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

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, we cannot have it both ways. The hon. member, in his speech, extolled some of the virtues of the Canada-European Union trade agreement and the benefits his home province of Newfoundland and Labrador will have by having unfettered access to 500 million customers. Quite frankly, I cannot think of a province that would benefit any more than his home province.

To be very clear, Premier Dunderdale at the time said that there was a need for a compensation fund, and that is something we have agreed to. We have agreed to a fund, with the federal share being up to $280 million, on a 70-30 cost-shared basis. No one in the House truly believes that there can be a compensation fund where there is no evidence provided of any impact or losses.

We are being very flexible with the province. We are saying that we can work together in a number of ways on this initiative. However, the hon. member knows, and all members know, that to have compensation, there must be a measurable impact, and those are the details we are committed to working out with the province.

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

12:55 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member and the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl for the concern about the comprehensive economic trade agreement and its impact on Newfoundland and Labrador.

Whenever the minister of state spoke about what Newfoundlanders know about Europeans' interest in our markets, I was thinking about the European draggers that so decimated the cod stocks. There is a lot that Newfoundlanders will remember about our relations with Europe in the fishery.

However, in this case, we had a commitment from the current administration for proper compensation. I find it surprising that the Conservative administration is no longer willing to keep its promise to the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, and I ask it to reconsider.

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

February 2nd, 2015 / 12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, I do not believe that everyone in this place is on the same page when it comes to the benefits, because the hon. member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl said that Newfoundlanders do not have a position. They do not know where they stand on this agreement. We know where we stand on an agreement that is historic and that is recognized by Canadians, industry, workers, and employers as bringing tremendous benefits to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador as well as to all Canadians. We know where we stand on that. We have also agreed that in the case of Newfoundland and Labrador giving up minimum processing requirements, we will be there to work with it to compensate for any impacts.

Our position is quite clear and consistent with other sectors, like pharmaceuticals and dairy, two other sectors where compensation is being offered. There must be evidence based on the impact before compensation can flow, and I think all people recognize that this is appropriate.

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

12:55 p.m.

Calgary Centre-North Alberta

Conservative

Michelle Rempel ConservativeMinister of State (Western Economic Diversification)

Mr. Speaker, it is my understanding that the original agreement with the province on this particular issue was that the fund would provide compensation for potential losses associated with the removal of the MPRs. As my colleague alluded to, there has been some very positive stakeholder feedback. Derek Butler, of the Association of Seafood Producers, talked about how the reduction of these tariffs in one fell swoop would potentially create more markets and economic gain for the industry.

The motion before the House today says, “the federal government must respect its promise to Newfoundland and Labrador of $400 million for development and renewal”. I am wondering if my colleague can re-emphasize the difference between the wording of this motion and the reality of the agreement with the province.

With regard to development and renewal, I would ask him to speak to the impact of his department and the investments our federal government has made through ACOA on the diversification of the Atlantic economy and on this particular sector.

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

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, indeed, our government, through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, is working steadfastly with our provincial partners, with businesses, and with other stakeholders on improving market access and on improving the type of innovation that is needed for the next step for these companies. As a matter of fact, it is dealing very directly with businesses in Atlantic Canada on how they can benefit from some of the major initiatives by our government, such as CETA and our shipbuilding program. There are tremendous benefits for Atlantic Canada that we, through ACOA, are making sure our local businesses can leverage.

I have a stack of letters and press releases from employers, the St. John's Board of Trade, seafood processors, Canadian manufacturers, and exporters, all of them calling on the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador to come to the table to work out the details of this fund with us, because they know the tremendous benefit of the Canada-European Union trade agreement to their province.

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

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think a lot of the issues my fellow colleague has raised with regard to the CETA agreement and Newfoundland and Labrador and the impact have to do with trust, the relationship, and the sharing of the knowledge of where the benefits will be for Newfoundland and Labrador.

If Newfoundland and Labrador has taken the position that it would not support this because the benefits are negative in other areas, is there not an opportunity for further conversation, recognizing the importance of having Newfoundland and Labrador as part of all of this?

