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House of Commons Hansard #54 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was billion.

Topics

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I move:

That the House do now proceed to orders of the day.

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

All those opposed will please say nay.

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

Before the taking of the vote:

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Don Valley West, Public Service; the hon. member for Madawaska—Restigouche, Economic Development.

(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)

Vote #54

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I declare the motion lost.

Order, please. The hon. parliamentary secretary to the government House leader had the floor before the vote and there are 10 minutes allotted for questions and comments. However, since the parliamentary secretary is not in his place, we will not have questions and comments.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Kings—Hants.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to the report of the Standing Committee on International Trade on the deal signed between the Conservative government here in Canada and the Obama administration on buy American that ostensibly was to deal with the risk that U.S. protectionism and protectionist policies represent to Canadian industry.

In terms of some historical perspective, I heard my colleague from the NDP earlier today credit U.S. protectionism in the 1930s with helping the U.S. emerge from the economic downturn. I have never heard that argument before. I am always curious to hear new arguments and I always find NDP economic arguments curious and not necessarily thought provoking, but from time to time illustrative of what happens when absolutely no time is spent ever studying economics in the real world.

Earlier today when I heard the NDP say that the policy that the Americans implemented in the 1930s that was principally responsible for the U.S. recovery from the Great Depression was a protectionist policy, I really thought I was going to fall out of my chair.

In fact, there is a global consensus that crosses party lines that trade is good, that trade is important, that trade creates jobs and prosperity, that trade helps create goods and services that are affordable for all citizens and consumers. Social democratic parties around the world, the British Labour Party and the U.S. Democratic Party, by and large, have embraced this. The only social democratic party in the world that is still tied to the past, still filled with global-phobic socialist Luddites, is the New Democratic Party of Canada when it comes to trade policy.

The fact is that during the 1930s what turned a regionalized recession into a global depression was U.S. protectionism. The U.S. protectionism in the 1930s that led to reciprocal protectionist action around the world deepened and broadened that depression and that downturn.

One of the things we have learned from that is not to repeat the mistakes of the past. If anything, in this current economic downturn that we have seen over the last couple of years, there is a global consensus that we ought not repeat those errors.

It is particularly important from a Canadian perspective that we do not respond to U.S. protectionism with our own reciprocal protectionist measures, because we depend disproportionately more on U.S. markets than American companies depend on our markets. Anything we do ostensibly to protect our companies through Canadian domestic protectionist policies will have the unintended consequence of denying our companies access to the big prize, and that is the U.S. market and other international markets.

The provinces have shown great leadership on this issue. Premier Charest was very engaged in the discussion. He helped lead discussions with provincial governments and provincial premiers across Canada to reduce protectionist and interprovincial trade barriers that existed. Getting the provinces to agree on a consensus on subnational government procurement was a big step forward. It enabled the federal government to do more than it was able to do previously.

The U.S.-led global downturn teaches us the important lesson that we have to not only do a better job defending Canadian interests in the U.S., but we also have to significantly diversify our trade interests. That is something that the Conservative government, in my opinion, has not done enough of.

The Conservative government spent its first three years attacking and provoking China, and then a year sucking up to China, trying to make up for the damage that it wrought on the Canada-China relationship, a profoundly positive relationship going back to not just Pierre Trudeau, who helped open up China, but in fact, Richard Nixon, who was the first leader of a developed nation to establish diplomatic ties with post-revolution China. Also, to be non-partisan, former Progressive Conservative Prime Minister John Diefenbaker was also instrumental in deepening ties with China.

The Conservative government's denial of the importance of China for the first three years of its government did not reflect what has been a bi-partisan commitment to deepen Canada-China ties, a commitment that established great social and political ties over the years, but today, now that China is leading the global recovery in terms of economic growth and opportunity, creates a huge economic opportunity for Canada.

Therefore, first of all, I do not believe the Conservative government has done a good enough job in defending Canadian interests in our biggest market, the U.S.; and I do not believe it has had a sensible, forward-thinking policy to diversify our trade relations with countries such as China, India and Brazil as examples.

Protectionism is popular. Protectionism, particularly during times of economic downturn, can be very good politics. That is why we are seeing increasingly in the U.S., in Congress and in government at the state level, a lot of protectionist policies. We are seeing it here in Canada.

The fact is, when people lose their jobs, obviously the first instinct is to protect themselves and protect their jobs. The first instinct is to try to put up barriers and try to do what they can to ensure that things do not get worse.

