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House of Commons Hansard #84 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was unemployed.

Topics

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

I am not sure that is a point of order. Apparently there is a problem with the translation.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre can continue. All his colleagues can hear him now.

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will try to speak slowly for the translators, if that is the issue. Some members are saying that I should start from the beginning, but in the interest of time I really cannot.

I thought it was important that we revisit some of the historical context of the need to reform the EI system, because when the Liberals gutted the system they made a devastating impact in the riding I represent.

There was $20 million a year of federal money that used to come into my low-income riding. The same was true for Winnipeg North, represented by my colleague. She lost $25 million a year. Some ridings in Newfoundland lost $50 million a year of unemployment insurance money that used to come into their communities and was spent locally.

The Liberals gutted that system. They changed the rules to the point that virtually nobody qualified anymore. It ceased being an insurance program and it became an income tax again. It was a payroll tax that they used as a cash cow to pay for anything they could think of.

This is why we welcome this opportunity to try to flow some of that unemployment insurance money into the pockets of unemployed workers, where it properly belongs. That was the intent, purpose and mandate of the unemployment insurance fund. It was to provide income maintenance, not to be a cash cow for the Liberal Party. We wonder where that $54 million of accumulated surplus went. This is the shocking thing.

Now we have an opportunity to do the right thing. We have workers who, through no fault of their own, find themselves unemployed due to the economic downturn. Their unemployment insurance is going to run out. The last thing we want to do is have an election now. That would preclude the possibility of any EI reform, because we would be on the hustings instead of in Parliament facing the legitimate problems our constituents are dealing with.

We welcome the opportunity to make Parliament work. It is said so often here that it is almost a cliché, but that is why we were sent here. If we lose sight of that, we do not deserve to be here. I can say with complete comfort and confidence that we are doing the right thing by enabling this $1 billion to flow into the pockets of the unemployed.

That is not to say that we will stop seeking unemployment insurance and other program reforms. The NDP has 12 private members' bills in the system calling for the reform of various other aspects of EI and those will percolate through the system. We can debate them, bring them to committee and discuss them, but that should not preclude moving forward with one positive development that we do have the power to initiate now to get that money flowing into unemployed people's pockets.

The unemployment insurance system is just that: an insurance program. It is mandatory. The problem with the system now is eligibility. What would one think of a house insurance program that a person was forced to pay into, yet if their house burned down they have a 40% chance of being able to collect any benefit? One would not call that an insurance program at all. They would want the head of the insurance agent who sold them that worthless insurance policy.

That is almost how unemployed people feel in this country today. They are forced to pay into this employment insurance system and they have about a 40% chance of being able to collect anything should the unfortunate reality of finding themselves unemployed come about.

The system is broken; the wheels have fallen off it. The heart and soul of it was ripped out by the Liberal Party in the most ruthless and heartless period of Canadian history, where they undermined and gutted virtually every social program by which we define ourselves as Canadians. They ripped the heart out of it.

We gave them the opportunity for far too long to rule this country. They left no stone unturned to undermine every social program by which we define ourselves as Canadians. They were the most neo-conservative, right-wing government in the history of Canada, and they should be condemned for it.

I do not use the terms lightly when I say that they were gutless, heartless and spineless, and they are exhibiting the same characteristics today. They are often mean-spirited in their development of policies. We gave them far, far too long.

The really unforgivable thing about the Liberals is how they chose to pay down the deficit on the backs of the unemployed by milking the unemployment insurance system like some cash cow.

The second thing they did was to take the $30 billion surplus from the public service pension plan. They did not share that with the beneficiaries of the plan. They did not share that with public servants. They took the whole $30 billion by legislative edict. The last thing Marcel Massé did in this House of Commons before he slunk out of here with his tail between his legs was that he grabbed the whole $30 billion out of the public service pension plan so they could put it into their Liberal slush funds and do God knows what with it. That is how they paid down the deficit when they were given the opportunity.

This is why I say with great pride that I am going to do what I can to put $1 billion back into the pockets of working people that was denied them by the last regime in this House of Commons.