We recognize the benefits in some other areas, but when there are clearly other areas that are giving it difficulty, do you not think it would be advisable to sit down at the table with the premier?

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

1 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Before I go to the minister, I once again remind the member to address the Chair. She is not a newcomer to this place. It is not optional behaviour. It is in fact required.

The hon. Minister of State.

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

1 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, I would say absolutely that we are encouraging the province to come to the table with us.

This is an historic opportunity. We have talked today already about some of the benefits to the seafood and fish sector, manufacturers, and exporters in Newfoundland and Labrador and about the benefits that can accrue to that province.

We also know the hurdles when it comes to access to the European Union. I mentioned some of the tariffs of over 10%, including some as high as over 20%, on the very exports we want to make to that very important market of over 500 million people.

It is in everyone's interest that we come together to finalize this fund that will be to the benefit of Newfoundland and Labrador, a fund that will protect the seafood industry from any potential negative impacts for having given up minimum processing requirements, and indeed, to move forward on an agreement that will benefit all of us as Canadians.

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

1 p.m.

Liberal

Chrystia Freeland Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me the opportunity to join this important debate.

Newfoundland and Labrador's support for CETA hinged to a significant degree on the Government of Canada's promise to help the industry adjust to the recent removal of minimum processing requirements. That promise should have been kept. CETA will eliminate trade barriers and boost free trade between Canada and the European Union. It will also create opportunities for the middle class.

The Liberal Party of Canada supports free trade because it will open markets to Canadian goods and services, grow export-oriented businesses, create jobs and provide choice and lower prices to Canadian consumers.

Unfortunately, the Conservatives negotiated this agreement without holding a proper public debate. As a result, the government did not adequately address concerns about sectors that could suffer because of CETA, particularly the sector that employs fish plant workers in Newfoundland and Labrador. The removal of minimum processing requirements is definitely a huge concern for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. The province's support hinged to a significant degree on the federal government's promise to help the industry adjust to this new reality. That promise should be kept.

I would also like to quote my colleague, the member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, who talked about this matter last week:

However esoteric federal-provincial relationships might appear to many Canadians, all Canadians want their leaders, especially their Prime Minister, to be trustworthy.

This is very important. I would like to thank my colleagues, especially the francophone members, for listening to my bad French, and I hope it was understandable.

Now I will continue in English. I thank my francophone colleagues for tolerating my efforts. It is important for us to try, as practice will make perfect.

As my colleague has already suggested in her line of questioning, what is at stake here are some very fundamental issues that go right to the heart of the terrible way the government is conducting itself. I would like to focus on two in particular, and they are the fact that so often, and not just when it comes to trade but it comes to economic policy in general and foreign policy, the government talks big but does not deliver. The government's rhetoric is not matched by execution. One way to put it is that it is obverse of the usual advice, that one should speak softly and carry a big stick. Today's Government of Canada speaks loudly and carries a small stick, particularly when it comes to executing it.

This CETA deal is a perfect example of that. I have lost count of the number of official announcements we have had of this deal being concluded. I have lost count of the amount of taxpayer money that has been spent to celebrate the conclusion of this deal and yet the deal, manifestly, is not there.

What is more, with each passing week, some new real obstacle, some new hurdle, which the government had to overcome and should have overcome before all of these glorious announcements, manifests itself. This conflict between the federal government and Newfoundland and Labrador is just the latest example.

The second thing I would like to emphasize is something I spoke about a bit earlier when citing my colleague. This dispute speaks so profoundly to way in which the government has failed at one of the essential tasks of statesmanship, and that is relationship building, relationship building with the provinces, one of the central jobs of Ottawa, and relationship building with our partners in the world.

I have a somewhat homey metaphor. I am a mother and I have three kids. Nowadays in classrooms kids do not sit in desks by themselves; the desks are put together in a group. Modern pedagogy understands that the way to accomplish big jobs in the world is through teamwork. Therefore, my 10-year-old daughter sits around a group of tables with other kids. She is already being taught that teamwork is essential. That lesson seems to be lost on the other side of the House.