We are particularly vulnerable to the politics of protectionism in the U.S. right now. In the U.S., there is a statistical recovery but a human recession. One in five Americans between the ages of 25 and 55 are out of work and it is not clear where the jobs of tomorrow are going to come from.

It is also important to realize that there is fear not just from unemployment in the U.S., but the fear of people losing their homes. As we see upward pressure on interest rates and the cost of borrowing and over-leveraging, we have had 15 years of over-leveraging in many ways, both in Canada and in the U.S., and now, particularly in the U.S., we are going to see a period where there is going to be a reversal of that policy. The over-leveraging that led to unsustainable economic growth is now going to be countered by a period of time where we are going to see a retraction of credit and we are going to see a pullback that will create a significant challenge both in terms of sovereign debt and in domestic or consumer debt for people to be able to continue to grow the economy in the U.S.

So I think protectionist sentiment in the U.S. is going to be something that we have to be vigilant on and defend ourselves from, and we are going to see the politics of protectionism in the U.S. continue to be popular. The political pressure on U.S. legislators to implement protectionist measures is not going to be reduced, it is going to continue to grow.

We have a Democrat-controlled Congress, at least until November. We will see what happens in November, but the fact is that within the Democratic Party in the U.S. there is a lot of protectionist sentiment. It is unintended in many cases, as we are not necessarily targeted by that protectionism and those protectionist measures, but we do get hit by the crossfire and the results of that protectionism.

When the Conservatives signed the buy American agreement earlier this year, it was largely too little, too late. Last year, many Canadians lost their jobs as Canadian companies were forced to move to the U.S. and relocate distribution and manufacturing because of the buy American clause that was in the 2009 U.S. recovery act.

The buy American clause, which went into effect in February 2009, requires that only American-made iron, steel and manufactured goods be used in U.S. stimulus projects. As a result, Canadian manufacturers were shut out of tens of billions of dollars in U.S. contracts. In the midst of a recession, this was a tough pill for Canadians to swallow, tougher still because the Conservative government had failed to live up to its promise to defend Canadian economic interests in the U.S.

One year later, the Conservatives signed a deal with the U.S. to open up a small number of 2009 U.S. stimulus packages to Canadian firms. This “temporary agreement”, and it is referred to in the agreement as a temporary agreement, for local projects runs only until September 2011 when the last of the 2009 U.S. recovery act is set to expire. However, the vast majority of the U.S. stimulus money from 2009 was spent before the agreement even went into place.

According to media reports, less than $5 billion in local U.S. projects, just to put this into context, 2% of U.S. recovery act funding would be open to Canadian bids under this agreement. Effectively, we were not at the table. We did not defend our interests. If we are not at the table, we are typically on the menu when we are dealing with the Americans on issues like this. American companies had the big meal and we were left with the crumbs. Our Canadian companies were just left with the crumbs because the stimulus package was largely spent.

Even these estimates may be high. An internal Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters briefing notes that. “All funds under the recovery act must be 'under contract by February 2010”.

This suggests that the window had already closed for most Canadian companies even before the buy American agreement had been signed.

In exchange, Canada gave the U.S. unprecedented access to a wide range of local and municipal construction projects until September 2011. What we learned during the committee hearings is that there have been no quantitative analyses of what we were giving up for what we were achieving.

Earlier tonight I credited the Canadian provinces for their leadership on this and for their proactive leadership in eliminating sub-national government protectionism, which I believe that is important, but I also believe it is important to recognize what we were giving up and compare it to what we were gaining. I think that is where the Conservative government failed Canadians during those negotiations.

From February 2010, when the deal was signed, until it expires in September 2011, Canadian municipalities covered under this deal are expected to spend $25 billion on construction services. In the Conservative government's haste to declare a victory over buy American, the Conservatives signed a largely one-sided agreement. There is no reciprocal access to local U.S. infrastructure programs during the same time. For this time period, the Conservatives signed a one-sided deal that is disproportionately beneficial to U.S. manufacturers as opposed to Canadian manufacturers.

There is a number of spending bills before the U.S. Congress with buy American provisions that are not even covered under this deal and there are more to come. The government ought to have negotiated an approach to prevent these kinds of measures applying to Canada on a go-forward basis. Instead, we have to repeat this process. Every time we see a piece of U.S. legislation, stimulus or otherwise, that has protectionist measures that hurt Canadian interests, we have to go through this whole process again. Based on the last model, we will see once again that it will take the Conservatives almost a year to get any action and then, whatever package, stimulus proposal or government legislation in the U.S. that is introduced, by the time it expires we will have already missed out.

