House of Commons Hansard #167 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was province.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Newfoundland and Labrador Fisheries Investment FundBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Conservative South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the fact that the hon. member listened to at least part of my speech, but he obviously missed the beginning, when I addressed the question in some detail, even to the point of stating that I participated in a number of the stakeholder discussions at the time as parliamentary secretary to the minister for international trade. I can say that from the industry, the fishermen, and the unions as well, although the unions were being very careful, there was support to move away from the minimum processing standard in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

An agreement was reached that should Newfoundland and Labrador, because it is getting rid of the minimum processing standard, lose money in the fishery, there would be a fishery renewal fund, quarterbacked by the federal government and cost-shared with the province. The reality is that Newfoundland is going to make money by getting rid of a 20% tariff on its most important seafood products. It is going to have more money coming in, it is not going to lose money, and it is going to be more competitive, because it will have gotten rid of the trade-restrictive minimum processing standard.

Opposition Motion—Newfoundland and Labrador Fisheries Investment FundBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague pointed out the tariff reductions, which are fine, and Liberals agree with that. However, as the member for Northwest Territories pointed out, the gist of this debate is that a negotiation took place between two entities within this country, one national, one sub-national, Canada and Newfoundland and Labrador.

I would like to point something out to the member, though, that I noticed from the very beginning. He said that this is an exercise in posturing. He said “we have seen this movie before”. I have seen this movie before, and he starred in it. Here is what happened.

In November 2004, that gentleman sat down here in opposition and argued vehemently, called it a crime, that then Prime Minister Paul Martin could not, wait for it, make a special deal with Nova Scotia, because it deserved it, because it negotiated, and the prime minister of the day broke his promise. That is what he said then about a special deal. Today he talks about no special deals.

I was wondering if he could comment on that, plus the fact that during the release, Newfoundland and Labrador said this was all about new marketing initiatives, fisheries research, and $400 million. It was not up to $400 million. It was $400 million. Why were they so wrong?

Opposition Motion—Newfoundland and Labrador Fisheries Investment FundBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Conservative South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Mr. Speaker, I can only repeat what I said before, and I was pretty clear in what I said the first time. I was not wrong.

I remember the Nova Scotia-Newfoundland offshore accord. I remember the sticky situation Newfoundland found itself in during that debate. What happened then was that it was great politics to pick a fight with the federal government. The reality was that Newfoundland was becoming a have province, and good for them. I hope it continues. I would like to see oil prices stabilize for our own economy in western Canada, especially, and for Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia.

That debate was about the fact that the agreement had changed slightly, because Newfoundland was no longer a have-not province. Again, I congratulate Newfoundland on that. That is what that debate was about.

This debate is about a clear agreement we made with Newfoundland and Labrador, with no questions asked. We are going to keep our part of that agreement. We have never backed away from it. If Newfoundland and Labrador is to lose money because it gets rid of its minimum processing standards, we will be there to help backstop that.

Opposition Motion—Newfoundland and Labrador Fisheries Investment FundBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Fundy Royal New Brunswick

Conservative

Rob Moore ConservativeMinister of State (Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency)

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my hon. friend's speech with much interest. I have a question relating to the past question.

When we look at the documentation the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador has released, every single piece of correspondence from the federal government, when referencing this fund, says up to $400 million, cost-shared on a 70-30 basis. That is important. We have been consistent on that throughout.

I have in my hand letters from the St. John's Board of Trade, the Newfoundland and Labrador Employers' Council, and the Seafood Processors of Newfoundland and Labrador, and I could go on, all of them asking that we not throw out the baby with the bathwater. This agreement means too much to the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and CETA will benefit the industry and the people immensely.

I wonder if the hon. member could remind us of some of the benefits of this agreement for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Opposition Motion—Newfoundland and Labrador Fisheries Investment FundBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Conservative South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

The benefits are tremendous, Mr. Speaker.

In the fish and seafood sector, there will be a reduction of 18% in the tariff on cooked and peeled shrimp, a reduction of 6% on frozen lobster, a reduction of 8% on live lobster, a reduction of up to 25% on cod loins going into the European market, and a reduction in the tariff on snow crab. That is only the fish and seafood sector. All our primary industries, including the forestry sector, stand to gain.

