Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak on the Canada-EU free trade agreement.
However, I would like to start off my discussion by recognizing that today is Alberta Oil and Gas Celebration Day. We are celebrating the 70th anniversary this year of the Leduc No. 1, which was one of the first oil wells discovered in Alberta, and the economic prosperity that has come from the oil and gas industry in Alberta since that time. I know there are big celebrations today. Members of my caucus are speaking at events happening there as well. I just thought I would bring that to the attention of the House today.
I would like to congratulate all those who have worked very hard on the CETA deal over the last 10 years. I know that it has been a lot of hard work. The member for York—Simcoe has worked hard on this. The member for Abbotsford has worked hard. I would like to congratulate the current government for pushing this over the finish line. This will have significant impacts on Canada in terms of prosperity for everyone.
We have talked a lot about the expanded market and things like that, but one of the things I would like to talk a bit about is the back and forth that happens with trade agreements.
My riding is a large rural riding in northern Alberta. We are mostly invested in the primary industries, such as logging, agriculture, oil and gas exploration, and a lot of spinoff comes from that. However, one of the things we import a lot of is the equipment that we need. I know that the agricultural industry in my riding is particularly looking forward to a lot of the state-of-the-art technology that the agriculture sector in Europe has and that we can speedily be importing into Canada.
I know there is a burgeoning hemp industry in Alberta. New strains are being developed that grow well in the colder climate we have in northern Alberta. There are big opportunities with this as well, in terms of the fibre that comes out of the hemp plant. Erosion prevention is one of the things that they use this for.
However, we are limited in the equipment used to plant, cultivate, and harvest this plant. They are looking forward to bringing equipment from the Netherlands in particular, which has worked very hard on this. I have been engaged with a number of farmers in my riding who are saying they are excited about this deal, as this will lower their equipment costs, which will only make that particular crop more profitable.
My home community was a pork-producing powerhouse in the early 1990s. Since then, we have watched the market essentially evaporate. There are many white elephant pork barns in my neighbourhood sitting empty that have not been used over the last number of years. This has the opportunity to revive that industry and bring it back.
Since the early 1990s, we have not been able to regain enough of the pork industry to produce our own pork. In fact, Canada imports pork now. It would be great if we could get a market so we could reinvigorate the pork industry and see our profits return on that particular commodity.
I know that a lot of farmers diversified. They were growing grain crops and had pork on the side. If the price was not there in the grain crops, they fed it to their pigs and made their money through the pigs. If the price was there for the crops, they would reduce the pork output. That was a great ability to diversify. We have lost that to some degree. They have diversified now more into the different types of crops that they grow rather than diversifying between two different areas within the agriculture sector.
The agriculture sector in particular is very much looking forward, not only to the new market they are going to get but to the new equipment they will be able to bring over and begin to use, and some of the techniques. The interplay between Europe and Canada will be helpful in bringing some of the techniques across the ocean.
These are just the benefits for Canada. However, one other thing we should talk about is how this would benefit the EU. I am a big advocate of prosperity. All people should be able to improve their station in life, and free trade is the best way to make life better for everyone.
The greatest discovery of the 20th century is probably the development of hydrocarbons as a form of energy. I know that the combination of petroleum products and farming techniques regarding fertilizer, but specifically the tractor, revolutionized the way that people farmed. It brought commercial-scale farming to what currently exists, and that has allowed us to feed the world a couple of times over now.
We need to ensure that the products we produce make it to those who need them. That is the biggest issue with free trade, that the products being produced can make it to the people who need them. In other places in the world, heating in the winter is a big priority. The natural gas produced in Canada has the potential for a large market in eastern Europe. It is not only the natural gas, but the technologies that have been developed in Canada over the last 100 years that have improved agriculture, hydrocarbon production, the way forests are managed, and things like that. That technology can be harnessed by eastern European countries to shift their dependence on natural gas from Russia.
Russia currently holds 31% of the EU's oil and gas imports. People I have spoken with have said that whenever Russia feels slighted by eastern European countries, it turns the natural gas off and people start to freeze. I feel that with this agreement, we will be able to export technology and products that will make people's lives better, shift their dependency from Russia, and make it so that we provide freedom and prosperity around the world. That is number one. Free markets bring freedom is the point that I am trying to make.
The natural gas and oil and gas industries have been a great source of prosperity for northern Alberta, and come mostly from the fact that there are a large number of people employed in it. As I understand it, there is a lot of opportunity in Europe to bring technologies from northern Alberta to the eastern bloc countries, specifically the process known as hydraulic fracturing. There is a lot of shale gas in Europe.
In the Netherlands, where my grandparents are from, there is a lot hydraulic fracturing and drilling there. Holland has managed to become a significant contributor to the EU's natural gas game. If that technology goes to other places in Europe, there is a big opportunity for companies that operate here in Canada to export not only their products but their technologies, manpower, and that kind of thing.
I want to shift to some things that have been brought up here today. In particular, I would like to talk about the investor-state legal issue that members of the NDP brought up. This, to me, seems fairly straightforward, in that investors want stability. They want to know that if they are going to invest in a country, whatever it may be, the laws of the land are not going to change tomorrow and their investment dry up. For example, there is a gentleman in my riding who came from the U.K. in the early 1970s and built a nail factory in southern Alberta. He worked really hard to develop this nail factory.