It is clear that Canada needs a better deal, but with Canada's local procurement markets already open to the U.S. until September 2011, what is left for Canada to negotiate away?

We need a fair, permanent and comprehensive agreement that would give Canada a meaningful exemption from buy American-type protectionism. We need an agreement with lower thresholds that allows small and medium-sized enterprises, the backbone of our Canadian economy, to sell their goods in the U.S. while keeping jobs here in Canada.

Instead of playing shortsighted domestic politics, the Conservative government should have focused on building the necessarily relationships with the U.S. to achieve a long-term solution for Canada. However, with four Conservative ministers in four years, the Conservatives simply have not been able to build the kinds of relationships on the international scene, on trade matters particularly, to defend Canadian interests effectively.

Trade relations are simply human relations. With the Conservatives changing trade ministers four time in four years, that has denied any individual trade minister the opportunity to develop the kinds of deep relationships that can defend our interests.

Compare that with any other OECD country. No other competitor and no other country that I am aware of changes their trade ministers every year. The Conservative government, however, has gone through four trade ministers in four years and that has had a deleterious effect on any one of those trade ministers' capacity to defend Canadian interests abroad.

Canada cannot afford to let the U.S. off the hook by pretending that the buy American problem has been solved by this agreement.

I hope that my colleagues across the aisle will join us in an honest, open and constructive discussion about the buy American barriers that are still in place. Canadian firms and workers who rely on access to the U.S. market deserve nothing less.

It is also important to recognize that as the largest energy supplier to the U.S., we have an opportunity to reframe our trade discussions with the U.S. When we go to the U.S. and we say that buy American policies are bad, that automatically puts the American legislators on the defensive. There is a more constructive way to approach this.

First, the threat to jobs in the U.S. will not come as much from Canadian companies as some of the emerging economies, such as China, India and those areas of growth and opportunity. Any artificial barriers between the Canadian economy and the U.S. economy will cost jobs on both sides.

In terms of the energy side, being the biggest energy provider to the U.S. and recognizing the importance of energy security to the Americans, we have the capacity to leverage on that power, more broadly, to deepen our ties with the Americans and to deepen our economic relationship with the Americans to the extent that it would be self-evident to American legislators that it would be counterproductive, dangerous and damaging to the American economy to put any trade protectionist measures in place that would artificially divide the Canadian and the U.S. economy.

Buy American is one of the protectionist measures we face as Canadians, and one which the Conservative government has not done enough to defend us against. Country of origin labelling is another one. I would argue that the western hemisphere travel initiative is a measure that the Americans introduced that does lead to a thickening of the Canada-U.S. border. I do not believe the Conservatives have done enough to defend ourselves on that.

However, when we focus on the power that the energy relationship gives us, I believe we should be deepening our discussions with the Americans in three critical areas. The first one is on carbon pricing. When we are the American's biggest energy provider, we should not be sitting back as a bystander as they develop a price for carbon, a price mechanism that will have a border mechanism, a carbon tariff that will apply to our exports to the U.S. We should be working with the Americans to develop an approach on that.

We should also be working with the Americans to deepen our relationship around the modernization of energy grids. Some of the provincial and state governments are engaged in that, but there is a area of national leadership and investment. The Obama administration is putting $7 billion into grid modernization and I think we should be working with them on that.

We should also be deepening our relationship with the Americans on the research and development of clean energy technology. The fact is that when it comes to things like carbon capture and storage, Canada has been a global leader. Forty percent of the world's carbon that is sequestered is stored in Weyburn, Saskatchewan, and yet when the Americans signed a deal with China a few months ago to deepen their relationship on carbon capture and storage and on the research and development of those solutions, Canada was not at the table.

We need to be at the table. We need to deepen our trade relations and our energy relations with the Americans. That is the best way for us to defend ourselves against American protectionism.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have listened to the member many times before on this particular topic. He and I went on a trip to Washington and met with various senators on this and other issues of interest to both sides.

He was absolutely right when he explained how the government was late getting into negotiations with the Americans. When the agreement was signed, we ended up getting the short end of the stick because, as he explained, by the time we signed the agreement, almost all of the available business was already spoken for. Potentially, only 2% of the U.S. recovery act money will even be open to Canadian bids at the end of the day.

