House of Commons Hansard #11 of the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was deal.

Topics

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Simard Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I find the hon. member's point of view very interesting.

I have taken a closer look at the sections he mentioned and I even think that some could be added. We do not have to just look at the first nations in the negotiations. We could also look at the Quebec nation, and perhaps add certain provisions that would respect Quebec's cultural distinctiveness and Quebec's unique economic sectors. My colleague makes a good suggestion. I thank him for that.

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Pontiac Québec

Liberal

William Amos LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Innovation

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to discuss the benefits of the Canada-United States-Mexico agreement for all Canadians, and particularly the benefits for the province of Quebec. I am happy to be sharing my time with the member for Saint-Laurent.

For over a year, Canada fought hard while negotiating a free trade agreement with the United States and Mexico. I would actually like to congratulate the negotiators. All of Canada's negotiators are incredible. They successfully managed an extremely complex file and all kinds of political surprises. We knew how important it was to get an agreement that is good, not only for Canadian workers but also for Canadian businesses and our communities, both rural and urban. We did everything in our power to protect jobs, create more opportunities for Canadian workers and their families, and ensure economic growth. We wanted a progressive agreement in terms of the environment and labour.

This paid off for the farmers of the Pontiac and the Gatineau Valley, the forestry workers in Maniwaki and the entrepreneurs in Gatineau, Shawville and Val-des-Monts. The new agreement will benefit not only the people of the Pontiac, but also Quebeckers and Canadians across the country.

In the agriculture sector, Canadian exports will continue to benefit from duty-free access for nearly 89% of U.S. agriculture tariff lines and 91% of Mexican tariff lines, which is extremely important to Canadian exporters, especially those in Quebec and, of course, the Pontiac.

In 2018, Quebec's farmers and food processors exported $5.6 billion worth of goods to the U.S. Quebec exporters will have access to new markets for refined sugar and goods containing sugar, margarine and whey. The government will continue to work with all supply-managed sectors to mitigate any future repercussions of the new NAFTA.

Let us now talk about culture. In the new agreement, Canada has successfully maintained the general exemption for its cultural industries, a key provision that seeks to preserve Canada's cultural sovereignty, which was an important aspect of NAFTA. The cultural exemption fully preserves the latitude Canada has to adopt and maintain programs and policies that support the creation, distribution and development of Canadian artistic expressions or artistic content, including in the digital environment, which is the future of many cultural industries. This result is very important, especially for Quebec. The dynamic information and culture industries account for more than 73,000 jobs in Quebec and nearly 340,000 jobs across the country, which pumped nearly $63 million into the Canadian economy in 2018.

The new agreement preserves the mechanism for dispute settlement by a binational panel that was included in the original NAFTA. This mechanism allows Canada to use an independent and impartial process for challenging American or Mexican anti-dumping and countervailing duties. The mechanism is especially important for Quebec's softwood lumber industry and, of course, for my riding, because exports to the United States reached $1.3 billion in 2018.

The original NAFTA's temporary entry provisions were maintained, providing Canadians with preferential access to the United States for the purposes of providing services or after-sales service or monitoring their investments on the ground. These investments are especially important in advanced manufacturing, such as Quebec's aerospace sector, because it is essential that engineers and other experts be able to travel freely within North America to provide their services.

The agreement also seeks to modernize the disciplines to adapt them to the digital economy, thereby enabling businesses to conduct business across borders electronically, while still maintaining the government's ability to regulate and protect Canadians' personal information.

This modernization is important for the video game industry, which is booming in the Montreal area. It is also important for the region's position as a burgeoning leader in tech innovation and a top destination for investment in artificial intelligence and life sciences. The information, culture and recreational sector in Montreal supports more than 56,000 jobs. The city is becoming a top international hub in this field.

Because the riding of Pontiac has a large number of small and medium-sized enterprises, I also want to point out that this agreement includes a new chapter on SMEs. This chapter will allow for greater co-operation between the three countries, which will open up new markets and increase investment opportunities for small businesses. The new chapter will also ensure that SMEs have access to the information they need on how the agreement works and what obligations it imposes. This chapter is of particular importance to Quebec, where SMEs accounted for 99.7% of all businesses in 2019.

We must not forget that a progressive approach was taken in negotiations for the new NAFTA. We were sometimes ridiculed by the opposition for that. We always wanted the agreement to be progressive on environmental and labour matters.

I would now like to highlight these matters. The labour chapter is robust and fully subject to the dispute settlement provisions of the agreement. It aims to improve labour standards and working conditions in each of the three countries, based on internationally recognized labour principles and rights.

For example, the labour chapter includes new provisions prohibiting the importation of goods produced by forced labour, imposes obligations related to discrimination, including discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation and gender identity, combats violence against workers who are exercising their trade union rights, and ensures that migrant workers are protected under labour laws. To ensure a timely response to cases of labour rights violations related to collective bargaining and freedom of association, the agreement also includes an innovative rapid response mechanism between Canada and Mexico.

On the environmental front, the agreement strengthens and modernizes the environmental provisions by incorporating them into an environment chapter that is ambitious, comprehensive and enforceable. This chapter sets out a mandatory, enforceable dispute resolution process for all compliance issues. When the countries cannot agree on the method of consultation and co-operation, it provides for recourse to the agreement's more general dispute resolution mechanism. The agreement also includes new obligations to address global environmental challenges, including the following important obligations: combatting the illegal wildlife trade, illegal logging and illegal fishing; promoting sustainable forest and fisheries management, in particular through a commitment to prohibiting subsidies that negatively affect fish stocks; preserving species at risk; implementing relevant multilateral environmental agreements; and taking measures to protect the ozone layer and prevent marine pollution.