Most importantly, and quite frankly overlooked entirely by the province of Newfoundland and Labrador and by most of the provinces, P.E.I. being a good example, is the services sector. The services sector is a strong sector in Newfoundland. Almost 50% of Newfoundland's GDP is in the services sector. It will have open access to the EU services marketplace. It will be able to bid on that. It will have qualifications for our technicians and engineers.

There will be open trade between Canada and the EU, not just in goods but in people. The opportunities that will arise from that alone are worth a fortune.

The list goes on and on.

Opposition Motion—Newfoundland and Labrador Fisheries Investment FundBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, the federal government says one thing and then turns around and says something else. It is all about smoke and mirrors. The Conservative government cannot be trusted.

As far as what the premier of Newfoundland has said, I will refer to an article in the St. John's Telegram on December 12. These are the exact words of the premier: “They're moving the goalposts. They've moved them so far that the fund is going to be unreachable”.

The province thought it was negotiating with the federal government in good faith, only to be fooled again by a government that continues to ignore the needs of the provinces.

The Conservatives are saying that there is a motion before the House only because of the NDP's position. It is not our position. We are bringing the concerns of Newfoundland and Labrador forward, because nobody else is willing to do that except for the NDP. We believe that a deal is a deal.

Will the government abide by the rules of engagement it initially put in place? Will it ensure that Newfoundland and Labrador gets the funding it so rightly deserves?

Opposition Motion—Newfoundland and Labrador Fisheries Investment FundBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Conservative South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Mr. Speaker, I can only say it so many times, and we have been very clear. The Minister of State for Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency has been very clear. The Minister of International Trade has been very clear. Absolutely, on the agreement to which we agreed with the Province of Newfoundland on the backstop for the fisheries industry and seafood sector, if minimum processing standards cause a loss to the province, we will be there. That was the agreement.

The member talked about $400 million. A portion of that would be from the federal government and cost shared with the province, but here is the rub. The NDP members have said from the get-go, long before they even had a chance to look at the draft agreement, that they will not support CETA. However, they want to support this one part, but they still will vote against the agreement. That puts the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl in a very tight situation.

Opposition Motion—Newfoundland and Labrador Fisheries Investment FundBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, first, let me make it crystal clear. At no time have I heard my colleagues on this side of the House, including our critic, say that we categorically reject CETA. What they did say, which is what any wise parliamentarian would do, was that we wanted to look at the wording. We want to see what is in the deal, to consult with Canadians and engage in getting input. Only after we have done that will we support or reject it. We are not like other parties that without seeing a bill would say that it is great and that they will support it, then live to regret it at a different time.

The more my colleagues across the way try to change the channel by giving information that is very clearly misleading does the House and parliamentarians a huge disservice. We are here today to debate a broken promise, a betrayal. A deal was made.

Let me make it clear that the premier of Newfoundland and Labrador asked our leader for help. It is a beautiful province, by the way. If people ever have a chance to visit it, they should. Not only is the province beautiful and the people are great, but the seafood is amazing. Our leader was asked to take up this issue in the House and to hold the government to account for the commitments it has made. That is why we are debating this today.

I forgot to tell you, Mr. Speaker, that I will be splitting my time with my esteemed colleague, the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour.

I want to start off with a quote from Paul Davis, the Conservative premier of Newfoundland and Labrador. He said:

It really solidifies that you can’t trust the federal government, you can’t trust Stephen Harper's government…We bargained in good faith. We believed that we had an agreement in place, that we had a deal set.

He is saying loud and clear and very explicitly, with no reading between the lines, that he does not trust the government, that he does not trust the Prime Minister and that he feels very betrayed.

Governments lose their credibility when they break their commitments. However, why am I surprised? I have been in the House since 2011. Over and over again the government has broken its commitments.

There is one that is very important in my riding. A recently released report noted that crime was on the rise. Not only that, but we have a very low level of policing compared to other jurisdictions around us. The government made a commitment to add X number of RCMP officers to the force. It has failed to do that. If I were to stand here and list all the promises it has broken, I would run out of time. I think all my colleagues would run out of time.

There are also the commitments we made to our veterans, who are also feeling very betrayed. There are the commitments we have made to those who lose their jobs and who pay into a fund in good faith, thinking EI will be available for them when they are out of work. However, due to the taking of the money from the EI fund, first by the Liberals and then by colleagues across the way, and then changing the rules, they now find that the rules are so hard they cannot even access the support they need.

