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House of Commons Hansard #65 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was countries.

Topics

Canadian Products Promotion ActPrivate Members' Business

June 1st, 2009 / 11:05 a.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

moved that Bill C-306, an act respecting the use of government contracts to promote economic development, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, we have been working for a very long time on this bill which, I believe, has become even more important today in view of the current economic situation.

Just a month ago, a $34 billion deficit was projected, and we learned last week that it would reach $50 billion. The federal deficit will be $16 billion higher than projected. It is very difficult for workers, it is difficult for the public in general and it means that economic recovery will not happen tomorrow but much further down the road. Therefore, measures must be taken to encourage Canadians and Quebeckers and help them through this economic downturn.

Bill C-306, an act respecting the use of government contracts to promote economic development, would encourage buying in Canada. Of course many people would say that we are following the Americans and that this bill is similar to the Buy American Act. Yes, this legislation could be said to be a protectionist measure, but I want to make it clear that is has absolutely nothing to do with the American legislation, and I will explain why.

It is also for that reason that I would like all my colleagues to read the bill and to give us an opportunity to debate it in committee. It is indeed a rather complex piece of legislation and we must be able to discuss it in committee. This important bill will allow Canada to buy, annually, up to $600 million worth of products made in Canada, which could create up to 21,000 jobs.

Do we not need jobs at this time while we are facing an exceptionally high unemployment rate because of the economic crisis and because of the government deficit? Would it not be desirable to create 21,000 additional jobs to give people a chance to work?

We support free trade, international economic agreements and the WTO, and this bill does not interfere in any way with NAFTA, the WTO or international economic agreements. It deals with small amounts and targets purchases made by the government. We are talking about a portion, 9.3%, of the government's total expenditures for goods and services.

I see no reason to be against apple pie. Basically, this bill will be grist to our mill for the next few years and could help small and medium-size businesses grow and continue to operate during difficult economic times. It would be desirable to pass this bill, which is, after all, very specific.

Chapter 10 of NAFTA, which deals with government procurement, provides that, as a general rule, the government shall accord the same treatment to American and Mexican goods and services as to Canadian ones when making purchases. Conversely, the United States and Mexico commit to accord Canadian suppliers equally open-minded treatment. In the lingo of international agreements, that is called the national treatment rule.

Clause 7 of the bill is designed to reflect that obligation under NAFTA. NAFTA does, however, contain provisions allowing the government to buy Canadian in certain circumstances. These exceptions are far from insignificant and probably cover the majority of government purchases.

The legislation I am proposing this morning includes all of these exceptions and, in each case, requires the government to give preference to and buy Canadian products.

The main exceptions to the national treatment rule include any procurement where the value is under $50,000 U.S., $25,000 U.S. with respect to the United States in accordance to a provision of NAFTA that was renewed, calculated in constant January 1, 1994 dollars.

In current Canadian dollars, that means all contracts valued at less than $80,000. For crown corporations, the threshold is five times higher: $400,000. Also included are all purchases for construction contracts valued at less than $5 million U.S., in constant January 1, 1994 dollars. In current Canadian dollars, that means all construction contracts under $8 million.

For crown corporations, the limit is 60% higher, at $12.8 million. That includes all construction contracts from the Department of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, meaning roads, airports, railways, docks, etc. It also includes all purchases made for national security purposes by the Department of National Defence, the RCMP or the Canadian Coast Guard. As well, it includes the construction, maintenance or repair of ships, subways and commuter trains; communication and monitoring equipment; most agricultural products, except those used directly by the government, for example, purchases made by the cafeteria of Parliament; cultural products; and a vast number of services.

The bill refers to more than 60 categories of services. I will name them, because it is important for parliamentarians to understand why this bill was tabled. The bill includes all financial services, all public services, all categories of health and social services, all services related to research and development. Heaven knows that the government has made cuts to research and development. It needs to get back to basics and reinvest in research and development. The bill also includes most telecommunications services; most transportation services, for passengers and cargo; most services related to government activities in the areas of agriculture and fisheries, such as tests, inspections, veterinary services, resource management, management of government facilities, postal services, transcription and translation services.

I think that given the situation we are experiencing right now, our bill is absolutely not comparable to the Buy American Act. We are simply asking the government to favour Canadian purchases for anything that does not fall under international agreements, and anything that costs less than $25,000 and does not require a call for tenders.

This bill also calls for purchases to be distributed equally among the provinces on a pro-rated basis so that all provinces receive fair treatment and not all purchases are made in Ontario and Alberta. We have to make sure that all of the provinces are treated equally.

I think that this bill is very clear and that we can talk about it in committee. If it needs to be changed or amended in any way, that can happen; we are open to that. But I don't think that we should turn our backs on the possibility of creating 21,000 jobs. We are not talking about huge amounts of money here. We are talking about $600 million per year, which is just a fraction of the government's annual budget. That would be enough to help some companies survive these economic times of plant closures and massive layoffs.

There have been lots of layoffs in my region. Bombardier laid off 1,000 workers and issued temporary recalls. Bell Helicopter laid off over 600 workers and also issued temporary recalls. That makes things very difficult for people who are laid off for a period of time then return to work with no job security. We have to support a buy-at-home policy.

We have the technology we need right here. Why buy things from other countries when we can buy them here?

This bill caps the price difference at 7.5%.

If the government wants to buy a Canadian product, it can spend up to 7.5% more. If I issue a $25,000 tender abroad, I can spend up to 7.5% more on Canadian products to support our own businesses. That is not a lot of money. It is relatively little. Spending $25,000 is not the end of the world; that is about how much would be spent on stationery, for example. That is money the government would spend anyway. They should be spending that money here. The government should be buying goods like that at home.