Why was the government not aggressive earlier on this file and what was its intention in negotiating a one-sided deal, which gives us very little opportunities in the U.S., but, in turn, provides the U.S. a lot of opportunities in our market?

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, as part of the Canada-U.S. parliamentary association, the member and I travelled to the U.S., along with members from all parties.

What I really appreciated about the member's participation in that mission to Washington a few months ago, regardless of the differences we may have in the House on various trade issues, is that he was not focused on defending partisan interests or fighting the partisan battles at home but in defending Canadian interests. I would say that about my Bloc colleagues and the Conservatives. When we were in Washington, we worked together to defend Canadian interests.

The Canada-U.S. parliamentary association in some ways creates or provides the model that Parliament ought to have when we are defending our interests internationally, putting away some of the ideological differences and seeking a common cause as we go forward.

I agree with him that this particular deal was based more on the Conservatives' desire to have a photo op and some sort of political announcement domestically prior to the one year anniversary of the buy American deal than it was in developing a long-term approach. That being the case, I want to see this debate go from what the Conservatives failed to get to what we as a Parliament, all parties working together, ought to try to get for the future.

To make this more constructive, we should change the channels and move away from the narrow partisan advantage I could score focusing on the Conservative failures to a more constructive approach in terms of what we all could do working together and sharing ideas on how to deepen the relationship between Canada and the U.S. and ensuring we are better able to defend our interests next time.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Lee Richardson Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I was surprised that the hon. member would feel so comfortable with the philosophy of the NDP considering his exemplary and outstanding contributions to the trade committee on free trade and enterprise.

I want to correct a couple of things. First, this deal was not overt in terms of buy American and, second, subcontracts were readily available. Tens of millions of dollars worth of contracts were available to Canadian companies, which I would like the member to confirm. However, he did support it so I presume he thought the deal we had was better than no deal.

There was also the concern about what we gave up. Canadian municipalities already were allowing bids from American suppliers, so it is not that we really gave up anything at all but we did gain a considerable amount.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague, as chair of the trade committee, always operates that committee with an even hand and is fair to members from all parties in terms of his deliberations and judgment as chair of that committee.

I can disagree without being disagreeable with the hon. member, but I do disagree with him in terms of this agreement. I think it was a one-sided agreement. I think the Americans knew that the Canadian government was very keen on getting a domestic political announcement in place and was operating against the time clock and effectively forced our hand and dragged the puck until most of the stimulus was gone, forcing Canadian companies to live with the crumbs.

However, we need to get this debate focused on the future and how we can deepen our trade relationship with the U.S. while we diversify our relations elsewhere and improve our capacity to defend ourselves against protectionism.

Lake of the Woods and Rainy River BasinsPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

moved:

That, in the opinion of the House, in order to ensure the long-term ecological and economic vitality of the Lake of the Woods and Rainy River Basin, the governments of Canada and the United States should continue to foster trans-jurisdictional coordination and collaboration on science and management activities to enhance and restore water quality in the Lake of the Woods and Rainy River Basin, by referring the matter of Lake of the Woods water quality to the International Joint Commission for examination, reporting, and recommendations regarding the binational management of the international waters of the Lake of the Woods and Rainy River system and the International Joint Commission's potential role in this watershed, in line with the International Watersheds Initiative.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today and introduce my first piece of private member's business, Motion No. 519. As the member of Parliament for the great Kenora riding, I am privileged to represent a region of this country that is renowned for its rugged beauty, the Canadian Shield landscape, thousands of pristine lakes, and frankly, a pulchritude second to none in Canada.

As a result, it should be no surprise that water is of paramount importance for our communities, our livelihoods, and our lifestyle. While many of our lakes remain pristine, others have become polluted with far-reaching consequences. It is imperative that we protect the health of our watersheds and this is why I am introducing this motion in the House this evening.

My motion aims to protect and sustain the vitality of Lake of the Woods and the surrounding region by calling for a joint reference to the International Joint Commission on the issue of water quality governance.

For anyone who has visited Lake of the Woods, they will say it is one of North America's natural wonders. I live on Lake of the Woods and I have the distinct privilege of waking up every morning to its beauty.

With over 14,000 islands, 105,000 kilometres of expansive shoreline, its deep clear water and rugged shield landscape at the north end, surrounded by then shallow waters and sandy bottoms to the south, Lake of the Woods represents what most Canadians and in fact what people from around the world think about when they think about Canada and its natural diversity. Lake of the Woods and its tributaries are used as a source of drinking water, electricity, recreation, agriculture and fisheries in Ontario, Manitoba and Minnesota.