It is not just in elementary school. During the winter break, I had the privilege of visiting the University of Windsor and seeing its magnificent new engineering department. In its beautiful modern new lecture halls, the students do not sit in seats one by one separated from one another; they sit grouped around tables. Again, teamwork is the key to success in the modern economy. This is an approach that the government is either unable to carry out, or simply does not understand how essential it is.

It is particularly important when it comes to trade. Trade, after all, is about partnerships and relationships. We see the breakdown here when it comes to the relationship between the federal government and Labrador and Newfoundland, but that is far from the only trade relationship that has been dangerously eroded. It is shocking to me to note that in fact our biggest trade and economic relationship, what should be the bedrock international relationship for any Canadian government, the relationship with the United States, has also fallen prey to this my way or the highway bullying approach of the government. We see the evidence of that failure at relationship building and statesmanship in issues like the fact that the Keystone pipeline has not been approved, that it has become a huge and contentious issue in U.S. politics and that there is a huge fight over the port at Prince Rupert.

This unnecessary fight between the federal government and Newfoundland and Labrador is really just a manifestation of a broader failure on many fronts and of these two very characteristic flaws of the government.

What is particularly troubling to me and my colleagues is that the support of Newfoundland and Labrador for CETA was earned in part by a promise from the Government of Canada to help the industry adjust to the abolition of minimum processing requirements. Is it not elementary that a government should honour its promises? Sadly, that is not what we are seeing.

I would like to quote some comments from representatives of Newfoundland and Labrador. In the St. John's newspaper, The Telegram, Minister Darin King said that if it could not get a deal with Ottawa with the Minister of International Trade, Newfoundland and Labrador planned to take this dispute over the head of the Canadian government to Brussels. Here is what he said to The Telegram:

Our plan would be to go into the EU — Brussels — and meet with member states and members of the union to outline our position and to seek support from them....We want a resolution. We want to put this to bed because we recognize that CETA is good for the country and good for our province, and we want to put this deal to bed and move forward and get on with things.

Imagine how Canada would look, how ridiculous our international position would appear, if we had warring Canadian factions travelling to Brussels to present contradictory positions.

That is not how a well-managed country is run. That is not the way we get a good deal from our counterparties. This is particularly dangerous. This dispute flaring up within our own family, in public, in the House, comes at a particularly dangerous moment. As I sure members know, at this moment, the CETA deal, which we strongly support and believe is really important to the Canadian economy, is facing new objections and pressures from some of the key European Union players. There have been voices raised against it in France and, particularly, in Germany. At a time when support is fraying, this is not a time for us to fail to get our ducks in a row at home and to fail to have unity, to break promises within the Canadian families. I am disappointed to say that this is what is happening.

Trade deals are an area where, like so much economic policy, timing matters and delaying costs people real money. This is not an issue where the government has the luxury of fighting interpersonal battles or ideological battles. To delay is to take money out of the pockets of hard-working Canadians. We have had a very clear and stark example of that reality very recently, and that is in our trade with South Korea.

The United States, the EU and even Australia got to a trade deal with Korea ahead of us. We are delighted that a deal has finally been done, but because of that delay during that period, Canadian exporters lost 30% of market share. Experts calculate that this was a loss of about $8 billion. That is a lot of money, which simply through delay, was effectively taken out of the pockets of hard-working Canadian business people. We really need to focus on timing. We need to get beyond the rhetoric and get this deal done, not have fighting at home.

I am getting increasingly concerned about CETA. Last week, I met with many business people whose businesses depend directly upon this deal getting done. They are worried that we have not completed the deal, despite multiple announcements.

There is a very real reason to be worried. If we cannot resolve our disputes at home and get the deal done, it will be in real jeopardy.

As members know, the United States is now negotiating its own trade deal with Europe. This is a huge political issue in Europe, indeed, an issue which raises concerns at a much higher, much more emotional level than the deal with Canada. It is essential for us to get our deal done, to get it signed, to get it out the door before the debate around the negotiations with the U.S. really becomes a central political focus in Europe.