The House of Commons uses a lot of goods and services. Running Parliament is expensive. Why not support companies that can supply products the government needs? For example, Cascades, a company in my riding, supplies specialized stationery to the government. Of course there are tenders, but this is a good thing because the government is supporting a company that is producing goods here. Why buy things from Australia or any other country when our country is going through hard economic times?

This is also a message we want to send to the Americans. We love the Americans. We do not want to send them a negative message. We want to tell them that we too want to buy our own products. We want to give preference to some of our own products while honouring the agreements we have with them so as not to create conflict. The bill is written in such a way that we are complying with international agreements and respecting the American government, but we are sending the Americans a very clear message that, in an economic situation such as the current one, we too will give preference to our own products, in a far more respectable way than the Americans with their Buy American Act. We will be able to create employment and help our workers keep their jobs and small and medium-sized businesses stay open.

I sincerely hope that all the members of this House will read the bill. It may seem hard to understand, but I have given a good description of what it contains. I sincerely hope that the bill will be referred to committee so that we can hear witnesses. To date, I have spoken with a number of companies and unions that support the bill. They see it as a first step in at least stimulating the economy, which badly needs a boost.

The government could also take this approach in the future. We know that Canada and Quebec can be very prosperous. We could develop new businesses. We can invest in research and development. I sincerely hope that this bill will be examined in depth and that we will hear witnesses such as unions and interest groups as well as companies that support this bill, consider it a step in the right direction and feel that it complies with international agreements. This is very important to them. Many firms in Canada and Quebec export their products and need international agreements such as NAFTA and the WTO. Certainly, we want to keep on honouring those agreements while giving ourselves the opportunity to promote local purchasing.

Canadian Products Promotion ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

North Vancouver B.C.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member says that this bill will only affect $600 million worth of trade, a small amount, she says, but what about the message that it sends to the rest of the world? What about our reputational risk as a protectionist nation if we were to allow this bill to go through? Is it worth it for such a small amount?

There is no provision to exempt new and emerging trade agreements. In order to emerge from this recession, we need to continue trading with as few barriers as possible. The Great Depression taught us that the downward spiral of protectionism will only make the situation worse.

Surely, the member opposite cares about Canada's reputation and credibility. I would ask her this. If she is interested in our reputation, why is she putting forward a bill that is undermining current and emerging trade agreements?

Canadian Products Promotion ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, that does not make sense.

The Conservatives are introducing bills to enter into bilateral international agreements with developing countries that have certain problems. Those agreements contain no measures to protect workers and the environment. We do not need to take any lessons from them.

Second, it is true that $600 million is not a large sum, but it is a step in the right direction, and not a step back. What message would we be sending to the rest of the world? It would show that we are taking care of our own affairs, our citizens, our workers and our industries, while still respecting all international agreements. We therefore do not need to take any lessons from the Conservatives in that regard. They need to go back to the drawing board when it comes to the agreements they are trying to conclude with troubled nations.

Canadian Products Promotion ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Liberal Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, in discussing Bill C-306, An Act respecting the use of government contracts to promote economic development, we have to remember that we are in the middle of a worldwide recession. As Canadians, we are in fact in the process of arguing strenuously against any American efforts at protectionism. They are very, very real, as many manufacturers in this country have already discovered. Protectionism, particularly at a time of such economic crisis, is simply not the direction we want to be going in.

With regard to specifics in the act, there is no empirical evidence or sound economic reasoning behind what the bill is trying to achieve. The 7.5% price differential this act wants to apply was pulled out of a hat. There is no logical way of measuring the Canadianness, and an attempt at measuring this for the 50% to 75% requirement simply does not measure up. The agreement certainly does not provide any indications.

The act tries to suggest that NAFTA will still be complied with. We have serious doubts that this is even possible, and it certainly goes against the spirit of it. Therefore, for many reasons, we do not support Bill C-306.

Canadian Products Promotion ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, both sides of the House are very similar.

We must stop being afraid. It is time to show some backbone, as they say, and do something. It is not true that we are sending a negative message. We are sending a positive message that shows that we are standing up for our citizens and that we also want to invest in our own country. We do invest elsewhere; we export our products. We are one of the world's biggest exporters. That does not stop us from establishing measures for our country in order to protect certain companies and create jobs. It is a question of $600 million. That is a small sum. It was limited for that very reason. Norms were established to ensure that it respects international agreements. What else does the member want? There is no doubt it will be respected; that is in the bill.

Canadian Products Promotion ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague on Bill C-306, which was inspired in large by the Buy American Act that currently exists in the United States. However, this bill will have a lesser impact than the Buy American Act since it gives preference to Canadian products in government procurements only. How does she explain that both the Conservatives and the Liberals seem to want to oppose this bill? We know about the free trade agreements with the Americans with regard to softwood lumber. We heard about how the Buy American Act is affecting the steel industry. This bill is a small step towards protecting our jobs, but other parties seem determined to oppose it. I would like to hear my colleague's comments on that.

Canadian Products Promotion ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was on the executive of the Canada-United States Association for 10 years. It was during the softwood lumber crisis. The Americans did not do us any favours nor did they intend to. We need to take matters into our own hands. It is true this bill is small step and presents no danger. It is high time we passed such legislation.

Canadian Products Promotion ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

North Vancouver B.C.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of the government to argue against Bill C-306, which the hon. member from the Bloc introduced last February.

The year is 2009, not 1929. We live in a time when Canada no longer needs to prop up its industries with protectionist laws. We live in a time of liberalized trade and increasingly open world markets.