Like a number of lakes and rivers across the country, Lake of the Woods is enjoyed by the Canadians that live on its shores and those who come from far and wide to swim in its waters, explore its islands by boat, fish and enjoy the region's natural beauty.

Lake of the Woods is a major tourist destination as well. It is in keeping with other major destinations such as Mont Tremblant, the Muskoka region, Banff and Whistler. It is home to many cottage owners who vacation on the lake in the spring and summer from all over North America, in fact the world.

Recent data reports that tourism in the Lake of the Woods region contributed nearly $92 million in gross domestic product to the province of Ontario, $63 million, or 68%, of which was retained in the local area. Tourism supports roughly $37 million in total taxes distributed to federal, provincial and municipal governments. Lake of the Woods supports over 2,900 equivalent year-round jobs to the region's economy.

As the walleye capital of the world, Lake of the Woods is host to a multitude of fish species on the lake, including muskie, walleye, bass, lake trout, northern pike and crappie. Indeed, Kenora's most prominent ornament is Husky the Muskie, which symbolizes our economic, recreational and traditional ties to fishing and time well spent on Lake of the Woods.

The lake is also a source of drinking water for three-quarters of a million people who live in communities on or near the lake and as far away as the city of Winnipeg. In more recent years, there have been concerns about the water quality of Lake of the Woods. The presence of blue-green algae has many people concerned about the quality of the water in the lake and its sustainability, as well as its effects on the health of humans and the ecosystem at large.

High phosphorus levels are one of the key agents causing extensive growth of blue-green algae blooms, which can be toxic. Wide swaths of algae impair water quality, recreational use, drinking water and fish habitat. High phosphorus levels are predominantly caused by fertilizers, and other sources of phosphorus include household dishwashing and laundry detergents, and other cleaning products.

The good news is that local citizen groups and organizations in and around the Lake of the Woods are taking action. Longbow Lake Residents Association, Lake of the Woods District Property Owners Association and Lake of the Woods Water Sustainability Foundation have been important partners in an effort to improve the sustainability of the lake and a shining example of how Canadians can make differences in their communities. They also demonstrate the importance of building partnerships between governments and local communities, so that we can work together to solve problems that are of concern to us all.

I would now like to take some time to talk about one group in particular, the Lake of the Woods Water Sustainability Foundation, who have shown instrumental leadership moving the issue of Lake of the Woods water quality forward in a meaningful way. It has driven or participated in important research, meetings and forums to successfully bring its concerns to the attention of elected representatives, both in Canada and the United States. It has been advocating for a reference to the International Joint Commission about water quality in Lake of the Woods for more than five years.

I have had numerous meetings with Todd Sellers and his extraordinary team, and I am compelled to play a part in a role in advancing the issue of the lake's sustainability, and in fact that is what led me to move this motion today.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Lake of the Woods Water Sustainability Foundation for its hard work, dedication and commitment.

Dealing with the sustainability of the Lake of the Woods water quality involves working with different levels of government, including first nations, municipal, provincial, federal and state governments. I am pleased to report that quite recently, our friends and my legislative colleagues in Minnesota have taken similar action with a motion to refer the issue to the International Joint Commission for examination and report.

The Government of Ontario has also been proactive on this matter, commissioning studies, convening a variety of stakeholders and co-organizing the Lake of the Woods water quality forum. All of these efforts deserve our thanks and recognition.

The motion we are discussing today calls for the Government of Canada, along with the United States, to refer the question of governance of water quality on Lake of the Woods to the IJC for consideration and recommendations.

I have no doubt that when this issue is referred to the commission, it will make concrete recommendations to the governments, as it has for so many other issues throughout its long history.

In fact, the Government of Canada has already discussed this important referral with the United States.

I would like to take a few moments to explain the work of the International Joint Commission and its role in this matter, since it may be a body that many Canadians are unaware of. Because water does not respect international boundaries, the United States is an important partner in protecting our transboundary water resources. Our long history of co-operation on water resources dates back to the Boundary Waters Treaty, which was signed over 100 years ago.

The Boundary Waters Treaty also led to the creation of the International Joint Commission, a key partner in managing transboundary waters shared by the United States and Canada.

The IJC has balanced binational representation and was created to deal with situations such as that of Lake of the Woods.

