have a disincentive against our own producers, who could compete against anybody on the global scale.
Another example of course is the notorious chapter 11 provisions of NAFTA, which have left Canadians on the hook. In Mexico we have seen the same problems.
If one has not dealt with the provisions of chapter 11, then one might not believe how bad some of these trade provisions are. I could give the example of the Adams Mine garbage plan. This was a municipal contract in the province of Ontario to haul waste from a city. It was a notorious crackpot scheme that was eventually shut down. It took the Ontario government to step forward and expropriate the site. A number of years after this was shut down there was suddenly a chapter 11 challenge, which I have here, by a guy from the U.S. calling himself Vito Gallo. He claimed that he was the sole owner of this property through his 1532382 Ontario Inc. company.
This Vito Gallo asked the Conservative government, which is notorious for not standing up for trade interests, for $350 million. We go into chapter 11 without knowing what kind of testimony Vito Gallo is going to bring to defend his claim. The interesting thing to note is that he tried to sue the Ontario government, but his claim was thrown out of court. He could not win in court so it was brought to chapter 11. There is another interesting thing about this Vito Gallo. If we try to find out who owns the Adams Mine, we find that 1532382 Ontario Inc. is registered in North York. It is an Ontario-based company.
In 2004, 1532382 Ontario Inc. gave $4,000 to a leadership bid in the Ontario provincial Conservative Party. Who was the person given this money by this supposed Vito Gallo, this American investor who was robbed of his international rights? It was our own august finance minister.
This case involved a numbered company, registered in North York, Ontario, that gave money to the man who is now the finance minister of Canada, and yet he went to chapter 11 claiming $350 million from the taxpayers of Canada without having to do proper disclosure and without having to prove anything. We have to ask ourselves how could this numbered company that is registered in North York actually be able to sue Canadian taxpayers for a municipal waste contract in the province of Ontario.
A lawsuit was filed by Canadian Waste Services, the Canadian arm of Waste Management Canada, on February 28, 2003. Canadian Waste Services filed a lawsuit against Notre Development, the Cortellucci Group of Companies, which also has given a fair amount of money to the Conservative Party, and 1532382 Ontario Inc. for $4.6 million over the ownership of the Adams Mine. The lawsuit referred to the 2002 sale to 1532382 Ontario Inc. as the Cordellucci agreement, not Vito Gallo. Nobody ever mentioned Vito Gallo but they mentioned Mario Cordellucci, who was very well known to the old Mike Harris wrecking crew and a number of our frontbench people.
We see in this bizarre world of NAFTA that this Vito Gallo, who appeared out of nowhere, can take his case behind the curtain without any public prying eyes or the normal obligations of fair disclosure and public disclosure of evidence. As a citizen of the U.S., he can claim to hit the taxpayers of Canada up for $350 million because we signed on to this in a trade provision. The only thing defending our interests is the Conservative government with the present finance minister. I am not saying there is any connection, but he also received money in the past from the same company.
We have to look to the Conservative Party of Canada to defend our interests in this matter. Oh my God, the Canadian taxpayer will have to wonder what is going to happen to that $350 million. Is the government writing the cheque right now?
This all comes back to Bill C-2. Before we sign a trade agreement, we need to actually squeeze the Charmin and make sure that the kind of things the Conservatives are bringing forward are actually coherent and in the national interest. We need to push them back to the drawing table where they can write a coherent bill of which we can all be proud.
I would be more than willing to entertain questions and comments.