Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to follow my friend from Winnipeg North, who was eager to tell us that there have been many accomplishments in the context of the Canada-U.S. relationship, accomplishments such as meetings. Perhaps that illustrates the more foundational problem in terms of the direction we see things going. On this side of the House, we do not consider holding a meeting an accomplishment.
I thought, perhaps, the parliamentary secretary would mention the famous state dinner that members of the Prime Minister's family were able to attend. The natural resources minister was not, but there were still many people at this state dinner.
On this side of the House, we are concerned about a clear erosion of the Canada-U.S. relationship and the fact that this critical relationship for our interests, for our success, is being undermined through significant missteps by the government. It is not new to the presidency of Donald Trump. We have seen a very poor, very ineffective strategy with respect to this relationship under both President Obama and President Trump. I think we can see a number of clear examples of that.
It is important, in the context of that relationship, that we not prioritize, ahead of results, the images, the meetings, and the state dinners. They are not the priority. For the people in my constituency, who are working hard, who are looking for better opportunities for themselves and their families, their principal interest is not the photos that are taken, the meetings that are held, or the food that is eaten at the dinners. Their principal interest is what kinds of accomplishments, what specific agreements and initiatives, are going to happen between Canada and the U.S. on issues such as softwood lumber, which is not as important in my riding but is in other places, and issues such as pipelines and the trade in natural resources, which are very important in my riding.
It is results in those areas that matter in terms of the Canada-U.S. relationship. It is not the socks, the photos, and the images. As my colleague from Durham aptly said in question period yesterday, it is time for the Prime Minister to pull up his fancy socks and start trying to get results.
I want to highlight the fact, again, that the erosion of this relationship between Canada and the U.S. began not under President Trump but under President Obama because of the approach pursued by the government of this Prime Minister.
We had President Obama speak in the House of Commons, and the Prime Minister, in his introduction, referred to a “bromance” and “dudeplomacy”. I had never heard of dudeplomacy before. It sounds like a pretty gendered term, actually. I had never heard of dudeplomacy, but I have heard of diplomacy. What does not seem to have happened is actual diplomacy in terms of the traditional trying to advance ideas that advance Canada's interests. For example, it was relatively shortly after this Prime Minister took office that the American administration at that time said no to Keystone XL. We had virtually no substantial public response from the Prime Minister or the government at the time.
Fortunately, that decision has since been reversed, but as a result of changes in American politics. It had nothing to do with any activity happening on this side of the border with respect to Keystone XL. As my colleague said, immediately there was a desire to take credit for it, but the reality is that it was going to happen if there was a change in the party and the president. That was going to happen.
The government was not at all involved in promoting Keystone XL or in raising those issues, especially after it was rejected by someone with whom, supposedly, there was a bromance and dudeplomacy going on. There was a failure of results with respect to actually getting the market access we needed under that administration.
It is interesting to follow this, because there was a lot of discussion internationally about the Paris accord. Here in Canada, the government immediately wanted to tell us that to meet the Paris accord, we had to impose this massive new tax. Actually, a lot of the analysis shows that this new tax is about raising revenue. It is not going to substantially have an impact with respect to the way it is being set up and what the government has said its objectives are.
An overwhelming majority of the countries in the world are part of the Paris accord, but it is a minority of those countries that actually think that a carbon tax is the way to meet the requirements. We would think from the what the government says that a carbon tax was required by the Paris accord, but that is not the case at all. In fact, most countries that are part of the Paris accord think that the way to meet our Paris accord obligations does not involve a carbon tax, a massive new tax on Canadians.
What is interesting in the context of that relationship is that there was much discussion about the Canada–U.S. relationship vis-à-vis the environment. Canada imposed a carbon tax, and yet the American administration did not bring in a carbon tax. The Hillary Clinton campaign did not propose a carbon tax, and I do not think Donald Trump has much interest in a carbon tax either. The point is that no American administration was moving in this direction regardless, and yet Canada took a step that put us at a significant competitive disadvantage. A possible fruit of that alleged dudeplomacy would have been to push for the Americans to align what they were doing with us, but that was never going to happen. The Prime Minister was happy to accept pats on the back for his carbon tax action, while in fact there was no serious effort to do the same south of the border.