Just today, the minister had to respond in the House about a fund to create access for those with disabilities. The fund has been underutilized by billions of dollars. It appears that a vast majority of that funding is going into Conservative held ridings. Surely this is not the way we want to run a country.

I also want to take this opportunity to say that this feeling of betrayal runs very deep in my riding. I was at a rally on Saturday held by truckers who had been laid off. They were given notice summarily that they would no longer be given entry into the port. Some of these truckers have 20 to 28 years of experience driving into that port. Their families and children were there and it was heartbreaking because they could not understand how this happened. It was only last year when they signed a deal. They did not realize, and were not told at the time, that the deal had some hidden components and some other output that would lead to a massive number of layoffs of people trying to make a living. That is unconscionable.

I saw the little children. I talked to either the drivers or their wives, and learned their stories of betrayal. They feel betrayed by the federal and provincial governments. This is being treated like a hot potato, being passed from one level of government to the other to the port. Those drivers want a solution.

Today, I also appeal to Minister Raitt, because I know how thoughtful she is, to do some kind of an intervention—

Opposition Motion—Newfoundland and Labrador Fisheries Investment FundBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order, please. I ordinarily would not stop the member on one such instance, but in fact there have been two instances where the hon. member may have strayed into using another hon. member's name as opposed to their positions. I would remind the hon. member.

Opposition Motion—Newfoundland and Labrador Fisheries Investment FundBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and once again I do apologize. I am so delighted to see the Minister of Transport back in the House. Because of that, I got a little carried away. I have a great deal of respect for the minister and I know she has been through a difficult time.

I am going to appeal to the minister to intervene here. I believe the federal government has a role in this as it is a port issue. We have massive unemployment happening all around us and we need to address it. We need to have some answers for the drivers who have given good loyal service, but there is no transparency. They went to work and received a letter to say their licences ended on Monday. That is it. They were told not to turn up for work. That is just not good enough.

We are seeing more and more good jobs disappearing. We have to remember that the fisheries industry is very important along our coastlines. The fisheries support good, middle-class jobs in Newfoundland and Labrador. The government needs to protect jobs and build a fishery of the future. The government needs to live up to that commitment. I am appealing to the goodness in colleagues across the way because I know it is there and I know they want to do the right thing.

If we made a promise and commitment that we would invest in the fisheries and in new technologies to deal with the fisheries, then we should do it. Let us not turn this into “they love CETA more, we love CETA less, or they do not like free trade agreements” because that does not add dignity to the debate. In order to have dignified debate, let us deal with the fundamental premise that I am sure we have all taught our children, and that is to tell the truth. When people make a promises, they should keep them. When the federal and provincial governments start to break promises, what kind of an example do we set for the country and for our children?

We are all elected officials and there are some things we know are right. What is right is that when we make a promise, we keep it. The people of Newfoundland and Labrador deserve to have that promise kept.

Opposition Motion—Newfoundland and Labrador Fisheries Investment FundBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

February 2nd, 2015 / 4 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Conservative Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have had the privilege to hear some good debate from both sides here today. We heard one side; then the other. I think the essence of the question is the European free trade agreement, which, when it becomes a reality, would eliminate tariffs. There is much talk about whether the government would compensate an industry if it were to suffer from the free trade agreement.

Few people know that in my riding of Chatham-Kent—Essex, we have the largest freshwater fishing port in the world, where we also do some fish-processing. One of the things that I hear repeatedly from the fish processors is, “We can't get people to do the job”.

I want to lay this question out. The member may not have the answer but perhaps someone from the caucus would be able to give me an answer. Does she have the same situation there? Are they having a tough time getting people to work in these fish-processing plants?

Second, does it not stand to reason that the reduction of those tariffs, which in some cases are 20%, would make the fish-processing plants much more competitive and enable them to pay their workers more money and, subsequently, increase employment on the island?

Opposition Motion—Newfoundland and Labrador Fisheries Investment FundBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, all I know is that in the riding I live in, Newton—North Delta, more and more people are losing decent-paying jobs.

If we do have work shortages, we have always been able to address them through our robust immigration policies, which, as we know, have been broken under the current government and are now being turned into a mixed hodgepodge that no one really seems to understand.