The fact is that Canada is a trading nation, and it always has been. Trade is a huge part of who we are. It is a part of our past, it is a part of our future competitiveness and it is a key part of our fight against the current recession.

In a recent report by the World Economic Forum, Canada ranked fifth among 118 countries in enabling trade. That report measures the degree to which a country facilitates international trade and investment, and it bears witness to its successful economic development.

Indeed one in five jobs in Canada is dependent on international trade, and we export half of all our manufactured goods. Clearly our success as a nation is built on increasing trade with other countries, not putting up barriers to trade.

However, this bill would do exactly that. It would put up trade barriers by making it the law that federal departments and agencies buy only Canadian produced goods, and not only that, but buy them at prices up to 7.5% higher than the competing products of other countries. This is deeply flawed economics and a very short-sighted response to the recession.

However, we do not have to take my word for it. Both the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance have said publicly that protectionism is not the way to fight a recession. Their position, and that of the government, has been stated clearly: protectionism would mean recession, or worse, for a very long time.

Just a few months ago, in Washington, the Prime Minister spoke out strongly against protectionism in the United States, saying, “If there is one thing that could turn a recession into a depression, it is protectionist measures across the world”.

The reality is that the economic slowdown is not just a Canadian problem; it is an international one. All countries need to focus on stimulating the global economy because we are in a global economy, not just our national economy.

One of the ways we are doing this is by keeping protectionism at bay. This is the point that Bill C-306 completely fails to grasp.

Can we imagine what would happen if Bill C-306 did become law? First of all, Canada would be made an international laughing stock. After all, at the November summit of the G20 countries, we, and all other countries, agreed to avoid a return to protectionism.

That the hon. member opposite would table such a bill shows how out of touch she and her party are. At a time when the world needs less protectionism, the hon. member has produced a bill that would force government departments and agencies, crown corporations and even foundations to buy Canadian products at inflated prices and to invite retaliation.

That is woolly economics. From the point of view of our trading partners, it would be a subsidy. Our trading partners would have a field day the next time we find ourselves in front of an international trade tribunal, which will be soon if the bill passes.

What kind of retrograde thinking is this when the countries of the world are acting together to fight the worst economic crisis in a generation? If we want to protect jobs today and position the economy for growth in the future, we do not do it by hiding behind artificial barriers to trade. That is totally wrong-headed.

For one, we are not helping our industries to become more competitive; we are coddling them. For another, adding a price preference for Canadian products essentially adds 7.5% to the operating costs of government, at all levels. I cannot believe that a member of the House thinks that is going to make our economy more competitive.

At a time when Canadians are sacrificing and when governments have put their costs under the microscope, to suggest that we pay a premium for bad economics is the height of absurdity. Our government is not looking backward like this. We are looking forward and outward.

We are against protectionist policies and we are determined to respect and uphold our trade commitments with our partners. That is why our Prime Minister was in Europe earlier this month, opening doors on trade talks with the European Union potentially worth $12 billion in new Canadian exports.

The government has a perfectly good plan to fight the recession. It is the economic action plan. This multi-year plan outlines the steps we will be taking to stimulate the economy, to protect Canadians during a global recession and to invest in our long-term economic growth. As a result of these actions, Canada will emerge from this recession with better infrastructure, a more skilled labour force, lower taxes and a more competitive economy.

To finance this plan, the government is making a deliberate choice to run a temporary deficit to help stimulate our economy. There will be no long-term running of permanent deficits because the approach we are taking emphasizes capital expenditures rather than increasing the operating costs of government. This allows us to meet short-term needs while serving long-term goals. It helps sustain and create jobs during the global recession, and it allows us to build the infrastructure our country needs for long-term growth.

As the economy recovers, we fully expect to emerge from deficit and return to surplus within five years. We will use future surpluses to pay off the debt incurred during this recession. This plan will get money into the hands of individuals, families and communities in all provinces and regions of this country.

The measures we are taking are necessary, affordable and short term. I want to emphasize that point. It is temporary. It will not permanently increase the cost of government. We will continue to avoid a long-term structural deficit that we cannot afford. The amount that we borrow this year will remain affordable and reasonable by international standards.

Let me also assure the hon. members that the economic action plan contains many measures to support industries in difficulty, including the forestry, manufacturing, tourism, agriculture, fisheries and automotive industries. At the same time we need to focus on keeping our markets open and continuing free trade with our American partners. When 80% of our manufactured goods are dependent upon the U.S. market, we cannot afford to start putting up barriers to trade. Nobody can, so let us not start with this bill. We need to keep the Canadian market open and we expect our trading partners to do the same.

Do the hon. members of this House honestly think that the best way to fight the recession is by increasing the cost of government and putting up new trade barriers at this time? Do they think that is the best way to protect jobs and prepare Canadians for the future?

I doubt the majority in this House would agree that this is the best way forward. I would ask members to vote to defeat this bill, which would undo everything that Canada and the world is fighting for: more jobs and strong, competitive economies for the future.

Canadian Products Promotion ActPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Liberal Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, we do not support Bill C-306. Frankly, the bill seems aimed less at being passed than as a medium for certain partisan discussions. Its purpose seems to be to implement buy Canada legislation in response to the buy America provisions in the recently enacted U.S. budget. It is for those very reasons that we object to it. We are in the middle of a worldwide recession. Protectionism is widely regarded as the worst possible thing that countries could engage in in a worldwide recession. We are in the throes of objecting strenuously to the American buy America provisions.