It is also essential for us to get this done, to resolve our disputes at home, because the EU negotiators will not have time for us forever. They will not be able to focus on internal Canadian squabbles forever, on possible visits this month from officials from Newfoundland and Labrador to Brussels. Their focus will be shifting to the U.S. deal. It is absolutely incumbent upon the government to resolve this dispute and to get the deal done.

Why does the Liberal Party feel so strongly about the importance of trade, of getting deals done, of getting access to market for Canadian producers? Eighty per cent of our economy is dependent, directly or indirectly, upon trade. That is huge. Our dependence on having effective relationships and effective access to international markets is particularly great today. As 2015 has dawned, we have seen a global economy looking much less rosy than we were hearing from the other side of the House all last year.

We are entering a global economic environment of unexpectedly falling commodity prices, including low oil prices, which is a very serious issue for the Canadian economy, as everyone from the Bank of Canada to TD have said. There is another really big issue out there that is shadowing our economy. It is the issue of what Larry Summers, the former secretary of the U.S. Treasury, likes to call “secular stagnation”. This is the idea that the western industrialized economies might currently be stuck in a period of low growth.

I am very sad to say that because of the shortsighted ideological thinking of the government, because of its all-eggs-in-one-basket play in the oil sector, Canada is unprepared for these rocky international waters. At a time like this, more than ever we simply cannot afford to be fighting amongst ourselves, to have these embarrassing unprofessional fights between a provincial government and the federal one over a trade deal that we desperately need to conclude. We need to get it done. It is really not acceptable, in fact it is incredibly dangerous, for our country to be stalled in this space with Newfoundland and Labrador's really objecting and talking about a trust betrayed.

I would like to tell the House what some of the leaders from Newfoundland and Labrador, in their own words, had to say. Premier Paul Davis said: “We’re at a crossroads where the federal government has changed the rules”.

That, to me, goes to the heart of the issue here, that in the midst of this incredibly important, much bally-hooed, and incredibly complex deal that is central to our economy, the government dropped the ball on this key federal-provincial relationship and had the temerity to change the rules half way through. That is not statesmanship. That is not grown-up management of a country, of an economy, and of a trade negotiation.

Darin King, Newfoundland and Labrador's business minister, said: “The federal government’s failure to honour the terms of this fund is jeopardizing CETA for all industries, economic sectors, and indeed all Canadian and European Union citizens”.

He had it exactly right. We all want this deal done. The government had the privilege of negotiating the deal not just with the EU, but also with our Canadian provincial partners. It has simply dropped the ball. It is being accused by its partners of failing in what is a key duty of a federal government, to be trustworthy and to keep its word.

Finally, I want to quote the intergovernmental affairs minister, Keith Hutchings, who said:

We've got to be able to hold fast to those items that we negotiated. It's a much bigger issue. Once we go down that road of giving the authority to the federal government and saying, “Well, you can negotiate something, but once it gets to the final stages you can pull back and say no, that's fine.” As a government we can't approve of that.

What is really at stake here is probably the most fundamental issue of leadership and governance. That is integrity. It is trust. The real issue is the economy is at stake. A trade deal is at stake. Even more crucially, the government's ability to be trusted by Canadians is at stake. That is why I am delighted we have the opportunity to debate this in the House today. I hope the government will see the light.

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

1:20 p.m.

NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member made a very good point about relationship-building. Of course, the Conservative government has no relationship with Newfoundland and Labrador, but then, two betrayals do not make for a good relationship.

This dispute comes down to two sides of the story. On the one hand, the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador said that the fisheries fund was all about transition, development, and renewal. That is what the $400 million fund was for. That is the province's take on this.

The federal Conservatives say that this fisheries fund is compensation for losses as a result of the province's giving up minimum processing requirements. In other words, it is compensation for losses incurred by giving up this major fisheries policy. This is a $400 million fund and if the Conservatives are right, the fund is to compensate for losses. The Conservatives are contributing $280 million and the provincial government is contributing $120 million.