The other thing that is very important to realize is that fisheries is not just about fishing, processing, and selling what we catch. It is also about good stewardship so that we have sustainable fisheries. I think the kind of deal that was made would allow for the renewal of the fishing industry in Newfoundland and Labrador. We cannot lose sight of that. I think this is where the federal government does have a role to play.

Opposition Motion—Newfoundland and Labrador Fisheries Investment FundBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, if you would allow me for just a second, I want to answer the question he posed. Now, the hon. member for Newton—North Delta is right, as well, in the fact that we are reinvigorating and growing the industry, which may alleviate any suffering from the removal of the minimum processing requirements.

However, to his question about getting workers for these particular plants, I would just say very succinctly that he is right on target, but wide of the mark. I say so because the fund would have given us the opportunity to market species in a way that we did not have before. Therefore, the new realities realized by the processing industry can be dealt with if, and I say “if”, this money is available, $280 million from the feds and $120 million from the province. Therein lies the essence of the issue.

Again, the free trade itself would provide some of these opportunities via reduced tariffs, but this particular deal that we talk about today, however, casts a different light on this, because the opportunity I mentioned has been squelched somewhat.

To my friend who talked about the other provinces, I appreciate that she talked about the fact that we could be here all day on a litany of broken promises. That is a valid point, but I would like for her to talk about not only the breaking of promises, but also the fact there is a product that is shown in the window and by the time we get to the cash register, the deal has changed.

Opposition Motion—Newfoundland and Labrador Fisheries Investment FundBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his very visual question. Being a teacher, I like those kinds of visual questions of seeing the shiny product. Newfoundland and Labrador was shown a shiny product, and then it was also told, “Along with that shiny product, you're going to have access to this fund”, but it now finds that it does not have access to that fund and the shiny product is not as shiny as it used to be.

This is a government that was so desperate to get a majority that it made all kinds of commitments. It committed to being more accountable and transparent. However, I have never seen a Parliament that is so stymied, a Parliament where debate is shut down so quickly and where, as a new parliamentarian, I feel I do not get the opportunity to express what is going on in my riding.

Opposition Motion—Newfoundland and Labrador Fisheries Investment FundBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm NDP Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to dip my toe into this debate for a few moments. It is an important issue. I also want to commend the mover of the motion, the MP for St. John's South—Mount Pearl.

As members are aware, the motion calls on the federal government to respect its promise to Newfoundland and Labrador of $400 million for development and renewal, based on a 70/30 split, through the province's fishery investment fund in exchange for lifting minimum processing requirements as part of the Canada-European Union comprehensive economic and trade agreement.

Why this is so important and was brought forward by the member is that the Province of Nova Scotia, under the undertaking of the federal government, has a piece of legislation within its provincial jurisdiction with respect to mandatory minimum processing requirements that has some influence over the processing of fish, as in Newfoundland and Labrador, so that the fish are not scooped out of the ocean and then processed either on these factory freezer trawlers or shipped over to Europe or somewhere else. Newfoundland and Labrador have held onto this legislation because it does create jobs in many communities, outports and otherwise, throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. It is an important economic driver in that province, and it is probably unique. Quebec also has a similar requirement, but it is not as closely adhered to in that province as it is in Newfoundland and Labrador.

When CETA was being negotiated, the European community demanded that Canada get rid of this particular legislation in Newfoundland and Labrador, which would somehow give a province within our jurisdiction preference. Of course, the Europeans wanted the product that was caught on our shores, if they could manage it, to simply go to Europe and be processed there. That was what the thinking was.

However, it is curious that when the European community began to engage with Canada in negotiation of this trade deal, it knew how Canada was set up and that it was a federation. The Europeans knew how many powers Canada's provinces had and they wanted to have the provinces at the table, or at least close enough to the table that if they signed off on various provisions with the federal government they would also have the agreement of the provinces. This was one of the issues.

There were matters with respect to the dairy industry and supply management, which affected the provinces, and there was the European community's attempt to extend patent protection by another number of years, which would have added a billion dollars in costs to this country and many hundreds of millions of dollars to some provinces. Just on those three items alone, it was important for the European community to have the provinces at the table.

However, in some of these instances, the populations in those provinces were concerned. They were concerned about the impact of giving up minimum processing requirements in Newfoundland and Labrador. Many provinces became increasingly concerned about the impact on their health budgets as a result of the extension of the patent legislation. The dairy industry in some provinces, particularly in Quebec as it related to cheese and other milk products, was also concerned and began to pressure the government.