As an aside, we on this side of the House are very upset with the fact that the current Conservative government has not done nearly enough in anticipating these buy America provisions and working in Washington before they were enacted to ensure that they were not, and we are seeing many manufacturers in Canada already suffering as a result. We have a concern that the current Conservative government has not done nearly enough to deal with these protectionist measures, but our position is very strongly that they do not belong, especially in a time of worldwide recession. In that sense, for a Canadian bill to suggest a similar approach is completely opposite to what makes sense from an economic perspective.

We have some significant concerns with the way the bill has been drafted. There is no empirical evidence or sound economic reasoning behind what the bill is supposedly trying to achieve. The 7.5% price differential this bill wants to apply seems to have been completely pulled out of a hat. There is no logical way of measuring the Canadianness and an attempt at measuring this for the 50% and 75% requirements in the bill is comical, at best. The agreement certainly does not provide any indication of anything otherwise.

The bill attempts to say that the provisions of NAFTA would still apply but, in our view, certainly this bill contravenes NAFTA and it certainly contravenes the spirit of our free trade agreements with the United States, Mexico and others.

The bill is poorly and vaguely drafted to allow for interpretation that may be inappropriate, in our opinion.

Ultimately, if protectionist measures are imposed, our significant concern is that this will harm Canada's economy, not improve it. We are on record as saying that free trade is important for economic competitiveness, economic sustainability and ultimately, economic prosperity. We object strenuously to the American attempts at protectionism, and we have said so publicly. For Canada to be seen to be attempting to do so completely flies in the face with our public position. Not only would it be damaging to our economy, but it would be extremely damaging also to our international reputation.

Mr. Speaker, I neglected at the beginning to ask to split my time with my colleague from York South—Weston. If it is all right with the Speaker, having neglected to do so, may I make my request at this point and ask my colleague to step in?

Canadian Products Promotion ActPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

As the member may know, because we are in private members' business, she would need the unanimous consent of the House to share her time with her colleague, the member for York South—Weston.

Is it the pleasure of the House to allow the member for Willowdale to share her time with the member for York South—Weston?

Canadian Products Promotion ActPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Canadian Products Promotion ActPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Liberal Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank all of my hon. colleagues in the House.

Canadian Products Promotion ActPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I recognize the hon. member for York South—Weston.

Canadian Products Promotion ActPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, let the record show that was not totally unanimous as there was a latent undercurrent, but I thank members of the House for allowing me to say a few words on this subject.

The Bloc is well motivated with respect to the desire to remind Canadians that within the global economic picture there still is an element, albeit in a permissive way, for there to be a concept of buying local, for example, buying agricultural products that are produced by our farmers which are the best agricultural products in the world. We are reminded of our forestry industry. We have the best fibre in the world and yet we have an industry that is in serious decline. It is affecting towns and communities rights across the country.

I appreciate and I am sure the House appreciates the spirit and motivation of the Bloc in bringing forward this bill. Within the context of globalization, the movement of capital, the serious competitiveness of the movement of capital and God knows that we need to have capital invested in the commercialization of technology, we are trying to transform our economy. At the time when we need to identify these global trends and not only stay within the spirit of the WTO and globalization, but also the law itself, this is not the time for us to disaggregate our capacity with respect to competitiveness.

I would suggest that while the Bloc may not intend that, we could see a disaggregation with respect to our national strategy to compete in a global sense. At the very time when we think we are doing the right thing for our regions and provinces, we would be doing the very opposite. While I understand the motivation, I think that the Bloc should reconsider this issue.

Very recently, for different reasons, we have been looking at drawing closer relationships, for example, with the CARICOM countries of the West Indies. We have been looking at more of a hemispheric approach with respect to our ties with Colombia and Peru. There is a serious debate in terms of why we should embark upon that particular strategy, but the reason I mentioned that is that those particular initiatives are in keeping with globalization and, where there is a balance of payments and a capital deficiency with respect to investment, to open doors that would redress that and to bring Canadian products into a competitive mode and to balance that out against our interests.

While the bill may not intend to undermine or be contrary to what our global strategy should be, in fact that is what it does. From my perspective it invites a retaliation. If it is not deemed to be in the interests of our national policies, if it is deemed to be protectionist, then the perception of that will drive those whom we are attempting to reach out to, to be in trade relationships and the extension of that to drawing capital and investment here, we would be going the very opposite way.

For those reasons, as I said, I believe the Bloc is well intentioned on this, but in actual fact the bill would have exactly the opposite reaction to what the Bloc is hoping to accomplish.

Canadian Products Promotion ActPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by thanking my colleague from Rivière-du-Nord for bringing this important issue before the House to Commons today. I want to thank her for saying what we are all thinking.

We have all been thinking in recent months and years that Canada's procurement policies go beyond stupidity. Sometimes they border on economic treason. I would like to use one case study to illustrate my point.

I should point out as well that the NDP feels so strongly about Canada's faulty procurement policies that our member for London—Fanshawe has introduced a similar bill to be debated in the House, Bill C-392. We have seen many parallels. These two bills complement each other, because the issue is as poignant for those in London—Fanshawe and the rest of Canada as it is for my colleagues in the province of Quebec. I am pleased to see that my colleague from Rivière-du-Nord is generous in her spirit by saying that her Canada includes Quebec, or her Quebec includes Canada. Let me put it that way.

The one illustration I would like to point out is something that happened recently in my home province of Manitoba. We believe that good government means putting the interests of Canadians first. I use that quote from the president of the Manitoba Federation of Labour.

The Government of Canada needed new troop buses for the Canadian military, so it put out a tender. I should point out that Manitoba builds the best buses in the world. The second best buses in the world are built in the province of Quebec. There are two bus companies in Canada and both build excellent buses, first class buses. In fact the Canadian military uses nothing but buses built in Quebec and Winnipeg for the rest of their troop carriers.