We have an opportunity today. The last thing we want to do is delay the flow of this money by having another election at this time, because it would be a guaranteed eight weeks before anybody could take any action to assist people whose employment insurance is running out.

We are going to do the right thing. We are going to get that money flowing at the earliest possible opportunity.

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

John Baird Conservative Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was very impressed by the member for Winnipeg Centre's speech, and I would like to ask for unanimous consent for the House to give him an extra half hour to continue.

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Does the minister have unanimous consent?

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

It being 1:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

When we return to this matter, the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre will have 10 minutes.

Made in Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

moved that Bill C-392, An Act respecting the use of government procurements and transfers to promote economic development, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, the current debate on protectionism, trade and the U.S. buy American policy has been framed around the claim that protectionism was the cause of the Great Depression and that the Government of the United States is moving dangerously toward greater protectionism.

In fact, before they even knew the details of the buy American provision in the U.S. Congress stimulus bill, the Conservatives were out defending free trade and criticizing American protectionism.

The Canadian government acted aggressively against the U.S. Democratic government's stimulus plan despite the fact that existing U.S. law already created local content requirements under the buy American act which dates back to the early 1930s.

A small fraction of the procurement in the buy American bill would have been under federal U.S. jurisdiction. Most of the money was destined for the states and cities to spend under their own local procurement rules.

The bill I have introduced is straightforward instituting a made in Canada procurement policy for the federal government and its agencies. The bill would ensure that Canadian companies are given the first opportunity to bid on federal government contracts that are not restricted by international trade agreements such as NAFTA or the WTO.

This approach is reasonable, populist and consistent with the approaches taken by the U.S. and most European countries. In fact, a May 2008 poll revealed that an astounding nine out of ten people think the government should buy Canadian made equipment when it comes to key public purchases because Canadian communities should benefit from federal procurement.

The current piecemeal approach should be replaced by a clear, transparent buy Canadian policy, which is precisely what my bill would achieve. The bill would go a long way toward building new markets for Canadian suppliers, strengthening sustainability and fulfilling our environmental commitments, while encouraging Canadian entrepreneurship.

The bill would help support sectors in crisis, including auto, steel and forestry, and replace the governments ad hoc approach with a consistent policy.

Local spending of stimulus investments is necessary for effective job creation and job protection. Canadians expect their government to invest their tax dollars wisely. By investing in our communities, we can support local jobs and generate more tax revenue that in turn supports our families and national services.

Ironically, while the Prime Minister and some premiers have been busy attacking U.S. protectionism, many cities, provinces and even the federal government itself already apply buy Canadian local content policies for procurement on a case by case basis.

The government and its Liberal allies want a deregulated, unmanaged, let the market decide approach to trade. That quite simply places Canadian jobs and sectors at risk. Conservatives are unwilling to defend Canadian workers and industries, like manufacturing, forestry, auto or steel. They say that it contravenes our trade obligations. Nothing could be further from the truth.

A comprehensive review of Canada's obligations under WTO agreements and NAFTA reveal that buy Canadian policies adopted by municipal, provincial and federal governments would not violate any international or internal trade agreements. In short, Canadian government have far more room to adopt these policies than is often believed.

Provincial and municipal governments can specify levels of Canadian content for purchases and, under some conditions, even restrict tendering entirely to Canadian made goods. The ability to adopt comprehensive buy Canadian policies applies not only in the high profile area of public transit but to all purchases; everything from garbage trucks to office furniture, uniforms, construction materials and more.

For the federal government, made in Canada options are much more constrained by international procurement rules under WTO, NAFTA and other international trade agreements. Successive federal governments have given away many rights under different trade agreements but they have also explicitly maintained rights in certain areas. The exceptions include federal transfers to provinces and municipalities that do not fall under international trade agreements.

There are also two broad areas of exemptions under NAFTA: one for the purchase of goods for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Department of National Defence, and the other for goods related general federal government procurement, including things such as shipbuilding and repair, urban rail and transportation equipment and materials, communications equipment, research and development, health and social services, financial and related services, utilities and agricultural products. Smaller contracts are also exempt, in particular, those under $28,000.