I certainly have had the opportunity to talk to a number of provincial officials about these very items and we have heard these issues talked about in the House. In order for the federal government to tie down this deal on those issues, it gave assurances to the provinces. In the case of extending the patent legislation—which would potentially increase the cost of pharmaceuticals—it said to the provinces, “Don't worry, we don't believe that to be the case, but if it is the case, we've got your back. We'll backstop you. if there are increased costs due to the impact of extending the patent legislation, we will make sure we cover that off”. For some provinces, Nova Scotia was one, Ontario and Quebec were two others, they got those assurances from the federal government and agreed that they would allow this to go forward.

In the dairy industry assurances were also given. I have spoken to people in the dairy industry and various officials in the provinces, and again the federal government gave assurances to the industry and the provinces that they would be compensated. In the case of Newfoundland and Labrador, the policy of having minimum processing requirements have been around for maybe 30 years or more. Those exist in an industry that generated $1.1 billion in production value in 2013 and provided direct employment to more than 18,000 people, mainly in rural parts of the province.

The restrictions on minimum processing requirements are extremely important to the province and are held to by people in the industry, municipal officials, and others in various communities throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. When the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador understood this was on the table, that the federal government was going to be negotiating it away, there was quite an outcry. There was quite an outcry because it is fair to say that the fishing industry in Newfoundland and Labrador, particularly as it relates to the cod fishery, has been experiencing some problems. The stocks have been rebounding, but people are concerned that if the government gives away those rights and abolishes that legislation now, when stocks return and greater processing is required, there will no longer be any requirement that fishing companies bring their products onshore to be processed.

There was quite an uproar about it and the government said very clearly to provincial officials, “Don't worry, we are going to contribute to a $400 million fund to the tune of 70% in order to make sure that you are properly compensated for any impacts that may arise as a result of losing that legislation with respect to minimum processing”. That was the deal. I heard it. I was part of the trade committee that was in Halifax and heard witnesses from Atlantic Canada, and that was the understanding that people in the industry had. It was very clearly communicated by the government and provincial officials that this was negotiated on behalf of the Conservative government of Newfoundland and Labrador to make sure that part of the deal was checked off with respect to CETA. It was understood that the federal government would kick 70% of $400 million into a fund to make sure that it dealt with the adjustment caused by losing this legislation.

That is the issue. That is why the motion is so important. We call on the government to stand by its promises and to stand by its provinces.

Opposition Motion—Newfoundland and Labrador Fisheries Investment FundBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour for his important words. I would like to ask him a couple of questions.

Does the member feel that the Government of Canada very much needed or wanted the support of Newfoundland, and that is why it indicated it would take part in this $400 million deal whereby $280 million would come from the federal government and $120 million from the province? I understand the minimum processing requirement and how important it would be for the province, but in order to give that up, there had to be some compensation in place.

As I understand the announcement that was made in 2013, the premier indicated that this was for development and renewal as well as for displacement. Now the terminology has changed, and I believe this is a dangerous way for the Government of Canada to negotiate with the provinces. Also, there is no way that the Government of Canada does not have the money, because over the last number of years, DFO has returned approximately $1 billion to the Treasury Board.

Opposition Motion—Newfoundland and Labrador Fisheries Investment FundBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm NDP Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that question from my colleague. He is someone who knows a great deal about the fishery in Atlantic Canada. He knows as well as I do just how important the minimum processing requirement was in Newfoundland and Labrador.

As I said before, there is no question that the groundfish fishery is in a bit of a slow period. However, people recognize that if the industry comes back, which they fully expect it to because the cod stocks are improving, they want to be sure that the minimum processing requirement is there. I do not think there is any question that the federal government believed that in order to nail this deal down, it had to have Newfoundland and Labrador on board, so it committed the $280 million—70% of $400 million—to deal with the effects and the whole question of developing the fishing industry within that province. That was the commitment.

Opposition Motion—Newfoundland and Labrador Fisheries Investment FundBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Paulina Ayala NDP Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, in order to practice healthy federalism, the federal government must maintain good relationships based on dialogue with the provinces, because when they are rich, the entire nation is rich.