The other issue, of course, is the government's plan to legalize marijuana. There has not been any thinking through at all about what the implications would be for Canadians travelling south of the border after legalization happens, assuming the government goes through with it. We never know. The government has turned tail on so many of its promises. It is not a done deal. However, assuming the Liberals go through with that, it would create some real issues for Canadians who may choose to use legal marijuana and then want to travel to the United States. There is a possibility of their being asked about that and barred access under that. That is, again, not something that the government seems to have paid any attention to in the context of substantive discussions or negotiations.
There are all these different issues, where what Canadians expect vis-à-vis the Canada–U.S. relationship is for a government to fight for Canadian values, to fight for Canadian interests, and not to prioritize the image dimension. That is what we on this side of the House believe our approach to foreign policy should be. We believe it should be prioritizing fighting for Canadian values and Canadian interests, not prioritizing the international image or personal reputation of particular members of the government. That is important. We have a government that is fumbling this relationship. At the same time, the Liberals are desperate to look as if they are doing something.
We have a bill before us that, actually, we on this side of the House see as a pretty good bill. It would effectively streamline processes at the border. It would deal with smuggling in a reasonably effective way. I think it would reduce costs. It would make the border more efficient. It continues, importantly, with momentum that was clearly started under the Conservative government. Prime minister Stephen Harper put a big emphasis on trying to make the border more effective, and it was not because he thought he could have great photo ops at the border as a result. It was because he understood that having an efficient, effective border would help to create jobs and opportunities for Canadians, it would help to ensure the necessary market access, and it would help also to create opportunities and advantages for Canadian consumers. Therefore, we prioritized making the border more efficient and effective.
In cases where we see the government continuing forward with momentum that was started under the previous Conservative government or even, in general, in cases where we think the government is doing things that are good, we will be happy to support them, to speak for them, and to vote in favour of that legislation. However, the context is important because overall on so many important areas and fronts we have the government bungling this relationship.
I have talked about how, very clearly, under the current Prime Minister, there was an erosion of that relationship that had already started during the tenure of president Obama. Of course, it has continued in the present environment and it has continued especially as we look at what is happening in NAFTA negotiations. It is very important that we reflect on these negotiations and that the government approach them in the right way. We have to be realistic in the context of those negotiations and the proposals we have put forward, and we have to seek to advance Canadian values and Canadian interests.
I had the opportunity to be in the United States during the time of the last American election. I was actually in Cleveland, which is kind of an epicentre of activity. I was there as part of a trip with a number of my parliamentary colleagues, including the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. We observed an interesting phenomenon in terms of what was happening there, which was that messages about trade and the loss of manufacturing were really resonating in certain particular states in the United States, and a lot of those messages came back to certain perceptions about the impact of trade deals. There was a perception, I think an incorrect perception, that some of these trade deals had contributed negatively to the economy of these areas. The electoral success of Donald Trump was significantly informed by his ability to get out his message with respect to trade in those key electoral markets.
We have to recognize, then, that it was what was in the administration's mind when it talked about renegotiating NAFTA. I do not think that when Donald Trump talked about renegotiating NAFTA, his principal objectives were adding sections on gender and indigenous rights. Maybe I was reading different coverage of that election from what others read, but the message about renegotiation was very clear in terms of the objectives.
It does not mean that we should have the same objectives. In fact, it is important that we counter misinformation about the alleged negative impacts of trade, but it is also important that we go to the negotiating table with a realistic sense of what we can achieve and with a goal to do what we can realistically to protect Canadian jobs and interests. The government, in articulating its negotiating objectives, has put itself in a position of very clearly talking past the administration and, in some cases, has put forward proposals that do not even relate to federal jurisdiction. For example, it has talked about what have been dubbed right-to-work laws at the state level in the United States.
We have a federal system in Canada, so the government should understand how a federal system works, that the federal government cannot, in the context of these types of negotiations, demand that states get rid of state-level labour laws. That is not within federal jurisdiction. For the government to suggest that somehow these negotiations should hinge on changes to state-level laws is a fundamental misunderstanding of how federalism works, and it is a strange proposal to come from another country with a federal system that has strong subnational governments.