However, despite these exemptions, millions of tax dollars have been spent on acquiring goods and services from foreign countries. I have some upsetting examples.

In 2006, the federal government approved nearly $13 billion in defence and aerospace purchases, mainly from the United States.

In 2006, the Canadian census was outsourced to an American company, Lockheed Martin, which is part of the American military industrial complex.

In 2007, the federal government purchased new intercity buses from Germany, bypassing two highly qualified Canadian firms.

In 2008, the uniforms for our Canadian Olympic team were outsourced to China.

Between April 1, 2007 and March 31, 2008, 466 contracts were awarded under the NAFTA threshold of $28,000 to vendors in the United States. In the same time period, the federal government awarded 47 competitive contracts, valued at over $47 million, to vendors in the United States for communications equipment, equipment that is exempt from NAFTA.

We need to consider what these contracts meant to Canadians, like workers in Winnipeg. The Prime Minister and the federal Conservative government chose to sell out over 1,000 Winnipeg workers for a savings of 0.5% on a bus contract, or about $2,000 per bus; the cost of a set of tires. Motor Coach Industries has been making military buses for more than 60 years but the Conservative government gave the contract to a German company, and those buses were built abroad. Jobs were lost and opportunity was lost for the price of a set of tires.

I believe the majority of Canadians would like to see their tax dollars invested in Canada. There are many business organizations that also support this initiative.

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce, which represents 57,000 businesses across the province, strongly endorses a policy that mandates Canadian content levels for publicly funded mass transit and transportation projects.

The Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters has also publicly supported the need for the Canadian government to apply rules and regulations that favour Canadian content when it funds infrastructure and mass transit projects under its authority or under the authority of provinces and municipalities.

The Canadian Auto Workers have argued in favour of a made in Canada policy. It maintains that Canadian citizens expect their governments to spend their tax dollars wisely. They also expect all levels of government to invest in their communities.

The economic benefits of spending at home are well-known. These expenditures support jobs, fund payrolls and generate much needed tax revenues.

Tragically, today many Canadians are faced with an uncertain economic future. Well-paying, secure manufacturing jobs are disappearing at an alarming rate. More than 350,000 have been lost since the current government took office. Ensuring that our tax dollars are spent to support good jobs in our own communities just makes good economic sense. When we are facing a recession, the need for action is urgent.

Many countries are investing domestically. Some of Canada's largest trading partners are included. Member countries of the European Union, Japan, China, Mexico and the United States all have local procurement policies.

Under the buy American act, U.S. law requires 60% domestic content and domestic final assembly for federally funded public transit purchases and 100% domestic content for material inputs like iron and steel.

The Americans, the Chinese, the Mexicans, the Japanese and most European countries understand that investing in local communities makes good economic sense. According to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, each $1 billion in new infrastructure creates 11,000 jobs; more than twice as many jobs as the equivalent tax cut.

Canada needs to take a lesson from our trading partners. By investing our tax dollars in Canadian companies and investing in Canadian jobs, we can dig ourselves out of this recession faster. With a focus on made in Canada products, we can generate not only more jobs but an increase in tax revenue that can be used to pay down our deficit or reinvest again in Canadian workers. By investing in ourselves, we can build the strong communities that support families.

Many Canadian companies across this great nation would benefit from made in Canada legislation. In my riding of London—Fanshawe, the manufacturing sector has been particularly hard hit with cutbacks, shift reductions and even plant closures. There are companies fighting through this economic downturn that would benefit from a boost in government investments in Canadian companies, companies like Sciencetech, a designer and manufacturer of scientific instruments. Sciencetech has been operating in my riding since 1985.

Purifics, an engineering firm that provides environmentally smart engineering systems and products for both industry and municipal government, has been headquartered in my riding since 1993.

Trojan Technologies is a water treatment technology company that builds disinfection systems for municipal waste water and drinking water for both municipal and commercial applications, as well as industrial applications.

