Madam Speaker, it is an honour for me to follow my friend from Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, one of the most passionate and knowledgeable people in the House on the environment, forestry, hunting, and angling. I am very proud to call him a friend and to have explored with him a lot of really innovative approaches to the environment and forestry, which he discussed in his speech, but also alternative land-use systems and a whole range of issues that I think we will be hearing more about from him in the coming years.
The opposition party has brought to the floor today an opposition motion on the softwood lumber sector and forestry workers. The current government is now at the two-year mark, and it has failed those Canadians, almost 400,000 families that rely on our access to the U.S. market. As all members of the House should know, 96% of imports of softwood in the U.S. are generally Canadian. A few lumber barons in the U.S. from time to time try to stop that, which ends up raising prices and actually makes home affordability less accessible for Americans and will halt and make more expensive the rebuilding in Texas and Florida. Therefore, we have to articulate why it is in the American national interest to secure a deal on softwood.
As much as I respect the Minister of Foreign Affairs, for two years she has been saying that they are working hard on it, but there are no results after two years. I remind the government, at its two-year mark, that it took the last Conservative government three months in office to secure a deal on softwood. We know it is a complex issue, but for the 400,000 families that have been hearing the minister's constant line that they are working hard on it, it is not enough. We need a deal.
I will spend a few minutes on why this is one example of the U.S. relationship eroding terribly under the current government. Image, state dinners, photo ops, and magazine covers are one thing, but we are not getting results for Canadians and families in this relationship. This is turning into a one-sided relationship, regardless of which party is in power in Washington.
The motion today talks about how we are world leaders in forestry sustainability. My friend from Manitoba just mentioned that. He talked about the importance of this deal to our economy. There are 370,000 direct and indirect jobs related to the forestry sector, and our softwood lumber exports, from west to east, are critical to the economies of those provinces. Let us not forget that. This is not an issue for just one region of our country. It is truly a Canadian issue.
We all know that in April, the U.S. commerce department introduced tariffs as high as 25%, effectively barring our exports to our largest market. Under the Conservative deal, 96% of all imports in the U.S. were Canadian softwood, the best in the world. We need a deal desperately.
In 2006, as I said, three months into the Harper government, a deal was struck with the Americans, and then in 2012, that deal and the terms of it were given an extension to 2016. As much as the Liberal government likes to kick the can down the road, it had a full year of a mandate to at least extend the terms further. That is usually what parties can do when there is a renewed agreement between two friends and a renewal period, which the Conservatives had already accessed. The government could not even get a renewal period, let alone a new deal. We have now seen that deal collapse. We have now seen layoffs, and we now see duties of up to 24%.
The minister was charged with this from day one, first in her role as Minister of International Trade and now as Minister of Foreign Affairs. What did she say on February 26? She said that the Prime Minister of Canada brought it up in a meeting with President Obama and that they were working hard on it. The last time she raised this issue was in committee in August 2017, as the Minister of Foreign Affairs. She said that it is a priority of hers personally and that they are working hard on it. I have no doubt that they are, but they are not getting the job done, and there are thousands of families seeing that first-hand.
We all remember the Prime Minister introducing President Obama in this chamber and talking about the bromance and talking about dudeplomacy. We did not get a deal. We got Vogue magazine covers. We got state dinners. We did not get a deal for our people. This is what concerns me.
Even the press gallery is fooled by the image branding of the government, making it look like it is doing a lot in the United States and continuing the work actually started by Rob Merrifield, who started working with governors, tracking how much we export to states, and building congressional relationships. In fact, Rona Ambrose and members of this caucus worked with the government to continue the work started under the Conservatives. It did not start with the election of the government two years ago. I applaud the Liberals and have continued to applaud them for continuing, but unlike in the past, under both Conservative and Liberal governments, this is not a relationship of mutual respect anymore. We have had two years of a priority and working hard on it, and zero results on softwood.
What else did we have under the bromance between Barack Obama and the Prime Minister? We had him cancelling Keystone XL. That is what his dude buddy did. He cancelled a key job for our energy sector. We had a carbon tax introduced in Canada, praised by the U.S. president, but the U.S. president did not introduce a carbon tax. He let the Canadian Prime Minister put his own economy at a competitive disadvantage to our friends in the United States. They probably laughed all the way to the bank, praising it, but certainly not mimicking it.
However, I think the most egregious action under the Prime Minister and former President Obama was that our Prime Minister went to Washington and signed away 10% of our Arctic waters and 17% of our land mass in our Arctic, and banned any development, even if it was in the interest of Inuit, first nation, and indigenous peoples or the territorial leaders. Despite the language on reconciliation, which we hear from the Prime Minister, and the duty to consult, he gave provincial and territorial leaders and first nations leaders a cursory phone call while he was in Washington. We have heard my friend from the NDP try to insert a change on “duty to consult” today.
The Prime Minister of Canada went to Washington and did not consult indigenous leaders before he told them what they could do in their lands and their waterways. It is probably the most egregious action I have seen from a Canadian prime minister in dealing with our American neighbours. At the very least, there should have been a summit of territorial and indigenous leaders before the Prime Minister acted unilaterally on a priority of the U.S. president.
That is how well the relationship went under the bromance between this Prime Minister and President Obama. How has it been with the new U.S. President? Well, we stand on the brink of losing NAFTA, with two million jobs dependent on that trade relationship. A speech by this minister, with help from the Prime Minister's Office, no doubt, did not even mention the auto industry as a priority in July. We would not have free trade in North America were it not for the auto industry.
Between NAFTA, the tax and competitiveness imbalance, and the softwood lumber lack of a deal, we have seen a relationship erode. I want to see that rectified and the government start standing up for workers in forestry and all other industries.