Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to rise in support of Bill C-30, an act to implement the comprehensive economic and trade agreement between Canada and the European Union and its member states and to provide for certain other measures.
As we approach the end of today's debate, may I be permitted to address the tremendous opportunities and benefits in the bill by first reflecting on the way I watched Canada change, develop, and prosper as a result of trade and unavoidable globalization in my lifetime.
As the product of an offshore union myself, I have no real memory of arriving at Pier 21 in Halifax, a babe in my mother's arms, aboard a Red Cross hospital ship from England near the end of the Second World War. In fact, my first real trade-related memories as a child here in Ottawa in the late 1940s involved the exciting arrival of Christmas oranges in our house, the mandarin oranges that arrived every year in those early years from Japan.
By the time I began elementary school, our family had moved to Medicine Hat, Alberta. My dad had been transferred from the Ottawa Citizen to become editorial page editor of the Medicine Hat News. Our food back then was local. Milk, butter, eggs, cheese, meat, and bread came from farms, butchers, and bakers barely a couple of hours away from our house, much of it delivered to our home by horse-drawn wagons. Just in passing, I was regularly detailed to collect horse droppings for our home vegetable garden, where today, of course, there is an abundance of off-the-shelf retail fertilizers.
Our shoes and clothes in the 1940s and early 1950s came mostly from Ontario and Quebec. It is worth remembering, of course, that the Canadian shoe industry was started originally by an investment made by Jean Talon in Quebec in 1688. It developed over the centuries before and after Confederation, but after peaking in 1972, the Canadian-made shoe industry went downhill because of the arrival of less expensive, cheaper foreign imports, even despite government efforts in that day to slow the tide with import tariffs.
Our T-shirts and our underwear back in the 1950s came from a great Conservative firm in Nova Scotia. I loved my Stanfield's unshrinkable, drop-bottom long underwear when winters were longer and colder than they are today, and in those days, almost all of our cars came from Detroit or the Canadian branch plants of Detroit.
By the mid-1950s, Canada's auto industry was booming with new plants, new facilities, increased employment, and the surge in export sales as Canadian manufacturers took advantage of the fact that European makers were still recovering from the war.
My dad, who was a prudent, penny-wise newspaper man, never bought a new car, but he always bought North American, carrying our growing family around southern Alberta, first in a second-hand 1947 Chevy sedan and then in another very well-used 1954 Pontiac.
While I was studying at the naval dockyard in Esquimalt in 1960 listening to the hit tunes of those days, Percy Faith's Theme from a Summer Place and Sinatra's High Hopes, I remember seeing the decommissioned World War II cruiser, HMCS Ontario being prepared to be towed to Japan for scrap. I have little doubt that some of the recycled steel from the “Big O” came back to Canada a few years later, perhaps in the form of the first Japanese auto import, the Datsun Fairlady I remember, and of course the very first Honda Civic.
As a young journalist covering Expo '67 in Montreal, I remember the record crowds of foreign visitors and heads of government, and the excitement and the talk everywhere of the many doors being opened to Canada to global trade opportunities. Those doors did eventually open, although the big trade agreements, as we know, took somewhat longer to be achieved.
I remember as a young foreign correspondent in London, England, in the early 1970s, the political debate leading up to the referendum that saw the United Kingdom join the European common market. That was followed eventually by the Maastricht agreement and the creation of the European Union, the United Kingdom's opt-out clause, and so forth.
Britons benefited from that trade agreement, but as we all know too well, the European integration progress went a little further than British voters would accept, leading to the Brexit referendum outcome last year.
Today we face new challenges, and we have seen new challenges for the U.K., for the European Union, coincidentally for the United States, for our NAFTA partners, and pretty well all of our global trading partners, which brings me to the legislation before us today.
Certainly on our side of the House, and I know on the government side, we cannot say too often that this landmark agreement is the result of years of hard work, especially by our world-class trade negotiators, who did the heavy lifting for a succession of ministers and governments.
We in the official opposition welcome the opportunity to bring this deal into force and to recognize the work of successive trade ministers, including, most recently, the member for Abbotsford and the member for University—Rosedale. I will come back to that in just a moment.
We believe passionately, in the official opposition, that Canada should strive to maximize the benefits we have as a free-trading nation and that CETA will establish trading relationships far beyond North America. Again, we cannot say too often for our listeners at home that the 28 member states of the EU represents 500 million people, and annual economic activity of almost $20 trillion. The EU is the world's largest economy and also the world's largest import market for goods. The EU's annual imports alone are worth more than Canada's total GDP.
I spent the morning with the EU delegation to Ottawa. It was interesting to catch up with the representatives of the 28 members of the EU on the ratification process. I was delighted to remark to the representative of the government of Latvia that our foreign affairs committee is just back from an eastern European tour visiting Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Poland, and Latvia and to have been told by the minsters in the Latvian government that they are rushing to try to be the first member of the EU to formally ratify the agreement. They are urging us to ratify and enable implementation of the act.
I would like to say that I was very impressed a couple of months ago by the very gracious acknowledgement by the minister of trade, now the Minister of Foreign Affairs, of the hard work of her predecessor, the member for Abbotsford, in developing and advancing the CETA file in his time. Not all of my Liberal colleagues have been as generous.
If I could conclude on a positive note, and in the context of that spectacular Super Bowl victory last night, I would suggest that the member for Abbotsford might be seen as the Tom Brady character, moving the ball against great odds to the brink of victory. Again, with the greatest respect, the former minister of trade, now the foreign affairs minister, might be seen as James White, in overtime, two yards to go, plowing through the defence to carry the ball into the end zone to win the day.
In closing, CETA is a great deal for Canada. It is a great deal for Europe. I have no hesitation in committing my vote to bring this agreement into force.