Therefore, when compromises are reached, the government must follow through on them. Newfoundland and Labrador supported the free trade agreement with Europe and the federal government promised the province a certain amount of money if any jobs were lost. That is what the minister of state told us in early October, at least. By the end of the month, however, the message was altogether different.

Beyond just Newfoundland and Labrador, when the federal government fails to keep its promises to the provinces it is effectively weakening our democracy and our federalism. We want Canadians to have work. Yes, this free trade agreement will allow us to receive products from Europe, but if that forces Canadians out of work, we will have more poverty here.

I wonder whether my colleague could talk about the trust that should exist between the provinces and the federal government.

Opposition Motion—Newfoundland and Labrador Fisheries Investment FundBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm NDP Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is absolutely right. This industry is incredibly important to the economy of Newfoundland and Labrador. In the process of these negotiations with the European community, the federal government made very clear commitments to the people and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to make sure that this fund would be available to deal with the transition. It made that clear, and the provincial government operated on that basis. It was an investment in the fishery of Newfoundland and Labrador and it was meant to ensure that not only were the effects of the loss of the minimum processing requirements legislation dealt with but also that Newfoundland and Labrador would be able to invest in new and more modern technology to expand the fishery.

Opposition Motion—Newfoundland and Labrador Fisheries Investment FundBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Before we go to resuming debate, 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 Montcalm, Foreign Affairs; the hon. member for Ahuntsic, Housing; and the hon. member for Drummond, The Environment.

Resuming debate, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons.

Opposition Motion—Newfoundland and Labrador Fisheries Investment FundBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

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, it is a pleasure for me today to join in the debate on the NDP opposition motion concerning the minimum processing requirement fund in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Before I begin, there may be some questions. People in this House or perhaps those who are watching on television may be wondering why a member of Parliament from a land-locked province like Saskatchewan would be joining into a debate on a fisheries issue that primarily deals with some concerns the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador would have. The answer to that is very simply because the larger context of what we are debating today is really about the Canada–Europe trade agreement, also known as CETA.

I am joining in this debate because CETA would positively affect every region of Canada. Whether it is the fisheries industry in Newfoundland and Labrador, the forestry industry in Quebec and British Columbia, the manufacturing industry in Ontario, or the grains and oilseed industry in the prairies, CETA would have a positive impact on literally every sector of the Canadian economy and every industry within Canada. That is why this debate is so important: to be able to point out to members opposite and to those who may be listening to this debate that signing the Canada–Europe trade agreement is one of the largest and most significant trade deals this country has ever engaged in. In fact, it is not an overstatement to say that it is the most important trade agreement our country has ever entered into.

The reason is quite simple. First, the European Union has 500 million consumers that Canada would now have preferential access to. Second, since we already entered into an agreement several years ago with the United States, the North American free trade agreement, Canada would now be the only G7 country that has preferential access to two of the world's largest consumer bases: 500 million people in the European Union on one side and 300 million people in the United States on the other side. We are the only country that would have preferential access to that consumer market.

In real terms, this would mean to Canada about an additional $12 billion in economic activity. If we want to drill that down to a per-household level, it comes out to about $1,000 per household. That is how much money this agreement with Europe would mean. It is the equivalent of about 80,000 additional jobs in Canada. It is a huge deal. That is why we have had unprecedented support from industry leaders, from union leaders, from consumer groups, and from trade analysts. Everyone who has examined this agreement agrees that it is a big win for Canada. That is why all of the provinces are on side with this agreement as well. All of the individual sectors in the industry within Canada's provinces and territories would also benefit from this agreement.

However, what we have here today is a situation in which some people are suggesting that this agreement would not be a good deal for Newfoundland and Labrador. In particular, the complaint coming from members opposite is that removing the minimum processing requirements would be injurious to the fish and seafood processing industry in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Perhaps I should first take a moment to explain, at least as I know it, what the minimum processing requirement is.

It was set up several decades ago as a policy imposed by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to assist and in many ways protect the fisheries processing industry. In other words, quite simply it states that there has to be a minimum processing element of all fish and seafood from Newfoundland and Labrador before they can be shipped to the European Union or anywhere outside of Canada.

Why was this requirement put on? Again, to stimulate the processing industry in Newfoundland and Labrador and to protect those jobs. In other words, if I were a cod fisher, I could not necessarily ship all of my raw product to Europe. I would be required to give a certain amount of that raw product to the processing industry in Newfoundland and Labrador so they could then process it and sell it as a value-added product worldwide. In particular, we are talking about the European Union.