The IJC already coordinates other boundary waters, such as Baie Missisquoi in Lake Champlain, which is shared by Quebec and Vermont.

The IJC has a long history in our region of the country, including a 1912 reference for water levels and a 1959 reference to study water pollution in Lake of the Woods and Rainy River. This led to the establishment of the International Rainy River Water Pollution Board in 1966, which is responsible for supervising pollution in the Rainy River basin and making necessary recommendations.

One of the possible recommendations that could arise from an IJC examination of the current Lake of the Woods situation could be that the Rainy River board be extended to include Lake of the Woods. This is what the Rainy River Water Pollution Board itself has recommended, since Rainy River provides over 70% of the inflow into Lake of the Woods and about 55% of the phosphorous loads.

I am confident in the ability of the IJC to coordinate monitoring, research and recommendations across multiple jurisdictions of Lake of the Woods. I am not alone in that confidence.

There is strong local support for an IJC reference for Lake of the Woods, with resolutions passed and sent to federal, provincial and state legislatures by the city of Kenora, the municipality of Sioux Narrows-Nestor Falls, the North Western Ontario Tourism Association, the Lake of the Woods District Property Owners Association and Rainy River First Nations, and in the United States by Buffalo Point First Nation, Koochiching County, Lake of the Woods County, Roseau County and the Lake of the Woods Soil and Water Conservation Board.

Before I conclude my speech, I would like to touch on the federal government's commitment to water issues.

Water quality is a problem that affects lakes and rivers across the country, and it is particularly important because approximately 7% of the world's fresh water is in Canada.

The Government of Canada is taking its responsibility as guardian of this precious resource seriously and is working with the provinces, territories and communities in order to ensure that it is properly maintained.

The question is, what steps has our government already taken?

First, the Government of Canada introduced our action plan for clean water in 2008. Under the action plan, Environment Canada has committed $96 million to clean up Lake Simcoe, the Great Lakes and the Lake Winnipeg basin.

The Lake Winnipeg basin initiative provides $18 million over five years to clean up the lake and surrounding watersheds, in partnership with provincial actions. Lake of the Woods is included in this initiative. In fact, $135,000 has been allocated for the development of a preliminary total phosphorous budget and water quality modeling for Lake of the Woods.

Similar to what is needed in Lake of the Woods, the goal of the Lake Winnipeg basin initiative is to reduce blue-green algae blooms, ensure fewer beach closings, keep in place a sustainable fishery, provide a clean lake for recreation and restore ecological integrity to the lake. The initiative aims to achieve these goals through science-based research and monitoring, watershed governance and a stewardship fund. This initiative will provide an innovative new model for integrated basin-wide watershed management.

Second, through Canada's economic action plan, we have also invested in water and wastewater infrastructure, with $3.25 billion dedicated to construction updates and renovations.

Third, we are also committed to protecting Canadians and their environment from chemical products with the chemicals management plan.

This $300 million plan is making Canada a world leader in assessing and regulating chemicals that are used in thousands of industrial and consumer products. Improved regulation of chemicals will contribute to improve water quality.

Fourth, new federal legislation will significantly reduce phosphorous entering our precious lakes and rivers. As of July 1, we are banning the use of phosphorous in household dishwashing detergents, laundry detergents and other cleaning products.

Fifth, we have tabled a new legislation, Bill C-26, to expand the prohibition against bulk water exports from boundary waters, which are already protected, to transboundary waters.

Clearly the government has taken many impressive steps and this motion is another important step.

Motion No. 519 provides a role for legislators on both sides of the border, and particularly in the House, to ensure the long-term sustainability of Lake of the Woods and the watersheds that it affects and by which it is affected.

Once again, I thank those individuals and organizations that have been instrumental in informing and supporting this motion. I want to take this opportunity to thank the Minister of the Environment and the Minister of Foreign Affairs and their respective departments for paying careful attention to the complexities of this issue and for supporting the important work we are doing here.

It is always a great opportunity to speak on behalf of the great Kenora riding and especially our special lake, Lake of the Woods.

Lake of the Woods and Rainy River BasinsPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member for bringing forward this very important motion. It is an excellent initiative, and I will be supporting it. I do have to take a little umbrage when he said, “a riding of unparalleled beauty”. I know he realizes Yukon is the most beautiful riding in the country.

