Mr. Speaker, I am not quite sure how to follow my friend from Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook. I will try to do so with facts, as opposed to volume. He knows that my family, who live in Fall River in his riding, have a great deal of respect for him, as I do. Unfortunately, the speech he was given tonight with respect to NAFTA does not reflect what really happened in the negotiations and the deal.
As a Nova Scotia MP, the member would know that the future of economic development in Nova Scotia, the success being had right now, is attributable to two things. First is the amazing potential of institutions and entrepreneurs in Atlantic Canada, and Nova Scotia in particular. Second was the strategic focus on trade and infrastructure that took place during the Harper government. Specifically, Atlantic Canada has never seen a larger investment than the awarding of the shipbuilding contract to the Halifax shipyard. The largest investment in the history of Atlantic Canada is attributable to the Conservatives.
I am very proud of that, having served on board one of the frigates bought previously by the last majority Conservative governments of Mulroney. When Conservative governments are in, they have to modernize and update the Canadian Armed Forces every generation. We see the current government buying 40-year-old used aircraft from Australia and being parodied on the world stage, but the investment at the Halifax shipyard is impressive. In fact, I will be going to see it again this summer.
What is interesting as well for the Halifax Regional Municipality, an area that the member for Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook should know well, as his riding abuts the Halifax airport, is that Peter MacKay made it a priority for the runways at the Robert Stanfield airport to be extended. Longer runways allowed for more cargo flights to take Atlantic Canadian exports around the world, exports like lobster to South Korea. As parliamentary secretary in the Harper government, I was proud to visit the cargo terminal at Stanfield International in Halifax to see one of the first few months' worth of flights taking Nova Scotia lobster, fished from Cape Breton right down through to the south shore and to Yarmouth, to new markets in Asia, to secure a better price for the products.
In fact, the CETA trade deal was particularly beneficial to a number of key industries in Atlantic Canada, particularly on the seafood side, as was the bilateral trade deal with South Korea, which I was involved in.
If we do the rundown, at Cape Breton, the tar ponds that were talked about for generations, when I was in law school at Dalhousie or serving at Shearwater, were finally cleaned up under the Conservatives. The trouble is that by the time we get these projects done, we have done the heavy lifting and we do not get to cut some of the ribbons that the new people do. However, I would like the member to spend a few moments researching that.
At the moment, I cannot point to one major investment by the current government. In fact, when the minister in charge of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency is based out of Mississauga, and when the Liberals tried to break with 80-year tradition to block an Atlantic Canadian jurist from the Supreme Court of Canada, defying constitutional precedent, I would suggest Atlantic Canadians have seen that there is zero priority for their needs with the government. There are lots of photo ops and selfies, but that is wearing thin on them.
I would like the member to do some research on the items I have just spoken about. I would like anyone to bring it to the floor of the House of Commons if I am wrong about the shipbuilding investment in the Halifax shipyard being the largest single public procurement infrastructure project ever in Atlantic Canadian history. As someone who lived, served and studied in Atlantic Canada, I am very proud of that track record.
I am now speaking on a continued debate on Bill C-100 and the amendment offered by the NDP. I might as well get to the crunch of the challenge we face here.
As Conservatives, we negotiated 98% of Canada's export access; 98% were deals negotiated by the Conservatives. That included the U.S. free trade agreement, NAFTA, CETA and the trans-Pacific partnership, which basically was agreed upon in the middle of the 2015 election, but then the U.S. pulled out and there were some changes made. There was the agreement with South Korea and a tonne of bilateral agreements. There are really only two or three free trade agreements that were not negotiated by Conservative governments: the Israel free trade agreement, which we modernized, and I think maybe the Chile agreement. However, by and large, 98% of our export access was negotiated by Conservatives. Therefore, we have been frustrated in this process, seeing a lack of attention on trade, exports and key market sectors to be put forward in the renegotiation of NAFTA. This amendment raises a range of issues.
Core to the problems with the NAFTA negotiation were not the outcomes on labour, because the U.S. was concerned basically about labour rates in Mexico. In fact, Canada is a signatory to more ILO treaties than the U.S. is. What is interesting is that, just today, in front of Congress, the USTR, Ambassador Lighthizer, viewed it as a success that Mexico is going to have a secret ballot in the union elections, something the Liberals oppose as a democratic approach to elections for union representation. They likely oppose it because Jerry Dias appears to be a senior advisor to the Prime Minister, advising now on how to spend the $600 million media fund. That should trouble Canadians.
However, the problem was the focus in the NAFTA negotiations, which was softwood lumber, our eternal irritant with the U.S. relationship. In fact, Canadian softwood allows home ownership in the United States to be available to more people. The only reason the tariffs on our softwood lumber, which were agreed upon by the current government, are not having as big an impact as they could is the voracious appetite in the United States right now for construction and softwood in general. Therefore, the price and demand are strong enough that they are living with the tariff that has been imposed.
Members may recall that when the Harper government came in, it made the unusual decision of asking David Emerson to switch parties to help drive toward a deal on softwood. That was the last agreement we were able to lock down with the United States. Therefore, it has been a perpetual irritant in the trade relationship with Canada, which is largely due to a few stakeholders in the U.S. who have a lot of influence in Washington holding back affordability for millions of Americans. The Liberals should have used this opportunity of opening up NAFTA to get resolution on a core irritant of trade. If we are going to modernize, let us fix something that we are always fighting with the Americans on. It was not even mentioned in the priorities of the Liberals, nor was auto.