Those are Canadian companies that bring benefit and could benefit from the passing of this made in Canada bill and there are many more companies across Canada that could also benefit from such legislation.

Navistar in Chatham could have saved local jobs if the federal government had not awarded a military truck contract to a firm in Texas.

The Prime Minister has spent the past several days in Washington meeting with the President of the United States and the American Congress. He is there, apparently, to try to persuade the president to change his stance on the buy American policy, a policy that has been in place, as I said, since 1933. I believe the Prime Minister is wasting his energy. He should focus his efforts and those of his government and make Canada's businesses a priority. No other country will make Canadian business a priority if Canada does not.

The Canadian manufacturers and exporters argue that:

In spite of NAFTA and the WTO’s Agreement on Government Procurement, which provide fair treatment to signatory nations when granting certain contracts, the U.S. government succeeds in promoting manufacturing on U.S. soil while respecting these agreements. ...restrictions exist regarding a manufacturing presence in the U.S. for all projects funded by the U.S. government in the sectors of mass transit, airports or road construction. These policies help meet economic development goals by striving to maximize the impact of government funds on U.S. industry.

However, Canadian companies do not benefit from the same support from their own governments, even though Canada has economic development goals which are similar to those of its main trading partner, and even though it is important for Canadian companies to have support that is similar to the one obtained by foreign companies from their governments in order to be competitive on a global scale. Too often, international agreements to which Canada is a signatory have been estimated to be restrictive regarding the actions it can take, to the point where it is powerless. However, Canada does have a scope of concern that is does not use, to the detriment of companies that choose to design and manufacture their products here.

Because of restrictions based on U.S. content...[and] the absence of such rules in Canada, Canadian manufacturers [are going to the U.S.]

This explains, in part, why the Canadian presence of companies is so intense along the U.S. northern border.

Those companies can bid on contracts on both sides of the border. Our Canadian companies are precluded from the U.S. market. These are jobs that have moved to the United States because we have a timid government.

My bill is not protectionist. It simply updates our laws to reflect those of our major trading partners. I want to give Canadian companies the same opportunities as their American counterparts. I want to stop penalizing companies for staying in Canada. I believe that the point of international trade agreements such as NAFTA and my bill is within limits of those.

If my bill had been in place before the current recession, we could have protected those jobs in Winnipeg, at Navistar, Lear, Sterling Trucks in St. Thomas and Siemens in London. I want job security for Canadian workers, for the people of my community, which is the purpose of my bill. I ask the members of the House to support it for the sake of our families, workers and Canadian companies and do what other nations do. Let us use our resources for the benefit of this country.

Made in Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to the member for London—Fanshawe and her new-found love of infrastructure spending.

I am an entrepreneur in my other life and I agree that Canadian companies should sell their products. They should sell their products because they are the best at building their products. They should sell their products because they go out and market them.

However, I heard a new-found love for local spending on infrastructure in the member's speech. I have seen her in her riding and, indeed, she mentioned a couple of companies in my riding. She has been in my riding. She will stand wherever she can behind a great big cheque that supports local infrastructure and the growth of companies in our country.

However, I would like to ask her how she squares that circle. Back home she is an infrastructure champion but here in the House her and her party voted against every dollar that we put forward in the economic action plan. She is a champion behind a podium here in the House but—

Made in Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Not any more.

Made in Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

You haven't read the bill.

Made in Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

How can we square that circle?

Made in Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I find it quite fascinating because I, too, have a reasonably long memory and a reasonably good grasp of what goes on in this place and the policies that we have seen.

Mine is not a new-found love for infrastructure projects. I go back to a government that begged Conservatives in the House, in 1990, to put in place infrastructure, to save jobs in the province of Ontario. They could not be bothered. They had no interest in it. The current government was brought kicking and screaming to the idea of investing in our communities through infrastructure.

Last November there was no recession. Last November there was no deficit. Last November Conservatives came in here with an economic update that was an insult to every Canadian and members of our communities. They have the audacity to stand and say that somehow this side of the House, this party, is not interested in helping Canadians.

I will be everywhere it takes to stand up for the people in my community and for their jobs. I will take nothing from that side of the House and nothing from that member.