Should the hon. member be fighting against the changes in Bill C-9, which would reduce the environmental assessment rigour? If a project with these relaxed regulations would get through, it could affect Lake of the Woods negatively and no one on any side of the House would want that.

Lake of the Woods and Rainy River BasinsPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

Mr. Speaker, so far, as I have said in my speech, I am very confident that our government is taking responsible steps to address the issues with respect to Lake of the Woods.

I am very confident in both ministers with respect to transboundary waters and their treatment of important and complex jurisdictional environmental matters with respect to rivers, watersheds and lakes.

I have full confidence moving forward, as do our constituents in our riding particularly on Lake of the Woods, that we are proceeding in a responsible manner and nothing is being overlooked.

Lake of the Woods and Rainy River BasinsPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, I too want to congratulate the hon. member on his bill. I would like him to elaborate on the problems with regard to his beloved lake. Are there any industries or cities located around the lake, or is it just used for recreational purposes?

Pardon my ignorance, but to better discuss this later, I would like the hon. member to talk about these problems.

Lake of the Woods and Rainy River BasinsPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will address this in English. Unfortunately, my French may not be well enough spontaneously to give some of the technical answers, but it is an important question.

The algae blooms can be found anywhere in the lake. As I pointed out in my speech, more than 55% of the phosphorous load, which leads to these blooms, comes in from the Rainy River Basin.

It is important the hon. member know that Lake of the Woods is in an interesting geographical location. It is actually an intersection, in water terms, for another important basin that I spoke of earlier, which feeds into Lake Winnipeg. As we know, they have had some serious problems over time with that, with the exact same problem of high phosphorous levels and corresponding algae blooms.

I hope that addresses the member's question.

Lake of the Woods and Rainy River BasinsPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member may recall that in the mid-1960s mercury was being dumped from a plant on the English-Wabigoon River system. I believe it was in Kenora or probably Dryden. We had to close the fishery down for a number of years because of Minamata disease.

What was the final resolution of that experience?

Lake of the Woods and Rainy River BasinsPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would have to refer to two things, the history books and the fact that I worked on this in my legal practice. I was not around in the mid-1960s.

He raises an important question. I want to assure the member that I have dealt with the dimensions of this problem substantively I am pleased to report that settlements were made with Grassy Narrows First Nation. In fact, that river has gone under a tremendous transformation with the cleanup from all levels of government.

As part of the arrangements, the first nation now presides over some new territory on that beautiful river with one of the most amazing, if I can make my plug, fish camps there. There is great fishing there now and people are eating that fish. It is a wonderful place.

Lake of the Woods and Rainy River BasinsPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to participate in this debate on the motion put forward by the MP for Kenora, which deals with the incredibly important issue around the Lake of the Woods. He has well described the challenge at play, but I want to debunk a few of the comments he has made so it is clear on the record for Canadians.

The government has taken some important measures like water and waste water effluent regulations, but unfortunately it is not funding our municipalities to allow them to move forward to comply with those regulations over time. Something it refused to do when it was asked by the official opposition was to bring in clean green conditions and attach those conditions to its stimulus spending.

It is also fair to point out in the case of the motion and the history that the MP for Kenora has omitted to give considerable credit to the work of other parties. I am sure he would agree that it is important to recognize a decade a good work that has led to the backstopping of this motion, and not just the non-governmental organizations at play, the tourism groups, the chambers of commerce, first nations, businesses and so on. This has been strongly supported by the Premier of Ontario, my brother Dalton McGuinty, who for years has been deeply concerned about the Lake of the Woods challenge, and its local MPP Howard Hampton, who has been considerably interested in this issue for some time.

I also give some credit, and I hope the member would agree, to his predecessor Roger Valley, who was instrumental in helping to launch this in a significant way in 2004. After all, it was Mr. Valley who brought the Right Hon. Herb Gray, former deputy prime minister of Canada and then the IJC Commissioner for Canada, along with the Right Hon. John Turner, former prime minister of Canada, together in 2004 to facilitate a tour of the area to raise awareness of our Canadian commissioner to deal with this issue in the context of the International Joint Commission. It is important to reflect that Mr. Valley is still considerably concerned about this as is our Liberal candidate in the very same riding.

The motion deserves support because presently the International Joint Commission only deals with the question of water levels in the Lake of the Woods. It is a problem that transcends water levels by far. It is an idea whose has come. Increasingly we now know if we are to manage our watersheds properly, we have to approach management of waterways and freshwater lakes in a watershed context. We have seen that, for example, with some success in the Fraser River Basin in British Columbia.

