Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure I stand in my place to talk about free trade. I have had the opportunity to talk about it on a number of occasions, most recently last week. Today I would like to emphasize a couple of important industries in the perspective of free trade and the benefits of free trade agreements. Our Liberal Party critic talked at great length about some of our concerns in regard to the specifics of this free trade agreement between Canada and Jordan. To avoid sounding overly repetitive, I will try to take a different angle on it, and maybe refer to some of the things I had talked about when I was referring to the Panama-Canada Free Trade Agreement and free trade in general.
Let me first start off by commenting on the whole idea of the amendment, which I thought was somewhat bizarre for the government to put forward. There is a natural instinct it seems, more and more every day, for the government to do something to limit rights of members inside this chamber.
One of the favourite things of the Conservatives is time allocation. On a few occasions they have brought in a motion to prevent amendments from being introduced. It is somewhat discouraging, given that the Conservatives have witnessed this afternoon something that is fairly noteworthy, when the New Democratic Party critic brought forward the NDP's official position with regard to this bill. History would likely show that previous votes on this agreement may have reflected negatively coming from the NDP members, but the critic has made the determination that they will be supporting the bill.
When I posed the question earlier, I was a bit surprised. Most people would be surprised because it was only last week when we were debating the Panama agreement and as members may recall, there was an exchange between myself and a member of the New Democratic Party from the front bench. We were asking about the whole free trade concept and what it would take for the NDP to support an agreement. The conclusion at that point was that an NDP trade agreement would have to be signed in order for the NDP to support it.
Something has happened between last week and this week. The NDP has come on side with the rest of the progressive world in recognizing that there is merit to trade. We welcome that as it tries to nudge a little bit closer to the centre, quite possibly. I do not really know why per se, but it is encouraging that the NDP has recognized the value of trade.
As we look forward to having more discussions in the months and years ahead, we need to talk about freer trade. It is not just the formal agreements we need to be concerned about. There are other areas in which we encourage trade. I want to pick up on a couple of those. I made reference last week to what I had thought was a great attempt back in the nineties by the then Prime Minister Chrétien to gather a number of stakeholders, provincial jurisdictions, politicians of all political stripes and stakeholders within the business community. There was a wonderful label put on it, Team Canada. They went out to countries around the world. I believe the first one was in Asia. There were just amazing results when they brought different stakeholders from Canada to another country.
By having that strong presence, there is a series of doors that open as a direct result of the interest by the national government in saying that it wants to be able to broaden opportunities for both countries and afford the ability of those stakeholders to communicate directly. Ultimately, I believe that tens of millions of dollars flowed from that. At the end of the day, many economic ties were established by that agreement.
I have made reference to what I have always believed was one of the greatest agreements, if not the greatest, which was the Auto Pact. It was an agreement between Canada and the United States where Canada would be guaranteed a certain percentage of the manufacturing of automobiles and parts in return for purchasing vehicles or having a freer trade with the automobile industry. As a direct result of that agreement over the years, hundreds of thousands of jobs have been created.
Whether in the manufacturing industry, tourism or information technology, there are many opportunities out there. When governments take the initiative to go abroad, in whatever form, and in this case it is a formalized free trade agreement, then all Canadians can benefit. It creates employment opportunities here as well as for the other countries. We see that as a good thing.
One of the examples I used when I made reference to Panama was an important industry in the province of Manitoba, the potato industry. I am glad that not only are we supporting the principles of the bill for Jordan, but also the principles of the bill for Panama. If we look at the Panama agreement, in the province of Manitoba the potato industry is huge. Panama consumes a great deal of our potatoes and not just the raw product, but processed potatoes as well. We have three large processing plants which create 1,000 plus direct jobs, not to mention indirect jobs. When we looked at the agreement, we saw that there was value to it and we supported it.
On the Jordan agreement that we are now debating, again there is benefit, not only for Manitoba, but for all provinces. Perhaps some provinces may benefit a little more because of the industries that Jordan might want to focus on in Canada. This is one of the nice things about being such a diverse country. However, at the end of the day, we have been fairly consistent in recognizing the value of freer trade agreements.
Having said that, we have some concerns. We have been consistent on those concerns. We need to be aware of the environmental impact and how other countries treat and respect environments. We also need to be aware of labour conditions. That is why committee members, whether it is the critic of the Liberal Party or other stakeholders, are quite willing to share stories or concerns regarding labour standards and environmental laws. Where we can, we have to try to protect both those areas of interest. By doing that, I believe that we are making the world a better place to live and allowing a more equal and level playing field.
On an equal, level playing field, Canadians can compete with any country in the world. Having said that, we are far from being able to achieve that playing field but I think it is worth pursuing.