Why would the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador contribute $120 million to a fund to compensate itself? Does that itself not raise questions about the Conservatives' side of the story?

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

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Chrystia Freeland Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has an important point. I very much agree with him that this hits the fundamental issue of trust and transparency.

A lot of our discussion today feels as if it were some kind of cheap detective novel or divorce case, a he-said versus she-said issue, as we parse exactly what the email did and did not contain and what the intentions of the different parties were. That is not the way a healthy federation works. There should not be this sort of fight between a federal government and the provinces if the government has a good, healthy, trust-based relationships with them. This is essential for Canada to function.

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

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

James Lunney Conservative Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to quote Sharon Horan, 2014 chair of the St. John’s Board of Trade, who stated:

The CETA agreement provides significant opportunity for our members to do business with the affluent 500 million consumers in Europe, CETA is one of the most significant trade deals ever negotiated for Canadian business, including businesses right here in St. John’s.

Therefore, there is no negative impact at the present time. As everyone knows, the deal has not been concluded. Most of the impact from CETA would be positive and any negative impact would be compensated.

Does the member encourage or support the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador coming to the table to negotiate whatever its concerns and differences are so that the compensation can be delivered as it is intended when the time is appropriate?

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

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Chrystia Freeland Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, with all due respect, the quote cited by the hon. member misses the point. There is no dispute between the federal government and Newfoundland and Labrador about the overall benefits of CETA. Indeed, there is no dispute between the party opposite and my own about the overall benefits of CETA. We believe that it is essential for Canada to have a trade deal with the European Union. Our only disappointment is that there seem to be a lot more announcements and big, expensive parties than actual done deals.

When it comes to the conduct of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, my concern is that we are hearing from the elected representatives of that province in the clearest most direct and most aggrieved terms that they feel betrayed by the federal government. I think the people who need to come to the table today and fix this relationship are the members opposite and the federal government.

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

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I noticed that the hon. member brought up the situation in Prince Rupert, which it turns out is an extremely complicated situation. There is the fact that Alaska is leasing the port. It is also complicated by the fact that there is the potential for different suppliers of steel for this port. Another element is the fact we are talking about a local labour force that would be called upon to build the port. The last factor is that cruise ships can bypass that port if need be.

We saw the government react rather quickly and aggressively to the news that buy American was going to apply there. However, given the complexity of the situation, should Canada and the government not have entered into some fairly sophisticated discussions with the players on this issue? Why do we have an embassy if it cannot engage governors and legislators to solve these problems?

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

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Chrystia Freeland Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his excellent question. As many in the House know, he has a long-standing and deep interest and expertise in all of Canada's waterways.

I raised the issue of Prince Rupert precisely because it is symptomatic of the high-handed, my-way-or-the-highway conduct of the current government, which we are again seeing manifested in this dispute with Newfoundland and Labrador. As my hon. colleague rightly points out, we have an excellent diplomatic service and an excellent ambassador in the United States. However, his hands are tied because the only message he is allowed to deliver is, “We're going to do it my way”. That kind of behaviour, those kinds of ideological blinders, and that kind of rhetoric is not working in our relationship with the United States and, I am sad to say, it is not working in Ottawa's relationship with the provinces. It is time for a change.

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

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Paulina Ayala NDP Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is not the first time that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador have been told one thing and then something else ultimately ends up happening. Indeed, the Liberal government also failed to respect another agreement, the Atlantic accord, which had been announced in the fall of 2004.

I want to review the messages that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador have been hearing. In October 2013, the Minister of State for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency talked about a transitional program worth $400 million that would support the development and renewal of the fish and seafood sectors, as well as provide support for the workers. Everyone in Newfoundland was pleased. However, at the end of October 2014, the message changed. Now Newfoundland and Labrador has to prove to the federal government that eliminating the minimum processing requirements harmed the province. Originally, the government was talking about a transition initiative, and now the province has to prove that it suffered losses.

I wonder whether my colleague could use that example to explain to us why the provinces cannot trust this Conservative government, since it does not keep its word or the promises it makes to them. The provinces are an important, crucial part of Canadian federalism. This might well weaken the relationship between the federal government and the provinces.

