Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure, as always, to rise in the House to contribute to the discourse on what may be the most important issue facing my constituents, and that is the Canadian economy. The motion essentially seeks to address four constituent parts. The first is a broad statement about the Canadian economy. Then it has three sub-issues: softwood lumber, the western Canadian energy industry, and the western Canadian grain farming, specifically the transportation sector.
Before I get into each of these and explain why I will not support the motion, I would like to point out that the assumptions built into the language of the motion do not accurately reflect the facts at hand. I will start with the statement of the overall economy.
There is an attempt to build a narrative that the governing party is not an effective manager of the economy. I disagree wholeheartedly.
I find it somewhat ironic that around the same time the motion was put forward, we saw a very positive jobs report. Specifically, we have seen over one-quarter of a million new jobs in Canada over the six month period preceding, including just last month, with 55,000 new full-time jobs. Unemployment has gone down from 7.1% to 6.6%, and GDP growth is at 3.7% in the first quarter.
The reason I lay these statistics out is because I find data to be a helpful tool when we form analyses. Instead of projecting a narrative that we would hope would be true, it is important we consider the facts along the way.
We have seen a plan starting to take hold. I know history will be the judge of the success of this government and its economic performance, but the early signs are encouraging in my opinion. The economy is growing. The plan seems to be working, and I am quite proud to be part of it.
I would like to address each of the sub-issues raised in the motion, the first being the softwood lumber dispute.
Of course this is an important and challenging issue that faces regions of the country differently, including Atlantic Canada where I live. There is a number of stellar producers in my own backyard, like Scotsburn Lumber, Williams Brothers, Ledwidge Lumber, that have done a great job, historically, of employing Canadians. This is a fight that we continue to fight every day.
The opposition would have Canadians believe that we have stumbled over this as a federal government, but the agreement did expire under the last government. Although it is not our fault, it is our problem. I have been working closely with the minister and with my Atlantic Canada and Nova Scotia colleagues to help find a solution to this pressing issue for our producers.
In my conversations with the minister on this file, I have full faith in her ability to go head-to-head with the toughest negotiators south of the border. However, the fact is that right now she is facing a climate of protectionism that we have not seen in my lifetime when it comes to this file or trade more generally. Our neighbours are going to do what they think is in their best interests. However, the folks at the helm on our side are very capable and I have full faith in their ability to get a resolution. In the interim, we have introduced an important aid package to ensure we are there to help at a time when help is desperately needed.
On the energy file, specific reference is made to the western Canadian energy sector and carbon pricing. This is of extraordinary importance. I am no enemy to the energy industry. I have made a living working as a lawyer in Calgary and have significant experience working with oil and gas companies in different parts of the energy sector. I understand the strategic importance of this industry to the Canadian economy. However, the characterization of a price on carbon as an attack on the economic industry is wrongheaded, respectfully to the member who has put forward the motion.
We have to understand that the atmosphere in Canada and across the world belongs to all of us. Polluting that atmosphere is not and should not be free. Putting a price on carbon is the most effective way to reduce emissions and help mitigate the negative impacts of pollution that contribute to anthropogenic climate change. Moreover, I see this as a massive opportunity for us as Canadians. With the ability to develop a skilled workforce, we can take part in a growing industry that will contribute to clean growth and help reduce emissions at the same time. When this opportunity is staring us in the face, I cannot help but take a crack at it, and we are on the right track.
We are making investments in green infrastructure and putting a price on carbon. Some of the biggest energy companies in Canada and around the world are proponents of this approach, companies like Synovus, Suncor, Shell, CNRL, Total, TransCanada, Enbridge, and so on. Some of the people who on a first blush might stand to lose the most are some of the biggest supporters of this kind of an approach to climate policy. I am proud we have industry leaders who have stepped up to the plate.
The final issue raised in this motion has to do with grain farmers, specifically the impact of certain rules and the potential expiry of a unique feature of Canadian transportation called inter-switching.
In 2013, we were facing a truly unique circumstance, with a bumper crop in western Canada and a very harsh winter that made it very difficult to get all our products to market in a timely way. I have had some exposure to this issue, although I am from Atlantic Canada, in my role as a member of the transportation, infrastructure, and communities committee, where we dealt with it. What we saw was that at the time, there was actually a short-term, prudent measure that helped, in an emergency situation, get products to market. This was a difficult situation that needed to be addressed.
The tool created at that time to deal with a pressing circumstance may not be the best tool for the long term. What we have in Bill C-49 is a commitment to long-haul inter-switching such that if there was only one company that could meet transportation needs to get goods to market, we would introduce competition of sorts that would allow a farmer to piggyback on the rates that would be offered had there been another rail company there.
We have made a commitment that rather than dealing with short- or medium-length inter-switching to 160 kilometres, we are going to implement a long-term solution. I cannot help but notice that Alberta's barley growers have indicated that this is fantastic news. The Western Producer, a publication in western Canada, said that the Minister of Transport met with producers and listened carefully and agreed with what was said.
This is a positive development. We have engagement with different communities and policy that is going to, hopefully, meet their needs in the long term and not simply be a response to a short-term issue.
I will try to wrap up by revisiting the initial point I made. What we are trying to do is focus on steps that are going to improve the economy in the long term. I recognize that there are communities that are hurting today, including many I represent, that need jobs more than anything. What we are trying to do is put a plan into action that is going to help kick-start economic growth in the short term and sustain policies that will contribute to long-term economic growth.
We are seeing investments in innovation. For example, at St. Francis Xavier University, Dr. Risk's Flux Lab has, with the help of federal funding, been able to create a product that has entered into a commercial partnership. It detects gas leaks by affixing a detector to the front of a vehicle. This kind of technology would not have benefits just in my community. It would be able to help reduce greenhouse emissions across Canada by preventing leaks and would employ people in the process.
We are seeing investments in infrastructure, such as municipal infrastructure projects, that have kept people in my communities employed during months when they might ordinarily be laid off.
We are seeing commitments to expanding trade relationships between Canada and its trading partners, because we know that with the natural resources we have and the skilled workforce we have, we can produce more and higher-value goods than we can consume as a country. What we need to do is expand our trade relationships to ensure that communities across Canada have the opportunity to benefit.
I appreciate that this may take some time, and more time than many members of this House would like, including me. If there was a job for every one of my constituents tomorrow, I would be the first person advocating for the policy that would give it to them. The fact is that this is a long and difficult process, but we have to start today. I believe that the government is on the right foot, and I look forward to the historical record that will be laid down, because I have to say, the early signs are quite encouraging.