We have other concerns that we have talked about at length. I want to be able to share some of my thoughts on those concerns. There is the whole idea of the manufacturing industry and the global competitive market. If the government does not do its job, we could lose a lot of valuable jobs. For the most part, I think we would find that Canadians are supportive of freer trade, and the benefits of freer trade, but there is also a great deal of concern about those quality jobs. A lot of those quality jobs that we really have to watch out for are within the manufacturing industry.
It saddens me to hear of these massive layoffs or companies that are going down and shifting to another region of the world. Some of it cannot be prevented from happening, but there are some things that government can do that would have an impact.
I would like to cite two recent examples dealing with the whole concept of trade. The first one is in regard to a debate that we had last summer when the government made the determination to get rid of the Canadian Wheat Board. By getting rid of the Canadian Wheat Board, I would argue that ultimately we are going to see fewer Prairie farmers dealing with grain as a commodity. We are going to see larger farms handling the same sort of capacity of grain, but there will be a smaller number of farmers. That will have a serious impact on the number of people employed in that industry. We will see smaller towns or communities that will also be impacted by the government's decision.
I have been around in politics for a number of years. My understanding was that in the whole debate on the free trade agreement there was a lot of pressure on Canada to end the Wheat Board, as far back as the mid-1980s. Governments, over the years, have resisted getting rid of the Wheat Board, because governments, both Progressive Conservative and Liberal, have recognized the value of the Canadian Wheat Board. It is only the Reform/Conservative government that has made the determination that this will somehow improve Canada's trade relations.
I would suggest that these types of things will have a very negative impact. When we talk about trade agreements, this is something the U.S. wanted so desperately that the government just kind of conceded it, handed it over to the United States and other international companies. I am not too sure exactly how much wheat Jordan would be getting from our Prairies, I suspect some. The minister says it is quite a bit, and I will take him at his word on that. The point is it does have what I believe is a negative impact, and it is a government policy. The government chose to go in that direction.
The other major issue that we have had here affected not only the Prairies, but Winnipeg, Mississauga and Montreal. It was the whole Air Canada and Aveos fiasco. I have walked the line with Air Canada workers on several occasions in regard to what has taken place there. As the world gets smaller, we have to look at those valuable jobs, those valuable industries. In Manitoba, the aerospace industry is a very important industry, as it is no doubt in Quebec and Ontario.
In those three provinces it employs thousands of Canadians. Air Canada had an obligation to sustain those jobs in those three provinces, but the government has let Air Canada off the hook; as a result, those jobs are gone.
The government does not recognize that it has a role to play in certain industries. I would suggest the aerospace industry is one of those industries. If it is not prepared to play a role and allows the free market to dictate where those jobs will be, my concern is that not only will those jobs be leaving Winnipeg, Montreal and Mississauga but also that potentially we will lose a very important industry. The reason is that other countries will be paying a fraction of the wages employees would earn in those three provinces working at overhaul bases or the like.
If the Government of Canada wants to move toward freer trade, in principle it is a good measure, but we have to remember that millions of Canadians are depending on the government to also protect those industries that feel threatened, because they are long-term industries with great potential for ongoing development to provide good-paying jobs going forward.
My last point is a question I asked my colleague in regard to the U.S. With Jordan, our trade is just under $100 million annually. As was pointed out earlier, Canada exports around $340 billion worth of goods internationally. The single greatest recipient of those exported products is the U.S. I believe the government has been neglecting that file. As a direct result, a lot more jobs could end up going south. We have already seen jobs going to the United States that could have stayed here in Canada. The government has been turning a blind eye to that particular trading partner or that issue. I do not quite understand why.
Another issue is with respect to Korea which, as my colleague pointed out, consumes a great deal of pork. Once again I will bring in the province of Manitoba, which is a billion-dollar trading partner with Korea. A number of months ago, the United States signed a deal with Korea. Manitoba has a wonderful pork industry, but it will have some serious hits because the government does not seem to give any priority to the tariff issues with respect to Korea.
As the government has now been sitting on this particular file since 2009, it is great to see that we are at a stage at which I suspect the bill will be passed through. I think it is important to emphasize to the government that it needs to focus more attention on countries we are dependent on in terms of being able to maintain and hopefully grow our industries, in particular manufacturing and other industries that have so much more potential here in Canada. As this bill passes through, I would hope that the government has some sort of strategic plan with respect to dealing with other nations around the world to ensure that Canada will continue to grow and prosper into the future, and that it starts thinking outside the box, as former prime minister Jean Chrétien did when he brought parliamentarians from across Canada into a Team Canada approach to selling Canada to the world.