He saw all the wooden houses that we have in northern Alberta and figured there must be a large market for that, but then was forced to compete with companies from eastern Canada. They were given subsidies on the transportation of their nails, which he was not given. Therefore, he said to just make it a level playing field to allow him to compete and he would be able to sell his product in Alberta as well. He ran that nail factory for a number of years, and then he retired from that and he has gone on since to become an advocate for free markets and free enterprise. I meet with him from time to time in my riding office.
He was initially concerned about this investor-state legal framework that he had heard about in CETA. I said this would be the same as if he built a nail factory in a new country and the day he opened his nail factory, after investing $1 million in building it, that country's government outlawed making nails. I know this is a little facetious. I said that he would then be able to go to that government and say that since it had just outlawed making nails and he had just spent millions of dollars building his nail factory, could the government please reimburse him for the expense of building the nail factory.
That is essentially what this piece of the deal means. If people make an investment in a country based on the current laws of the land, but the law changes and their complete business model fails because of the law change, they can therefore sue the government.
My colleague from the NDP has mentioned this a number of times, but he seems to only think of it in terms of an investment that is coming here to Canada, which I would say is a positive thing. If people are willing to invest in Canada, it is because they see Canada as a place where they can come and make money, a place where they see that the money they invest is not going to disappear. They see the security and stability of our country and they say, “This is a good place to invest.” For us here in Canada, if we go and invest in other countries to make money there and bring the money that we make back home, it would give us stability as well. We can say that we intended to build a nail factory in Ukraine and if the Ukrainians change the law to outlaw the building of nails, at least we could get our investment back and invest in a different country or bring that investment back home. Therefore, that is a very important part of this.
It is just an interesting place to be with my NDP colleague talking about free trade in particular. It seems that the New Democrats are always advocating for open borders when it comes to people, and yet never advocating for open borders when it comes to things. I know that there is always a bit of minutiae around these things. Everyone wants free trade, but not total free trade; and everyone wants open borders, but not total open borders. I expect them to respond to this and maybe clarify some of those things.
Regarding cereal crops in northern Alberta, I had the canola growers in my office a while back and I was bragging to them that I thought my riding was the largest canola-producing riding in all of Canada. They would not confirm that to me, but they did say that the largest canola-producing riding in all of Canada was in northern Alberta. That is one of three ridings, mine being one of them so I will take it. I think that I am, but they would not confirm it for me. The “can” part of the word canola is because it is a Canadian invention. It is something that we now export around the world. The new CETA would give us a new market for canola and we would be very excited to see where all that goes.
When it comes to exporting our products to other parts of the world, it is incredible to see some of the basic products that we export around the world and then to see what is done with them. One of the big advantages of new markets is that we get fresh eyes on a product with new ideas that come with it. A lot of times, we see a product that has been used in one particular way for a very long time and it enters a new market and gets used in completely new methods that we have never seen before.
I am really excited to see the interplay between the European Union and Canada and what kinds of new things come from that. One of the big areas where we will see job growth and innovation is with some of the new things that will come out of this new free trade agreement.
Another area our NDP colleagues have repeatedly addressed is that they believe that medication costs will go up significantly if we enter into CETA. However, we have people on record in this country saying that the opposite is true.
Phil Upshall, the executive director of the Mood Disorders Society of Canada, applauds CETA, saying, “CETA will ensure continued innovation in medicines and improve the health of all Canadians, including those with mental illness”.
Again, that is an example of the new ideas I am quite excited about that would come with our relationship with the EU. When we have ease of transporting people and things across borders, we also get an intermixing of ideas, which allows us to look at things in new ways, get new perspectives on things, and come up with new solutions, or the solution, for some of the greatest problems in the world.
One of the greatest things that could from the CETA deal would be for us to cure cancer. That would be amazing. Some countries in the EU are cutting-edge when it comes to medical research. Right in our own province of Alberta, the University of Alberta is world renowned when it comes to health research. The interplay that could happen between the EU and Canada is something I am really looking forward to.
In my last few minutes, I would like to talk a little bit about the vision going forward.
I know that trade deals take a long time. From speaking with the member for York—Simcoe, I know that when he was the trade minister, he had already initiated some of the talks that started CETA, the TPP, and things like that. Now there has been significant movement on CETA. We are still looking forward to signing and ratifying the TPP, but we are wondering what the next moves will be. Are we continuing to move forward with plans to set up free trade agreements with other countries around the world?
Japan is part of the TPP, but it would be interesting to see if we have to strike out on a separate deal with them as well. Israel, with the innovation and technology that comes out of that country, would be a great country to have an agreement with. Are we moving on that? India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. It would stand to benefit greatly from some of the technologies we have here. I wonder if that is the direction we are going.
I know that it is a lot of hard work and something that is not for the faint of heart, but I wish to persuade the government to show us that it is advocating for these things and working hard on them to ensure that we get the next generation of free trade deals in the hopper, so to speak, because we know how much work and time they take to make happen.
It has been my pleasure to stand and speak today about the CETA free trade deal. I want to affirm once more that I think free trade has the opportunity to solve a lot of the problems in the world. With free trade comes freedom. Hopefully, through free trade deals, we can solve some of the greatest problems that we as humanity face. I see this as the big opportunity before us.