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.