The only problem with that is that while it may have been good at the time for the processing industry in Newfoundland and Labrador, it is viewed, and quite correctly, as an unfair trade policy. In this day and age of global trading, there are mechanisms in place to ensure that trading practices between countries are fair and just. Because this would be a distortion of fair trade policy, if we entered into CETA with the European Union, any one of their member states could look at this minimum processing requirement in Newfoundland and Labrador and say, quite correctly, that it was an unfair trade policy and demand that it end. It was a legitimate concern of the European Union.

During negotiations, our government negotiators agreed that the practice should in fact end, but we also recognized in discussions with Newfoundland and Labrador government officials that this could have some negative impact on the processing industry. In other words, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador pointed out to our trade negotiators that ending the minimum processing requirements might result in some lost revenue. It might even result in some job losses, because if fishers were not required to use the processing industry before their products were shipped overseas, it could have or might have a negative impact on the processing industry in Newfoundland and Labrador.

We recognized that argument. Our government said that if it could be demonstrated that there is injury, that there may be some lost revenue, that there may be some job losses, that there may be some problems that the removal of the minimum processing requirement creates within the industry, we will then agree for some compensation.

This is not unusual. As we negotiated CETA, various sectors and various regions of the country pointed out there could be some negative impact as a result of signing this deal. Time after time, we were able to negotiate with the respective sectors some sort of a counterbalance, some negotiated settlement to offset the potential revenue loss or job loss. That is what we did in this case with Newfoundland and Labrador. We said that if there is to be injury, if there is to be lost revenue, if there are job losses, we will be there.

Hence, the agreement was to set up a fund, the minimum processing requirement fund. It was a $400 million fund agreed upon by both the province and the federal government. The federal government would fund up to 70%, or $280 million, if there was proven, empirical evidence that there was injury because of the removal of this requirement.

I keep using the word “if”, because it has not been demonstrated yet that there would be any loss of revenue or loss of jobs. In fact, I recall that when this agreement was first announced, the then president of the fisheries union in Newfoundland and Labrador, a gentleman by the name of Earle McCurdy, said he did not think there would be any problems caused by removing the minimum processing requirement.

He pointed out that they were better off than processing plants in Europe, China, and the United States. Their wages are higher, and electricity and energy costs are higher. We are closer to the marketplace. In other words, we do not have to have a minimum processing requirement because our processors will be able to compete quite favourably with anyone else in the world. We do not need the protection that the minimum processing requirement currently affords. That was the president of the fisheries union.

I understand that recently he has changed his tune somewhat; he is now a nominated NDP candidate in the province. Once he became a member of the NDP his initial thoughts have changed, and now removing the minimum processing requirements will be a terrible thing for the province. It shows how myopic the New Democrats truly are, who do not want any trade deals with any country. That is clearly the reality.

Opposition Motion—Newfoundland and Labrador Fisheries Investment FundBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Opposition Motion—Newfoundland and Labrador Fisheries Investment FundBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I see that we have touched a nerve. Every time we talk the truth about the NDP and how members hate free trade, it touches a nerve across the floor, and we can see that today as well.

The point is that if there were to be injury to the processing plants, the canneries, and the industry in general, the federal government agreed to provide monetary compensation, but only if there is empirical evidence to suggest that injury has taken place. We are standing by that commitment. We are working with the province of Newfoundland and Labrador to try to set up a process and system that would empirically identify any monetary loss experienced by the fisheries industry in that province. We would then be there for them. We would step up to the plate with this fund.

However, the fund was never established to simply give money if no injury, job loss, or revenue loss has taken place. We have never done that when negotiating compensation with any other sector in Canada. We did not do that for CETA, or any other trade deal for that matter. It makes sense. Why in the world would any government simply say to a province, “You may not be having any problems whatsoever. There may not be any loss of revenue, loss of jobs, or any injury to a certain sector, but, what the heck, we will give you $400 million anyway because we are good guys”. That has never happened.

Sector by sector, when negotiating, we have sat down with the provinces and said that if there is demonstrated lost revenue, demonstrated loss of jobs, or demonstrated injury as a result of this agreement, we will then compensate, and there will be a transition to allow them to be whole. That is a responsible stance that the government has taken, and it is the right stance for a government to take.