There is work right in the backyard of the House of Commons, the mighty Ottawa River, which on a daily basis has five times the flow of every western European tributary combined. It is a massive and mighty river upon which most of this region and country has been built. The Ottawa River now is subject to all kinds of layers of complex governance, different provinces, the federal government, aboriginal peoples, users of that waterway, industrial concerns, ecotourism and beyond. In terms of the Ottawa River, which I am convinced is similar to the situation in the Lake of the Woods and its watershed, we now know that we have to progress in the 21st century to a new form of management, which is management by watershed.

The time has come to take this up with the United States. Canada must approach its binational partner in this context. What we are targeting here, what the member is trying to put forward and what so many good interests and good faith people are trying to see, is some kind of Great Lakes water quality agreement parallel applied to this watershed. The damage is now at the back end. We see the net effects of years of improper management and years of delay. It is good to see that six years later, after this was launched more politically by Mr. Valley, this is now the basis of a motion.

I also understand that the International Joint Commission has been helping informally in the region with water quality conferences, for example, and that it is more than seized with the immediate need to see this matter dealt with more comprehensively.

As I said earlier, it really is a question of asking our governments to partner with the United States to refer the matter formally to the International Joint Commission. It is a formal step, a legal step, that must be taken. Of course, that would presuppose the following, and it is something that I am sure the mover of the motion understands.

It means that not only would a reference be required, but funding for a reference would also have to be attached. We cannot ask the IJC, which has no programmatic funding of its own. I assume that the member is working through his own government, particularly with his minister of finance, to at least put a marker down that if this is going to pass through the House of Commons, there will be funding for this reference so that it can be dealt with appropriately at the International Joint Commission.

I say this because a reference to the IJC compels and implies public hearings. Public hearings would have to be conducted. It is quite a lengthy and arduous process. It is also a comprehensive one. I think the member understands that. Again, I would ask him to make sure, and I would of course be here to lend him support in his efforts, that the requisite funding for this reference actually is earmarked by the government's minister of finance.

A lot of folks are concerned about the state of water in Canada. The government has taken some steps. I commend the government, and always have, for its environmental enforcement measures brought to committee some time ago. It was a good piece of work that pre-dated the government and pre-dated my arrival in Parliament. A lot of folks deserve the credit for ratcheting up our standards around enforcement in the environmental area.

I would also hope that the member has in some respects spoken to the International Joint Commission. We have discussed this motion between ourselves and amongst our own caucuses. I would hope that he has spoken to the commission to ascertain its immediate and potential receptivity to receiving this reference, so that it is ready to hit the ground running should this motion pass the House and should it be properly resourced by the government in due course.

Going forward, the question of fresh water is unbelievably important, not just for Canada but also for the planet. We know that the amount of fresh water the planet now provides is presently being oversubscribed in 2010 by almost 40%. Almost 40% more fresh water is being used than the planet is capable of regenerating.

One of the things I hope would help inform this motion is that government would make a commitment to reinvesting seriously. It has talked about a national water strategy. The member has raised some elements of how they want to move forward. What we do not have is the kind of policy capacity left at Environment Canada or at Natural Resources Canada to perform the kind of hydrogeological studies that we need. We need more data and better evidence to be able to arrest these kinds of problems that we are seeing in the Lake of the Woods area before we see them get to a point where carrying capacity is compromised.

If there is anything that the Gulf of Mexico crisis is teaching us, it is that it is reminiscent of the old Fram oil filter from television, where a mechanic would stand in the mechanic's bay and say, “You can pay me now for the Fram oil filter, or you can pay me much later”, when the car is being towed in on the back of a tow truck, because they did not properly service the vehicle.

It is the same when it comes to our ecosystems and our eco services. What we are seeing, in the context of this motion, is a region and a watershed whose natural capital, as I describe it, has been drawn down so deeply, so aggressively and so quickly that we are now seeing problems with carrying capacity. Cottage owners, landowners, speculators and business owners are seeing their investments decline. The municipalities are seeing their tax revenues decline, because the net worth of those properties is being compromised.

The sports fisheries and the ecotourism operations, all of those things, begin to add up seriously. It is that integration of the environment and the economy that is fundamental to the 21st century. I think the mover of the motion, the member for Kenora, understands that. I am quite convinced it is implicit and part of the motion that he put forward.

On that note, I am pleased to support this motion and I look forward to further debate in due course.