The government put out a tender for 32 new buses. Only two Canadian companies bid on it, from Quebec and Manitoba. A third company, a German company, Daimler-Chrysler, was the low bidder. Get this. It was a $32 million contract. Mercedes-Benz won it by $60,000 on a $32 million contract. This is 1,000 Canadian jobs. We got screwed. For less than the price of a set of tires, the Government of Canada chose to give that contract to Germany, so our tax dollars are creating jobs in Germany and unemployed Canadians in Quebec and Manitoba could have and should have been building those buses.

Let me expand on this folly. Let me expand on how stupid that is. I do not use that term lightly, but that decision was fundamentally stupid, because now we have said to the rest of the world that if they want a good troop carrier, they should buy German. That is what our army did. Now all of our NATO allies in Afghanistan in the field are being ferried around in 32 buses made by Mercedes-Benz.

We also had to build in a whole new parts regime. We had to train our mechanics so they could fix the Mercedes-Benz buses as well as the good Canadian buses that they used to drive.

Canadian Products Promotion ActPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

It is becoming increasingly difficult for the Speaker to hear the member who I can normally hear with no problem, so I will ask for a little bit of order until the member has finished his remarks.

Canadian Products Promotion ActPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, we should point out to the hecklers on the other side that I have the floor and it is my turn to talk. This drives me nuts.

We started a postcard campaign and 5,000 postcards came into the Government of Canada to explain the folly of this decision. This is only one concrete example. It happened just last year and it is a top-of-mind issue, but this happens all the time. My colleague for Rivière-du-Nord put forward a bill that respects international trade agreements. It simply says that preference should be given to made-in-Canada products providing it does not offend existing or future trade agreements.

Where is the problem with that? What is the matter with being patriotic enough to say that we will, to the greatest extent, show preference to Canadian made products? We should declare that with pride instead of being on our hands and knees to some phantom god of the free market that those people are foisting on us. This is folly. The rest of the world does not play by these rules. The United States has had a made-in-America procurement policy since 1927 and it is not in any contravention of NAFTA with that. In fact, it ignores trade agreement rules whenever it is convenient. We respect trade agreements but we will not to be suckers.

Frankly, this bill makes me proud. I thank my colleague for Rivière-du-Nord again for raising this on behalf of all of us.

One of these postcards has a picture of three monkeys. One is supposed to illustrate the Minister of Public Works and Government Services, the other is supposed to illustrate the Prime Minister and the third one is supposed to illustrate the Minister of National Defence. All three ignored reason, logic and even economics by giving these buses to Germany. This was a $60,000 difference on a $34 million contract. The military officers who go over to inspect the manufacture of those buses during their construction would have spent more than $60,000 going back and forth. It is completely irresponsible. Whoever was in charge of that file should be dragged into the streets or, at the very least, fired because they are not representing the best interests of Canadians.

We were sent here for a specific purpose by the people we represent and that is to look after their best interests. No one can tell me that it is in anybody's best interest to give our job away by some blind ideology that has not borne results or fruit. The people at Motor Coach Industries are the ones bearing the brunt. The people at Prévost in Quebec, who also could have quite capably built those buses to carry our troops, are the losers.

Once again, it falls to us, the two smallest parties in Parliament, to stand up for the best interests of Canadians. Those guys are playing games that no one can understand and they certainly do not advance the interests of the manufacturing sector in this country.

My colleague for Rivière-du-Nord and my colleague for London—Fanshawe have carefully crafted bills that will succeed without offending existing trade agreements. My colleague for Rivière-du-Nord went even further to say that these jobs, to the greatest extent possible, should be spread among the regions of Canada so that not too many of them are concentrated in any one part of Canada. These are sane considerations that any procurement policy should be crafted around.

By what pretzel reason and logic is it that Canadian taxpayers are better off creating jobs in Germany with their tax dollars? I know we have agreements with our NATO allies when it comes to military procurement but this bus contract did not apply to that. These are troop carriers. We had no obligation to buy those buses. It had the lowest bid by a razor thin margin and somehow we got screwed and it got the jobs, which is fundamentally wrong.

I will be voting in favour of this bill when the first opportunity arises. I will be voting in favour of Bill C-392 when it comes to the floor. Hopefully, our relentless pressure on the Government of Canada's procurement policies will bring some reason, logic, patriotism and nationalism to our procurement policies and not be strangled by some misguided ideology and some Boy Scout attitude that we play by a set of rules that the rest of the world ignores. That is a sucker's game.

On behalf of the people in my riding of Winnipeg Centre, I will spend what little time I get to spend in the House of Commons protecting their jobs, standing up for their jobs and looking after their best interests. Canadians do not need representatives to come to Ottawa to sell them out. They need representatives to come to Ottawa to look after their jobs, not trade them away to a low bidder. For the price of a set of tires, we sold out the workers at these two bus manufacturing plants.

Members should read some of the comments on the postcards that I have brought with me today. Perhaps the one that sums it up the most is in large font that says, “We got screwed”. That is a quote from the member for Winnipeg Centre. That is actually my own opinion.

Canadian Products Promotion ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Robert Vincent Bloc Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise in the debate on Bill C-306, introduced by my colleague from Rivière-du-Nord.

I prepared a speech on the bill this morning, but after listening to the Conservatives and Liberals, I do not think I will need it. I am just going to talk a bit about whether these representatives of ridings all across Canada are aware of the consequences of voting against a bill like this.

Are the hon. members in touch with their constituents? Or do these Conservative and Liberal members always stay in Ottawa and never get out to meet the people? I think that must be it.