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

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Chrystia Freeland Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the history that my hon. colleague cites has provided ample proof of why Canada's provinces today do not feel they have a counterparty in Ottawa that wants to work with them, that wants to co-operate with them, and even whose written word can be trusted.

It is absurd and embarrassing that we in the House are reduced to parsing emails and letters between a province and the federal government to try to prove what exactly was meant. That shows a complete breakdown of the relationship.

That relationship is the core of what we are talking about today. It is a duty of the federal Government of Canada to have good, productive, effective relationships with the provinces, particularly when it comes to presenting a united Canadian front and negotiating trade deals. I am sorry to say that the government has failed in doing that.

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

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I would like to make the Chair aware that I will be splitting my time with my hon. friend from Halifax, who gave me such a rousing and warm welcome here. That is how we work on the New Democratic side.

This is an important debate. Many Canadians watching may be wondering why this debate may be relevant to them if they do not live in Newfoundland. As somebody who comes from the complete opposite side of the country, from Skeena—Bulkley Valley in the northwest of beautiful British Columbia, I can say very clearly that there is a pattern and a pathology within the Conservative government that worries us greatly. It is something that we have seen before, and we have great compassion and understanding for our friends in Newfoundland, who negotiated in good faith with the government over an important principle with respect to CETA, the agreement that the government has been compacting with the European Union. Even when we get an agreement with the Conservatives in black and white and the Prime Minister utters support in very basic and understandable terms, as was the case here, that agreement may not hold water when it is time to actually come forward and honour it.

In this particular case of with the European trade agreement, a principle held out by Newfoundland was that there would be a compensatory fund of $400 million established by the federal government to offset some of the damages that would be inflicted upon the people of Newfoundland, in particular with respect to their minimum processing requirements. It had been a long-standing policy and practice of the Newfoundland government to protect the processing of fish products in Newfoundland.

For those who do not know or who find it hard imagine, this is an incredibly important and integral of the Newfoundland economy. It is worth as much as $1.1 billion per year to Newfoundland. That is important, because it allows for the diversification of the economy to not solely rely on things like non-renewable energy, such as oil. That is important in the Newfoundland economy. It is so important that Newfoundland said that it was contingent on its agreeing to the broader CETA negotiations. It was Europe that asked the Canadian government to get Newfoundland to take away this minimum processing requirement that fish had to be processed within Newfoundland.

Newfoundland, recognizing that there were some broader benefits to its broader economy and to the Canadian economy, said yes, but let us set aside this $400 million. The Conservatives in Ottawa agreed, and as soon as they had that deal inked, they started to crab walk a little. They said that there might be a fund, but now that they had secured Newfoundland's support and the train had left the station, they were going to change some of the conditions of how the fund would be used such that Newfoundland would now have to go about the arduous process of proving damages.

Who would prove those damages and to what level? It would be the Conservatives here in Ottawa who would decide for Newfoundland.

We have seen this before, particularly in the more remote or rural parts of our economy and our country when it comes to resources and revenue from resources. I am looking at my friend from the north, from the western Arctic, who has seen the government renege on provinces before when it comes to resources. In the west we have seen it time and time again. Newfoundland has seen it twice now just in recent history.

In the 2007 budget, there was a black-and-white commitment from the Conservatives. I will read it out for them, in case they have forgotten their own words. When it came to non-renewable natural resources, they would exclude those calculations when making any payments to the provinces. Way back in 2006, the Conservatives said that they would:

Work to achieve with the provinces permanent changes to the equalization formula which would ensure that non-renewable natural resource revenue is removed from the equalization formula to encourage economic growth. We will ensure that no province is adversely affected from changes to the equalization formula.

That is pretty black and white. That is pretty clear.

In the 2007 budget, just a few months after making this promise to Canadians, and particularly Newfoundlanders, the Conservatives reneged on that promise. That then caused a reaction from the then premier, Danny Williams, who said Newfoundlanders had been betrayed yet again by Ottawa and ran his ABC, or “anything but Conservatives”, campaign. It was broadly effective, and it is kind of catching on in the country.