Made in Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am sure time is limited so I will make this question very quick. She has quite a bit of enthusiasm for her disdain of the current government. This is a simple question. Does she have confidence in this government, yes or no?

Made in Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have confidence in Canadians. I have confidence in our ability to dig ourselves out from under that.

It does not mean that I have any particular love nor faith in the Conservative Party. It has given me absolutely no reason to believe in it. However, I will stand up for the unemployed. I will stand up for pensioners. I will stand up for those who need it. Unlike Liberals who gutted the EI system and threw Canadians to the wolves, I will be there when my constituents need me.

I do not like that side and I do not like the other side. I like the policies that bring Canadians to a point where they can look after their families; plain, simple and straightforward.

Made in Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Liberal Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the intentions, but how on earth can we possibly continue to stand and rally against the buy American provisions, while at the same time support a buy Canadian provision? How can she possibly support that at this point in time?

Made in Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is fascinating. The Prime Minister has gone on bended knee seven times to the Americans about their policy of procurement and did not get anywhere.

If we cannot convince Americans to let us in, we need to ensure that this country lets Canadian manufacturers in to our procurement policies.

Made in Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

North Vancouver B.C.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, that is a hard act to follow, but I will do my best. I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Elgin—Middlesex—London this afternoon.

I appreciate the opportunity to rise today to speak out vigorously about private member's Bill C-392. The bill is another attempt—

Made in Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I have no objection with the member splitting his time, except that within the Standing Orders, my impression is that he has to have the unanimous consent of the House.

Made in Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The member for Hull—Aylmer is correct. During private members' business, if a member wants to split his time, he or she does require unanimous consent.

Does the hon. member have unanimous consent?

Made in Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Made in Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

September 18th, 2009 / 1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton Conservative North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleagues for that unanimous consent.

The bill is another attempt by a member of the House to use the economic crisis for political purposes rather than helping Canadian families and businesses.

Bill C-392 would require that the government, including crown corporations and any foundation or trust with 75% of its income from the government, give absolute preference to Canadian goods and services in its procurement policies. This would also apply to transfers to the provinces, municipalities and private parties. This is the plan from the opposite side for economic development and employment, and I call it a recipe for disaster.

As members know, the economic crisis has been a synchronized global economic meltdown. No industrialized nation has been untouched by its impact. As a result, the nations of the world came together to fight the global recession with measures to stimulate our economies, and Canada was among them. We in this country are coming back.

Earlier this month, Statistics Canada reported an increase in employment during the month of August, a sign the economy is moving in the right direction. A recent report from the CIBC says that Canada's economy is to grow 2% in 2010, half a percentage point stronger than in the United States and more than double the growth expected in the eurozone economies. This is good news, but to keep the recovery on track, trade is essential.

Everyone knows a recession cannot be fought by using protectionist measures to close the markets in a shortsighted and ill-conceived attempt to save domestic companies and jobs. The last time that was tried it was followed by the Great Depression. That is the lesson of this economic crisis and of history.

In the global marketplace no country is an island. Our government knows the importance of engagement with the world. That is why the Prime Minister has publicly stated he is against protectionism. That is why Canada's policy is to counter buy American provisions in the U.S. and economic stimulus package. Has the hon. member who proposed Bill C-392 understood the lessons of history? I do not think so. Her bill would turn an economy and a nation, built on trading with the world, away from the world.

We cannot fight a recession by choking off one of the key drivers of economic growth. That is what the bill would do. It would slow down stimulus spending by limiting it to those companies that are be acceptable to its narrow criteria. It would penalize small Canadian suppliers that are distributors of foreign made goods in terms of winning contracts. It would increase administrative costs for those companies to demonstrate the origin of their goods and services. In addition, it would increase administrative costs for recipients of federal government transfers, like provincial and municipal governments, charities and individuals.

The government has worked hard to do exactly the opposite, to cut the red tape for organizations doing business with the government. We know the cost of government is an important factor contributing to the competitiveness of our economy. Why on earth would we act to increase our costs at a time like this?