If these members met the workers in their individual ridings, they would know that these people want to work. Even though we are talking about protectionism and keeping jobs in Canada, Bill C-306 is not the end of the world. It is hardly the Buy American Act. It does not talk about 40%, just 7.5%. We chose very small numbers precisely because we did not want to frighten off the Liberals and Conservatives, but those numbers are still too big for them. It seems we should keep giving and doing nothing, and should not protect our jobs.

We are talking about $600 million here, in the knowledge that $300 million would create 21,000 jobs a year. The Liberals ask the Conservatives every day what they are going to do about the crisis in softwood lumber and how they are going to create jobs, but the Conservatives never answer. Twenty-one thousand jobs could be created now in a very reasonable way, but the party in power refuses to do it and the power that aspires to power refuses as well. We are not going to create jobs by sitting on our hands and wondering what the rest of the world would say.

The Liberal member just said we would be an international laughing stock. Do they know what it is to be an international laughing stock? It is when Olympic athletes go to other countries dressed in clothes made in China rather than in Canada. That is what it is to be an international laughing stock. We cannot even make clothes for our own athletes. We have them made elsewhere.

We took this a bit further than they wanted. It is the same as when the NDP reacts to buses being purchased in Germany, something that I objected to as well. It is quite the situation. Canadian companies build buses, but we turn our backs on them and award these contracts to Germany. I understand the situation, but we have jobs to protect right here.

The Conservative government will not stand up for Canadians and the Liberal Party, the official opposition that aspires to power, says it is ready to defeat the government at the first opportunity. Neither of these parties is really able to stand up to the Americans and tell them that they could do a bit better with their steel products. It is only fair and reasonable for us to present our proposals. We are not talking about $600 billion here, just $600 million.

I think it is very reasonable in all respects to proceed with this kind of bill, and that cannot be said about the Conservatives and the Liberals with their fear of the Americans and of what they might do and what they might say.

Canada is being colonized by the Americans, and we are incapable of standing up to them. We cannot even stand up in front of our working people and say we will try to protect their jobs, will go to any lengths to save their jobs and are even going to create some new ones with Bill C-306. That is all perfectly clear.

I cannot understand how we can enter into free trade agreements with Peru and Colombia, and in all of that, the Liberals and Conservatives are focusing their interests on other countries. You can talk to them about the workers, people who work every day to earn a living, who work 40 hours a week and give half their pay to the provincial and federal governments, but they laugh in their face. I find this disappointing.

I hope that the people listening to us today will see how wishy-washy the party that aspires to power is. Today it is a little too far left, and not in a protectionist way, compared to the voters. The official opposition can forget about asking the public to elect it to form the next government when it cannot even step up to the plate for $600 million. These poor Liberals want to trigger an election campaign when they cannot even take a stand. In my riding, people will know that we tried to enact a few little measures to keep the jobs that are available and create jobs at home and that two parties in this House of Commons were strongly opposed to it and said we would be an international laughingstock. The laughing stocks in Canada and Quebec are the Liberals and the Conservatives. I am not even weighing my words because I could say even more than that.

We do have to assume that things might change fairly quickly. Ultimately, if they agreed to give this bill second reading and refer it to committee, we would be able to see its value. Today, it is being brushed off by those two parties without giving us a chance to consider it or hear witnesses such as representatives of unions, companies and industries who could tell us whether it is a good bill and a good start. The bill is small step, but at least it is a start.

We just want to refer it to committee and they want to pull the rug out from under our feet. They do not want to hear about it so as not to upset their American friends. I have some news for them. All they have to do is ask Canadians and Quebeckers what they think about a little protectionism to keep and create jobs here at home. All of these members, sitting here in this House, have not gone out to see the public they represent, to learn whether or not they agree with the protectionist measure in Bill C-306. I firmly believe that these members sit in this House and listen to one or two people, and are afraid that some people will not like them as much.

Does a country that decides to take a stand at some point think about what the country next door is going to say? It works for its people. We are talking about a people, but some individuals are unable to think of there being a people. They recognized the Quebec nation, but they are unable to keep their word. We want to give our workers, our workers who are in trouble, a little more. We are in a recession. The budget the Conservatives have proposed was supported by the Liberals, but today they are telling us they do not know where we are going. We find that we are short $50 billion.

For all these reasons, I completely agree with Bill C-306 and I hope we will move forward with it.

Canadian Products Promotion ActPrivate Members' Business

Noon

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Prince Edward—Hastings will have about three minutes before private members' hour is concluded.

Canadian Products Promotion ActPrivate Members' Business

Noon

Conservative

Daryl Kramp Conservative Prince Edward—Hastings, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will take the opportunity to start my comments today. I rise today to speak to the hon. member's private member's bill, which clearly is a protectionist bill and which the member is regretfully presenting for the third time.

It is no coincidence that both the NDP and the party of the member presenting the bill have never and will never form a government, for the simple reason that they have a myopic approach to this, which is to look after their own backyard rather than the common good of the Canadian people, which is the responsibility of responsible members in the House. This is why I will be speaking out against this it.

The bill would require that every department and agency of the Government of Canada would give preference to Canadian products when purchasing goods, services and natural resources. This preference would be in the form of a price premium of up to 7.5% across the board for Canadians. The bill also contains the option of giving Canadian products either exclusive access or a price preference exceeding 7.5% when deemed advisable.

The bill, regretfully again, would not only apply to every department and agency of the Government of Canada, but to any crown corporation as well and any foundation or trust, with 75% of its income or its funding from the government. It would also require the government ensure an equitable distribution of acquisitions across each and every province in our country.