Certainly where I live in B.C., ABC is suddenly having a certain resonance with British Columbians, who say that these guys cannot be trusted even when they make their promises in black and white. Newfoundland showed up to say that the Conservatives would not change the equalization formula and would exclude natural resources from any of those calculations because they said they would; then the 2007 budget showed up and the Conservatives were shown to be liars.

That is a strong word that we do not often get to use here, because we have to be able to prove it. When we compare the 2007 budget to the 2006 promise that was made by this Prime Minister, we see that the Conservatives reneged on this promise, reversed it, and suddenly put non-renewable natural resources into the formula. We see that he was not telling the truth and was lying to Newfoundlanders.

We see it here again in an area that is very sensitive and very important to Newfoundlanders, the processing of fish in Newfoundland. A very clear promise was made by the chief of staff to the minister who was negotiating this deal as to what this fund was to be used for. It was to be a transitionary fund.

Then we see the crab walk begin, with the Minister of Justice from the east coast saying that we did not create a “slush fund”, as he calls it. There goes the transitionary worker fund. Now the Conservatives want to refer to it as a slush fund, because that would be a bad thing that would be helping out Newfoundland communities that got hit by impacts from the CETA agreement.

Then the Prime Minister's office very recently issued a statement saying that the government did not want to give Newfoundlanders and Labradorians a blank cheque. Oh, goodness. The very agreement that Conservatives made with those people is now being referred to a slush fund and a blank cheque.

Thank goodness for the New Democrat members for St. John's South—Mount Pearl and St. John's East, who are standing up for the interests of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians here in the House of Commons, opposed to the few Conservative colleagues left on the island. They are standing up and saying that Newfoundland deserves basic signs of respect from the Conservatives, as opposed to just breaking their promises so easily.

I guess that is what happens to a government when it sits in office for nine long years. It gets easier and easier to make a promise and break a promise, to say to Newfoundland and Labrador, “Here it is in black and white. We promise you can vote for us. Newfoundland can support this trade agreement with Europe, knowing there is going to be a $400 million transition fund.” Then, when it comes time to cough it up and actually come through on that promise, the Conservatives do the happy Conservative dance and say, “No, no, we did not mean a transition fund for communities. We did not want to give Newfoundland a blank cheque.” This was according to the Prime Minister's Office. It was the Minister of Justice who seemed to think this would constitute a slush fund.

Again, let us remember what this is all about. This is understanding that trade deals as complex as what is going between Canada and Europe will benefit some industries and have a negative impact on others. This is understood by the government of the day and the negotiators. It is understood by both sides that there are advantages and disadvantages in every trade deal.

This is why New Democrats wanted to see the text of the deal before issuing blank support in the way the Liberals did, because the devil is in those details. We broadly support trade initiatives with our European allies, free democratic countries that draw from a well of values and histories similar to Canada's. We know the importance of trade and diversifying that trade, while making sure that trade happens in terms and interests that benefit this country, because it is Canadian interests that we represent here in this House of Commons.

That is broadly speaking. I come from British Columbia, but I can stand up for my friends in Newfoundland and Labrador, as they have stood up for us in times past, to say that they deserve to have the promises made to them by the federal government honoured. When a province or territory in this country gets a black-and-white promise from the government of the day, regardless of the party that happens to be in power, is it so radical to ask that the promise be kept?

We saw that in 2006 and 2007 with the Conservative government. When it came time to honour the deal, the promise it had made to the people of Newfoundland to not include non-renewables, Conservatives were only too happy to break that promise and to change the formula to make it more difficult for Newfoundland and Labrador.

Now we see it again. Newfoundland was able to offer its support contingent upon this $400 million fund being there to help people transition, because it knew it was taking away a policy that had helped many communities for many years. Now the Conservatives are suddenly changing their tune, saying the promise was never made. Well, that is not the understanding of Newfoundland. I trust the people in Newfoundland and Labrador to interpret what that promise was, what it meant, and what it is still today.