Our government is offering the right kind of leadership at the right time. We are acting to get the economy growing again and to make it stronger than ever. Our economic action plan is working. We are continuing to inject stimulus spending into the economy. We are making government more efficient and effective. We are ensuring that continued and expanded engagement with our trading partners lifts our economy out of crisis.

This is a real plan for economic recovery and Canada will emerge from this crisis stronger because of it. We cannot and will not hide behind protectionist trade policies. That is not the 21st century way. It is not the government's way and it is not the Canadian way.

We have to make a choice: turn inward, lock our doors and watch our economy shrivel, or continue to look outward, build our competitive advantages and secure our prosperity through global economic engagement. When faced with those choices, our duty is clear.

I call upon my colleagues to join me in opposing this bill.

Made in Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the House for its consent to speak today.

The bill is yet another protectionist measure emanating from the benches opposite. It would require that every department and agent of the Government of Canada give preference to Canadian products when purchasing goods and services. It would apply not only to every department and agent of the Government of Canada, but to any crown corporation and any foundation with 75% of its income or funding coming from the government.

The best way to promote jobs and growth in our country is not by protecting Canadians from foreign competition, but by preparing for it. The best defence is a good offence. The best way to create jobs and growth is to guarantee that our products and services have access to worldwide markets. The best way to do that is to ensure that the world markets, including our own, stay open to competition.

The bill runs completely counter to the work of the last 20 years to guarantee access to international markets. Beginning with the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement signed in 1988, the Government of Canada has entered into many free trade agreements to ensure this access. These include agreements with Mexico, as part of the North American Free Trade Agreement; with Chile, Israel, Peru, Colombia, Costa Rica; and Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland as part of the agreement with the European Free Trade Association.

As we look forward, we know that as small market economy Canada's future growth depends on our ability to reach markets beyond our own borders. That is why, at the Canada-European Union Summit in Prague earlier this year, the Prime Minister announced the historic launch of negotiations toward an economic partnership between Canada and the 27 member states of the EU.

Canada is, and always will be, a trading nation. One in five jobs in Canada is linked to international trade and 70% of our GDP is dependent on it. Consider, for example, the significance of our trade with the United States. Canada and the United States are each other's most important partner in economic growth. Since the Canada-U.S. free trade agreement was signed in 1988 and then NAFTA in 1992, there is no doubt our bilateral trade has been one of the major components of economic growth.

During these two decades, Canada and U.S. trade has tripled. Investment flows have also increased substantially. Two-way trade across the Canada-U.S. border at the rate of $1.7 billion a day, over $1 million a minute. An estimated three million jobs in Canada depend on our trade with the United States.

Given this scale of success it is clear that protectionism is our mutual enemy. In fact, it is a threat to our economic recovery. Indeed, it places restrictions on free trade and real growth prospects in both the developed and developing world alike.

Protectionist policies might look like an effective way of supporting economic growth, but our companies cannot compete if they are coddled. In fact, such actions prepare Canadian business not to compete on the world stage at all, but to fall behind under protectionist measures.

In addition, we are committed to respecting and upholding our trade commitments with our partners and we expect our partners will do the same. To come out of this global recession, we need to continue to trade free of barriers. The Great Depression taught us that the downward spiral of protectionism only leads to a more dire situation. That is why our economic action plan protects Canadians during the global recession, not by restricting trade, but by promoting it.

Our Budget Implementation Act revoked additional tariffs to increase international trade. This plan works to create good jobs for the future to equip our country for success in the years ahead.

We are acting through the most appropriate means to protect our economy and Canada is affected by the downturn. That includes the tax system, the employment insurance program and by direct spending by federal and provincial governments. It includes lending by crown corporations and partnerships in the private sector. What it leaves behind is protectionism, in the dustbin of history where it belongs. Canada knows we cannot build a fortress and lock ourselves inside it.

I believe the evidence before us can only lead to one conclusion. Therefore, I call on my colleagues in the House to oppose the bill.