I started by talking about all of the benefits of CETA, and they are immense. This is, without question, the best free trade agreement that our country has ever entered into. However, we need to have the co-operation of all of the provinces. To date, the provinces have been generally extremely supportive because they know the type of benefits they will receive by having preferential access to this huge market.

Whether it be the fishing and seafood industry in Atlantic Canada, the manufacturing sector across Canada, the agriculture and agri-food sector in my home province of Saskatchewan, having access to 500 million consumers will be a tremendous boon to every single sector in the Canadian economy. That is why we need agreement from all provinces as we move forward. That is why we, as a federal government, have dealt with the province of Newfoundland and Labrador in a responsible manner, by agreeing to compensate its affected industries if it can demonstrate it has been negatively impacted. No government would enter into an agreement simply to give a blank cheque, to say that it does not matter, take the money and run.

There has to be an agreement. There has to be a demonstration that injury has taken place. That is what we are prepared to do, and that is what we have stated from the outset. If there is to be lost revenue, or trade-distorting injury on behalf of the fishing industry or the province of Newfoundland and Labrador generally, we would be there to work with them, to ease the pain, to enter into a transition plan that would allow affected industries to remain whole and not be negatively impacted. We stand by that agreement, and it is the right position for the federal government to take.

We are not here today during this debate to try to spark some confrontation with the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. We are more than willing to continue to work with them to identify if there are problems with the removal of the minimum processing requirement. From a financial standpoint, we will be there. We will step up to the plate. However, to date, we have not seen any demonstrated loss of revenue, job losses, or any negative impact on the fishing and seafood industry. We want to work with the province to develop a process that would identify any of these issues, and, if they occur, we will be there as a willing and able partner.

In conclusion, let me say this. It is important for every province, region, and territory in our country to recognize the massive benefits that the Canada-European Union trade agreement would have on our economy. It will benefit every single province, territory, and sector of our economy. Let us not lose sight of that. Let us not allow a relatively small dispute to stand in the way of the most comprehensive and beneficial trade agreement that our country has ever seen.

Opposition Motion—Newfoundland and Labrador Fisheries Investment FundBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Ryan Cleary NDP St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to the minister's speech. I have a few points to make, and then I have a question.

I find it disconcerting that when a minister of the Canadian government stands to speak about one of the provinces in Canada, he mispronounces the name of the province. A way to get the pronunciation right is this: “Newfoundland understand; understand Newfoundland”. Please learn how to say it properly. That is one thing.

Second, Earle McCurdy is running for leader of the provincial New Democratic Party in Newfoundland and Labrador. However, let us not forget that this is a dispute between the Progressive Conservative government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Conservative government of Canada. It is a dispute between Conservative governments.

We do not raise objections about CETA. CETA is a good thing. All the different quarters in the fishing industry in Newfoundland and Labrador agree that it is a good thing. This is not a question about giving up minimum processing requirements, MPRs, because all parties in the fishing industry in Newfoundland and Labrador agree with that as well.

My question for the minister is this. Why would the Progressive Conservative government of Newfoundland and Labrador agree to participate in this $400 million fund—they are putting in $120 million—if it is compensating itself? Why would it do that? If this is all about compensation for losses, why would Newfoundland and Labrador participate? The minister has his facts wrong, and the government is betraying Newfoundland and Labrador.

Opposition Motion—Newfoundland and Labrador Fisheries Investment FundBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, number one, I guess I should take some solace that, at least according to the member opposite, I have been promoted to cabinet. I thank him for that.

Second, I completely know how to pronounce Newfoundland. I have been involved on many occasions with representatives from that great province, and they have continually told me, as the member opposite has, “understand Newfoundland”. I did not mispronounce the name, nor would I.

With respect to the member's particular question of why the province of Newfoundland and Labrador would participate in this compensation fund, it is because it is in the best interest of the province. CETA is in the best interest of all Canadian provinces. It understands that. It does not want its relatively small concern about the elimination of minimum processing requirements to stand in the way of the greater good. That is why it wants to participate in this fund: it knows that the greater good is the entire CETA agreement.

There will be untold billions of dollars going into that province alone. If the only thing standing in the way of a completed agreement is the elimination of minimum processing requirements, the province says, “Let's do it. Let us just make sure that we participate financially to compensate if there is an injury”. We have yet to determine that.