As I said earlier, the Auto Pact of 1965 was the first free trade agreement between Canada and the U.S. We would not have NAFTA, nor the USFTA, were it not for the Auto Pact. That was not mentioned as a priority.
Most of the agriculture sector is not mentioned. In fairness, the minister did mention supply management but did not push back at any of President Trump's inflated rhetoric on 200% tariff quotas. The U.S. spends more on agricultural subsidies than we spend on our military. When were we pushing back on that? There is no level playing field in agriculture if the U.S. is spending billions in direct subsidies.
We ignored agriculture, auto and softwood. We literally left out most of the areas that we should have been focused on right from the start. That is what the Conservatives said. That is what our leader said. That is what I said. That is what many of our members said.
We also urged them to look at ballistic missile defence, modernizing NORAD as a way to remind Americans that if they are going to impose 232 tariffs because of security grounds, they do not do that with their one partner on homeland defence and security, Canada. They did not do that. In fact they took positions antithetical to the U.S.
Canada pulled out our jets in the fight against ISIS. When France and the U.S. were asking us to do more in security, the Prime Minister in a second vote in this Parliament, whipped by the former head of our army, I would note he is retiring. He was the whip. I know how difficult that must have been to withdraw from a battle when our allies are trying to step up.
The Obama presidency, the bromance the Prime Minister brags about all the time, wanted us to stay in. We were not seen as a trusted, reliable security partner under the Prime Minister. When 232 tariffs were being talked about on security grounds, we were not making our case.
Here is something else I recommended and I would recommend the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, who informed us how they try and fool Canadians by being persistent, yelling, being loud and then Canadians will totally believe them. The big myth we have in modernizing NAFTA was modernizing trucking and transportation in North America. We knew that President Trump had issues with Mexican trucking and some of the border rules in terms of states on the border and trucking regulations.
When the Mulroney government negotiated the U.S. Free Trade Agreement, concluded in the 1988 election, Canada still owned Air Canada. We had not liberalized passenger airline travel. It was still a Crown corporation. Fast-forward to today in 2017, 2018, 2019, we see efficiencies for more open skies. I would like to see even more. We see efficiencies in the North American railroads where Canadian companies like CP and CN have done very well with liberalized transportation rules.
We urged the government, if it wants a game-changer, to truly modernize NAFTA, modernize trucking because in many cases because of state or provincial rules, if we send goods from Quebec to California, or from Ontario to Massachusetts, those trucking resources often have to come back empty or do not have the ability to transport interstate.
What is interesting about that, and I know my friend, the leader of the Green Party is listening intently, is that, had we brought cabotage and trucking into it, it would have been the single largest reduction in greenhouse gases in the history of North America, by modernizing trucking.
I recommended that and when David Emerson, a former transportation minister, someone very well regarded in the industry as well, appeared at transport committee, I asked him would that not have been a win on both the trade front and the environment front. He agreed it would have been the single largest way to reduce greenhouse gases.
Despite the rhetoric, the government's greenhouse gas emission reduction plan is a tax. We could have worked this into NAFTA. The timing was there. As I said, liberalizing trucking regulations was not even forecast in the eighties because there was still state ownership of airlines and so on. Today with air liberalized to a large degree to rail, to short sea shipping in many cases, we could have added trucking. Not only would it reduce greenhouse gases, it would have made businesses more efficient, would have potentially reduced costs and maximized the utility of our trucking infrastructure.
That is something we recommended for the agreement, particularly with a president who likes to tell everyone that he is a business leader. That would have been a way to say we can have a win for the customer, a win for competitiveness, fewer trucks on the road and fewer emissions. Let us modernize that in NAFTA.
No, we did not mention that either. We did not mention our core industries, like auto, softwood or key agriculture sectors. We did not even get modernized professional work abilities in the United States. We did not get digital modernization. We did not get security and certainty with respect to where data and data storage would be for privacy reasons. We really did not get anything in this agreement, because we did not go into the negotiations in a strategic fashion.
The Liberal government underestimated what the negotiations would amount to, and they went in with the sort of posturing image of the Prime Minister, his much vaunted progressive agenda. Liberals kind of said that they would work with Mexico, too. The Prime Minister went down to Mexico to say that we would work together. Then, what did Mexico do? It had 85 direct meetings with White House administration officials.
By the end, the last two months, we had negotiated ourselves away from the table, and the member for Fredericton should know, because the exporters in New Brunswick have been let down by him, remarkably, on this file, that when Canada is not present at the negotiation of a trilateral agreement, when there are only two parties present, it is a failure of the third party.
I understand why the member for Fredericton is frustrated. He might be the next first-term Liberal to announce his retirement. I am losing track of how many. Today it was the member for Pierrefonds—Dollard. We had a few others, I think. I would love to have the Library of Parliament research this fact because I am not 100% sure, but maybe the member for Fredericton could research it too. I think that a majority government has never seen more first-time MPs leave than the current government.