The grounds for opposing the bill are many. With the limited time I have today, I will start on one. I will proceed with more at a later time.

Today I will focus on the major one, which is the perils of protectionism. This has been commented on by members across the House and we welcome their like-mindedness on an issue on which we share the common good of the Canadian people.

I encourage the hon. member who presented the bill to read her history books. It was protectionism that helped end the golden age of trade in the 1930s and it was protectionism that turned a severe recession into the Great Depression. Even the sectors that demanded protectionism regretfully ended up losing from it.

Trade, on the other hand, is vital to our well-being. Some would say it really is our true lifeblood. Trade touches all of us, and each and every Canadian somehow shares in its benefits. Trade reduces the cost of living. Protectionism, on the other hand, raises prices. We are not only talking about goods in front of us, such as computers and televisions. We are talking about services as well. For example, trade liberalization in telephone services has made phone calls cheaper.

I see my time is winding down, and I will finish at another time.

Canadian Products Promotion ActPrivate Members' Business

Noon

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member will have seven minutes left in his time slot the next time the bill is before the House.

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has expired and the order is dropped from the order of precedence to the bottom of the order paper.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement ActGovernment Orders

Noon

Bloc

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure and conviction that I rise again to speak to Bill C-24, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Peru, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Peru and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Peru.

Once again, the environmental and labour issues are being dealt with in side agreements, which aim for the minimum requirements established by the country with which we are signing the agreement rather than promoting the environmental and labour rights and laws in that country. Every free trade agreement always contains a section on investment. We agree that there should be a minimum of protection for foreign investment and that it should be properly regulated. However, there must be limits on the powers given by agreements, for example NAFTA's chapter 11.

We are in an era of innovation. We must innovate not only in the sciences, social sciences and business, but also in free trade agreements. We are discussing bilateral agreements. We must be innovative and promote environmental rights, labour rights and, in some countries, human rights.

This innovation could start today, in the free trade agreement between Canada and the Republic of Peru, simply by our telling the government to redo its homework. The government must do it again and innovate in terms of bilateral free trade agreements, as in this case.

An aside, if I may. The Bloc Québécois strongly advocates multilateral agreements. It must be pointed out that, in this sort of agreement, the same set of rules applies to everyone. Even the WTO must protect human rights, labour rights and environmental rights. That is the end of my aside.

The government talks of liberalizing trade. An American author said that increasing the freedom of trade index by 1% could and would increase trade. Hence the mad race by all countries to establish agreements with other countries to liberalize trade. However, we must never lose sight of the fact that freedom must also rhyme with responsibility. When the government makes an agreement with another country it must be responsible for its actions and for the decisions and agreements it makes. They can create a multitude of problems for people in emerging countries who want to improve their situation.

We see this responsibility clearly in the mining sector, among others. At the moment, Canada's mining companies operating abroad cause damage to the environment and displace many people. They are responsible only under the environmental laws of the other countries. This agreement does not promote environmental rights strongly enough to ensure our mining companies are responsible. Their responsibility is voluntary, to all intents and purposes. It is why a significant number of mining companies from around the world incorporate in Canada, for then they are not responsible for their actions abroad.

Thus they can save a lot of money. But they create catastrophes as well, and they should be responsible for them. If I have the time, I will come back to the subject of mines.

In my remarks, unlike in the speeches we often hear, I would like to return to the testimony given before the Standing Committee on International Trade. This testimony was heard long after the agreement was signed and long after the parties had indicated what stands they would take on this bill.

I have notes on a number of witnesses, but not all, because I could have spent an entire day on it. A number of things were said in committee that most of the Liberal and Conservative members did not hear, unfortunately. Perhaps it would be a good idea to tell them that this might be the perfect opportunity for this agreement to become the model of agreements for Canada in the future. We oppose this agreement and hope to have the support of the majority of members in this House in order to innovate. Although we would prefer multilateral agreements, when bilateral agreements are made, they must be made in the best possible way.

For example, I will quote a witness who appeared in committee on May 7, the president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, which is the largest agricultural association in Canada with over 200,000 producers. In Quebec, there is an expression that the witness used at the beginning of his testimony. He said that this agreement ce n'est pas le Pérou, meaning that this agreement is not perfect, it is not a cure-all for all of the current trade problems or irritants. But it is being signed with Peru.

The president said that it is obviously not perfect, far from it. But he and his producers would still like it to move forward as quickly as possible. He also criticized the negotiators. I would make a distinction. There are negotiators who negotiate. Often, the negotiators negotiate what the government asks them to negotiate. The negotiators focus on things chosen by the government. The negotiators also negotiate by leaving out some aspects, because the government has asked them to leave them out. The government asks the negotiators to sign, at any cost, almost any condition, whether or not it is favourable to the people, to entrepreneurs and to businesspeople. He criticized the negotiators because, according to him, if we compare this agreement with the one signed with the United States, the reduction was faster in the United States than in Canada. The quotas were also much larger and there was no most favoured nation clause. He said that some sectors benefited more—grains, wheat, barley and pulses. Of course, some sectors lost out. We never saw an impact study from the government or the negotiators. According to them, some sectors stand to gain, and others stand to lose. However, we have never seen an impact study and projections of these impacts, not only for the business of people who export, or for the benefit of some who import, but also for all workers in Quebec and Canada.

Impact studies would tell us what will happen in a given industry or in a given sector and what the gains and losses will be. We should also ask ourselves what our priorities are and why. We never had impact studies on free trade agreements. We are not asking anyone to tell the future by looking into a crystal ball. In fact, it is obvious that there are not too many crystal balls around. I know a government that went from a zero deficit to a $50 billion deficit in a span of a few weeks or a few months. So we do not really need a crystal ball.