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderPrivate Members' Business

2 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, during question period on June 10, at approximately 2:40 p.m., I used an expression in asking a question, to which the government took exception. It claimed at that time it was unparliamentary. Now I disagree with that interpretation, but that is entirely beside the point.

I do not want a dispute about language to obscure my main argument and I certainly do not want to put the Chair in a difficult position.

Therefore, I am happy to withdraw any specific word on that occasion that turns out to be unparliamentary.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-392, An Act respecting the use of government procurements and transfers to promote economic development, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Made in Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

2 p.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Liberal Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am rising today in response to the proposed Bill C-392, An Act respecting the use of government procurements and transfers to promote economic development.

I appreciate the efforts of my colleague from the NDP and I will acknowledge good intentions. I believe firmly that credit is due when it is appropriate, and I do appreciate good intentions.

However, this proposal, in effect, is a vague, protectionist and retaliatory response. It is an attempt at a response to the buy American provisions in the United States which we, as a group of parliamentarians, have vehemently opposed for some time now.

I wish to stand here today to show our lack of support for this particular bill. Let me add a little bit of context to our position on this. The buy American provisions were announced some time ago and are clearly creating significant challenges for Canadian businesses and therefore for Canadian jobs.

As much as I might have some agreement with some of the interventions from my colleagues across the way, I hate to inform them that I am not in fact part of their current coalition and I will take significant exception to some of what they said.

The challenge that we are facing now requires results. It does not require letters and words. So far, from the Conservative government that we have at the moment and since the buy American provisions were announced, we have seen nothing but letters, some of which have gone unanswered and words. This past week alone we have seen another photo op with the President of the United States, who once again acknowledged, in certain words, that the buy American provisions were not something that he felt were that important from a Canadian perspective, and that we really ought to focus on things of a more significant nature. From a Canadian perspective, these buy American provisions are in fact very important and very damaging. We need far more than a photo op and words and letters.

What we needed, and still need because we continue to not see any results, was a recognition of the impacts of the buy American provisions. Although the federal government is subject to NAFTA, the individual states of the United States and the many municipalities are not. The effect of the buy American policy, and not even just the provisions but the sentiment, has created significant efforts on the part of many states and municipalities in the United States to source specifically from the United States, which, as I have said, has created a real challenge for many Canadian businesses and therefore Canadian jobs.

The answer is not, at the top, to make noise and to protest weakly. The answer should have been and continues to be to have people on the ground in the United States, not just in Washington but at the various state levels and the municipalities, working with those people to ensure that Canadian businesses and Canadian jobs were not going to be sacrificed and put at risk because of the buy American provisions.

I feel very strongly in representing the Liberal Party saying that we stand for free trade. We stand against protectionism. We stand for the long-term economic benefits of free trade and against protectionism, and that one cannot do a knee-jerk reaction at the expense of long-term economic benefits.

We are critical of the buy American provisions, very much so. I, as a Liberal on this side of the House in opposition, am also very critical of the complete lack of results that we have seen from the Conservative government.

It is my distinct recollection that the other opposition parties have also been critical of the buy American provisions and have also been very critical of the lack of results seen from the current government.

How on earth does this response sound: “We do not like buy American. We want you to stop the buy American provisions or we are just going to do the same thing”? It sounds frightfully like children in a sandbox saying, “You have now thrown sand me, so I am going to throw sand at you”.

Retaliation does not good policy make. Simply recognizing the circumstances that we are now in, even if there were value to this, which I question, the appearance of having us as Canadians who as parliamentarians appear to have been unanimous in our critique and our criticism of the buy American provisions to simply even be seen to be promoting buy Canadian as a retaliatory measure would make absolutely no sense, and in fact would be somewhat embarrassing, frankly, for us as Canadian parliamentarians.

I would recommend that my hon. colleague think very seriously about moving this forward. I invite her to engage in a discussion on how we can achieve solid results collectively and ensure that the government finally works to achieve some results in challenging the buy American provisions.

However, this particular bill does absolutely nothing of the kind. On the contrary, it really diminishes our ability, when we are engaging with the Americans, to encourage them to reduce their buy American provisions.