Shame on Conservatives for so happily and easily lying and reneging on a promise to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador—again.

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1:40 p.m.

Conservative

James Lunney Conservative Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, numerous times the member referred to “lying” on the part of the government. I think that is unparliamentary. It is out of order. There are disagreements on written contracts, and the member is saying that the contracts actually should be the way people feel about them, not the way they are actually worded.

I ask the member to withdraw those remarks. They are unparliamentary.

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

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The hon. member is correct in that there is parliamentary and unparliamentary language. The word “lying” is not acceptable in this place, and I think all hon. members know that.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl.

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

1:40 p.m.

NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member from British Columbia for the excellent speech. He made some good points, but his main point is that this is the second time that the federal Conservatives have disrespected my province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

I do not know if the word “betrayed” is against parliamentary decorum, but people back home in Newfoundland and Labrador would categorize what has happened here as a betrayal.

The first betrayal, as pointed out by the member from British Columbia, was in 2006. It was on a promise from the current Conservative government to remove non-renewable natural resource revenue from the equalization formula. That promise was made, but that promise was not kept, as the member so rightly pointed out.

The second time is right now. The Province of Newfoundland and Labrador gave up MPRs for a transition fund for development and renewal, and according to the documentation, that is clear.

The hon. member has been in this House for some years and knows his way around. My question to him is simple. Why does he think that the current Conservative government has betrayed Newfoundland and Labrador for a second time? Why?

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1:40 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think “betrayal” is okay in terms of our discourse here, especially when we watch betrayal happen.

I can only imagine that the Conservatives think it is okay to betray Newfoundland and Labrador because they can get away with it, either because the people there may not be paying attention to what is happening, which is a mistake, or because they just do not matter to the Conservatives' particular machinations. They are interested in other things.

My hon. colleagues across the way took umbrage with the language and tone that I was using. Their sensibilities were harmed. Here is an easy way to get away with being called such difficult words, as you have said, Mr. Speaker, as “liar”. The way that one—

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

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Order. The member will take his seat.

The Chair recognizes that it is an important matter that is being debated this morning and that it raises emotions, but I would like to leave all hon. members with two thoughts.

First of all, the inadvertent use of unparliamentary language is usually brought to the member's attention. Accidents happen from time to time.

However, if the Chair believes that members are deliberately using non-parliamentary language, that is a different matter. If a member uses a word that is unparliamentary, that does not give them licence to subsequently make passing reference to that word. That is essentially being critical of the Chair's ruling, as opposed to their colleagues'.

I would go back to the hon. member for a quick answer to the question. I would ask him to refrain from using words that he well knows are not acceptable in this place.

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

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I believe one can refer to a “mistruth” being spoken. I believe that has been considered parliamentary language in recent Speaker rulings.

If one wishes to avoid being accused of misspeaking the truth, then one should avoid misspeaking the truth. To my Conservative colleagues across the way, if they are concerned and their feelings are hurt by being accused—not by me, but by the people of Newfoundland and the Conservative premier of Newfoundland—of having misspoken the truth, then my advice to my Conservative colleagues is to not misspeak the truth to the people of Newfoundland. That would avoid the whole mess in the first place.

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

1:45 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, the official opposition has forgotten another instance in which the federal Conservatives really caused the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador significant harm, and that was in its use of chapter 11 under NAFTA when AbitibiBowater brought a charge against Newfoundland and Labrador for an interpretation of the contract under which it had been doing business in the province. That contract dated from 1905. It was a 99-year lease that kept getting extended. I studied it when I was writing books about forestry policy in Canada.

Newfoundland and Labrador had every right under the contract to say that when AbitibiBowater vacated the province, the company had no right to sell off hydroelectric assets and other assets it had gained only through this quite ancient contract. The Prime Minister berated Danny Williams and paid out $130 million from the consolidated revenue fund of the people of Canada to AbitibiBowater. In other words, Newfoundland and Labrador's interests were not protected. They were gutted by the interpretation of chapter 11 of NAFTA, which brings us to the competence of this economic and trade agreement, which by the way—