There are various other products, but I will not name them.

Of course, the president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture was aware of deficiencies with regard to labour and environmental laws. He still argues that even though our farmers do not enjoy the same treatment as American farmers and even though progress is slow, we should sign the agreement. Again, there has not been any impact studies on producers and farmers, nor on the population as a whole whose quality of life we must look to improve to a certain extent. For example, to show the difference, in the United States, the tariff on certain products, including pork, will be eliminated within five years. However, in Canada, it will take 17 years. So the difference is quite substantial.

The president of the federation told us also that the federation agreed to multilateral negotiations. That being said, he kept repeating that negotiators would have to adjust, but also that ,in turn, it would be mostly up to the government to adjust.

We heard from other witnesses, including the Canadian Wheat Board. The wheat sector is obviously among the biggest winners.

I mentioned pork. I want to show the relative importance of that agreement for Canadian pork, for instance, on international markets. Director General Jacques Pomerleau said:

Knowing that we would never get what the Americans received, our negotiators became very creative in ensuring that we would still get some benefits. They accepted a longer tariff elimination period, 17 years instead of ten, but they were able to get for us a duty-free quota that will allow our exporters to better position themselves at the very beginning. We have to admit that this quota of 325 tonnes, that will progressively extend to 504 tonnes over 10 years, is relatively small for an industry that exports over one million tonnes every year.

There are little aberrations like that. Others, like the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, are very much in favour. The only thing, really, is that we do not want to be overtaken by other countries that could sign a FTA with Peru, among others. The same holds true for other agreements. Because Colombia and the United States were negotiating an agreement that did not get Congress approval, Canada raced like mad. It was intent on signing and implementing an agreement before the United States did. This was crucial to the government, even if it meant doing so at the expense of Colombia or human rights. Globally, a mad race was on, with businesses from all countries trying to globalize, as we do. Soon, every country on this planet will have bilateral free trade agreements with the 199 other countries. Naturally, variances and differences will develop. Why not focus primarily on multilateral agreements? I think it would be the most sensible way to go.

I was talking about environmental laws earlier. The Canadian Environmental Law Association was represented in evidence given before a committee on May 26, 2009. Ms. McClenaghan, executive director and counsel in that association, criticized the fact that investors can access the states. She said it was a serious problem. Particularly when we talk about investors, we must of course refer to the investment agreement that echoes chapter 11 of NAFTA whereby investors have access to the state, which could be problematic. We know that investors can sue countries for various reasons under the major heading of expropriation, which includes two elements. There is direct expropriation, that is, in the true sense of the word, and indirect expropriation, which, no matter what happens, relates to a business' loss of anticipated profits.

To give an example of such a free-trade agreement, Ms. McClenaghan referred to the agreement between Australia and the United States whereby no investors had access to the state. It was also a model of social and environmental protection. In terms of labour laws and occupational health and safety, Canadian businesses are operating in a country where little attention is paid to people's rights.

I must briefly come back to the topic of mining. Regarding mining companies and corporate responsibility, we have motion M-283, moved by the hon. Liberal member for Pierrefonds—Dollard, and Bill C-300 introduced by the hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood. The Bloc Québécois supports both items—the motion and the bill—because their goal is to make mining companies accept greater responsibility in countries like Peru and Colombia. If the Liberals are to be consistent with their bill and their motion, they must also, for that reason, vote against the Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act. I therefore call on all Liberal members, including those from Quebec, and all members to vote against this implementation act.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with considerable interest to my colleague, the hon. member for Sherbrooke. I work a lot with him on the Standing Committee on International Trade. I am happy of course with the Bloc position. The same cannot unfortunately be said for the softwood lumber agreement and the sellout agreement on shipbuilding. The Bloc unfortunately voted in favour of these two bills, which led and is leading to job losses in Quebec. It is too bad, but it does not matter, the Bloc is on the same wavelength as the NDP now and everyone can be glad.

I do in fact have a question for my colleague from Sherbrooke. He spoke eloquently on the subject of labour rights. As we all know, Peru is unable at the moment even to honour all its WTO obligations. Agreements already signed to permit unionized labour, to entitle people to organize under the protection of a collective agreement, all these protections, which should exist internationally, have been ignored by the Peruvian government. We heard that in testimony before the committee. It is unfortunate. It undermines the credibility of this agreement. If it provides no protection and if the Peruvian government is in the process of rejecting all the agreements it has signed, questions need to be asked. What real protection does the agreement provide?

I wanted to put these questions to my colleague from Sherbrooke. Does he see any sort of protection at all in this agreement for people seeking the protection of a collective agreement?

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do indeed work with the member for Burnaby—New Westminster. We are not, obviously, going to start quibbling over who follows whom or who is on the same wavelength as whom. We agree on some fundamental principles and considerations, but not others. Overall, however, as regards this agreement, this implementation legislation, we oppose this free trade agreement.

Naturally, as we have criticized it and will continue to do so, this is not the right approach. This is a time for innovation and not for including these side agreements. And they are just that, off on the side, separate. So they will never be part of the main agreement. They must be included in the main agreement along with clear aims and obligations. Good intentions are set out in the side agreements and warrant a response at least. Is there agreement with the ILO principle and international environmental rights? Who can say not? No one. And yet, when ask ourselves whether these agreements will enable us to improve legislation on labour in Colombia or on human or environmental rights, obviously everyone—at least half of the members on this side of the House—believes we should not proceed because labour and environmental rights along with the agreements on investments would not improve the situation in the country we are doing business with. With a good trade or economic agreement, both sides emerge as winners, especially their peoples.