In general, whether it is labour laws or specific legal protections on indigenous or gender issues, these are the kinds of things that would be the subject of significant substantial national debate in the United States. It is hard to imagine that Canada demanding them as part of NAFTA talks is going to be the spur that makes them happen. In reality, the specific reason the Americans were going into NAFTA renegotiations was to address this perception about economic interests. What we need to do to be effective in those negotiations is highlight how trade deals have been beneficial to the economy of North America as a whole; we have benefited from trade, but so has the United States benefited from trade.
It is not a zero-sum game. I have used this analogy before. Some people talk about trade as if it is winning or losing, and that is just so outside of what we know to be true about economic interactions. It is like saying, if I go to a restaurant to order a meal, one of us is winning and one of us is losing. Am I winning and the restaurant losing, or is the restaurant winning and I am losing? That is obviously ridiculous. We are both winning. We are winning by mutually beneficial exchange: I am getting a meal and the restaurant is getting business. The same is true of trade. People choose to engage in trade because they have an opportunity that has opened up for them for mutually beneficial exchange.
The Prime Minister of Canada, as the leader of a trading nation, a nation that needs trade and has benefited so much from trade, should be championing the value of the open economy on the world stage.
He should be doing what many Conservative members are doing in opposition, which is standing up for Canada. He should be going to the United States to speak specifically about the economic benefits of trade. He should be trying to make the case, in those critical electoral markets like Ohio or Michigan, about the benefits that have accrued to those areas as a result of mutually beneficial trade, as a result of the freedom to exchange goods and services between Canada and the U.S.
We know those benefits exist. The case can be made there, and yet the Prime Minister only talks about trade in the context of wanting to redefine and talk about progressive trade agreements. In large part, he is taking what Canada has done for a long time. The Conservative government signed many trade deals, and in every case we were dealing with, as was realistic and practical in the context, provisions in the agreements and side agreements that dealt with issues like labour rights and other rights.
The trans-Pacific partnership was negotiated by the Obama administration. We still have yet to hear from the Liberal government its position on that or on some kind of successor deal that does not include the United States. The government should at some point take a position with respect to the trans-Pacific partnership, or at least the idea of a trans-Pacific trading bloc, whether or not that includes the United States. These deals have for a long time included these elements.
It is clear that the Prime Minister wants to find a way to rebrand NAFTA, which was a Conservative-negotiated deal under prime minister Brian Mulroney, and somehow put his stamp on it. It may well be in the end that we get some big unenforceable language in there about some of the issues that the Prime Minister has talked about, but there is just no realistic scenario in which, as part of trade negotiations, the United States would agree to making dramatic changes to its rights frameworks, especially insofar as those changes might impact federalism, just in response to a Canadian demand.
Not only is this relationship eroding under the Liberals, but their approach to these discussions seems to portray a fundamental misunderstanding of the United States, even the constitutional sharing of powers as exists in the United States, and also some of the key political motivations and dynamics that they should be responding to as they are supposedly seeking to advance Canada's national interests.
The problem is that we do not see the advancing of that interest in many different ways. We see the eroding of a voice for Canada's interests and in general of Canada's voice on the world stage. The emphasis instead is on image, photo ops, state dinners, and so on, not on achieving results.
We on this side of the House are in favour of legislation that would make the border more effective. Bill C-21 would improve the efficiency of the border. It is a good piece of legislation that builds on momentum put in place under the Conservatives. It would cut down on costs, it would make the border more efficient, it would address smuggling, and there are a number of different areas where we see concrete improvements coming through the bill.
However, we are concerned about the overall picture when it comes to Canada-U.S. relations. More broadly, when we speak of the government's foreign and trade policy we see a seeming lack of interest in standing up for Canadian interests and Canadian values.
Our objective on the world stage should not be to, above all else, get a seat on the UN Security Council, to cozy up to whomever and do whatever it takes to get there. Our goal should be to ask how we can concretely make life better for Canadians through more trade, more effective borders, and the kinds of opportunities that come with that.
How can we make life better for people across this country in concrete, tangible, and measurable ways? How can we reflect people's values, people's moral convictions in the kinds of causes and principles that Canada stands up for on the world stage? Canada's interests and values should be our priorities, not the image side.
While we do support this bill, we call on the government to do better when it comes to the Canada-U.S. relationship, and to do better when it comes to foreign policy in general, to reflect those priorities that Canadians are telling us they want us to focus on.