I would also like to mention that the much-criticized chapter 11 on investor-state dispute settlement was scrapped for Canada. In addition, the chapter on investment includes a provision on corporate social responsibility.

We can see that this new agreement is full of progressive elements. I could have mentioned the aspects related to trade and indigenous peoples. I hope I will get questions about that. I could also have talked about trade and gender. Those are some very interesting aspects.

In closing, I am very pleased that our officials and our negotiators were able to negotiate the best possible agreement. This agreement will be good for Canada, for our economy, for the environment, for our workers and for our SMEs.

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Thériault Bloc Montcalm, QC

Madam Speaker, I heard a colleague opposite bragging about the three free trade agreements, but if there is one thing that the successive federal governments have in common, whether blue or red, it is that they signed those agreements at Quebec's expense. We need look no further than the forestry industry, aluminum, cheese producers and supply management. It is true. These parties are like two peas in a pod. Whether the Conservatives or the Liberals are in power, they both do the same thing when signing free trade agreements. They sign them at Quebec's expense.

We need to speak the same language if we want to find a solution. My colleagues opposite have been saying over and over that 70% of aluminum is protected. I have just one simple question: Does the member know that Mexico does not produce aluminum and that the anti-dumping provisions apply only to producers, that is, to Canada and the United States? This means that China could provide Mexico with aluminum that can be resold as parts. Is he aware of that? Will they stop saying that 70% of aluminum is protected when that is not the case? Nothing is protected when it comes to aluminum production.

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

William Amos Liberal Pontiac, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. We know we will hear a lot of sovereignist and nationalist rhetoric from the Bloc Québécois. We expect this type of criticism, but it is untrue that the new agreement is not good for Quebec. Quebec's SMEs, business councils, companies and elected officials all tell us the same thing. They want us to sign this agreement. They want us to pass legislation that secures a place for Quebec and Canada in the North American economy.

As for aluminum, our government has made it clear time and time again that this agreement protects and benefits the aluminum sector. That is why Jean Simard, the president and CEO of the Aluminum Association of Canada, said that we absolutely must move forward and sign this agreement.

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

Richard Lehoux Conservative Beauce, QC

Madam Speaker, I appreciated my colleague's speech. He spoke a lot about innovation and technology, which was very interesting. I think it is important and worthwhile for SMEs to have access to new technologies.

You mentioned that SMEs are very important. They are important in your riding, in my riding and in many ridings across Quebec and Canada.

Does the new NAFTA give our SMEs, especially those in the regions, an opportunity to access all of these new technologies?

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I would remind the member for Beauce that he must address the Chair and not speak directly to the parliamentary secretary or the member who gave the speech.

The hon. parliamentary secretary.

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

William Amos Liberal Pontiac, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Beauce and congratulate him on winning his seat. I am always happy to see new faces here in the House of Commons.

Pontiac is indeed full of SMEs. In Pontiac, Vallée-de-la-Gatineau and Collines-de-l'Outaouais, SMEs are the backbone of our economy. As I said in my speech, that is why we are so pleased with the negotiations. SMEs were foremost in our minds during negotiations. That is why there is a new chapter on SMEs.

Our SMEs will definitely be able to seek advice from government departments such as Global Affairs if they want help exporting more of their products to the United States and Mexico.

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

Emmanuella Lambropoulos Liberal Saint-Laurent, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-4, an act to implement the agreement between Canada, the United States of America and the United Mexican States.

When negotiations began over a year ago, I remember how much uncertainty there was about what would happen if we did not manage to sign a deal. People were afraid for our economy's future, because there were too many unknown or unpredictable factors going into these negotiations.

I represent the federal riding of Saint-Laurent, one of the most industrial ridings in the country. There are technically more jobs in my riding than there are people. I had countless meetings with companies that told me that they relied on a good NAFTA deal to continue to thrive and, in some cases, for their company to even survive.

During these meetings, I told them about the confidence I had in our then foreign affairs minister, the member for University—Rosedale, to get a good deal for Canada. Many of them asked me why it was taking so long and had doubts that we would succeed in getting a good deal. I explained that we were not going to fold until the deal was a good one for all Canadians, that we had a strong team of skilled negotiators hard at work who were going to hold off on signing until it was an excellent deal for Canadians.

Lo and behold, we have done just that. We have managed to get an excellent trade deal that will support well-paying middle-class jobs in many different industries for Canadians across the country.

In addition to ensuring that our jobs are protected, this new deal also has a new enforceable environment chapter that will uphold air quality and fight marine pollution. Furthermore, we have worked hard to protect women's rights, minority rights and indigenous rights. In fact, this deal has the strongest protection for these groups as well as for the environment of any Canadian trade agreement to date.

It is through our trade deals that we are able to hold other countries accountable when it comes to the environment and gender equality.

This new Canada-United States-Mexico agreement, which we refer to as the new NAFTA, is an excellent agreement that will allow us to solidify economic ties and support good, well-paying jobs for middle-class Canadians. It took us quite some time to sign this agreement because we felt it was important that it benefit all Canadians.

As my colleagues have certainly heard, the Americans wanted nothing to do with the cultural exemption at the beginning of the negotiations, an exemption that we know is critical for Quebec. We fought very hard to keep it and we clearly indicated to the Americans that we would not sign any agreement without this cultural exemption.

Our government will always stand up for our cultural industries because that means protecting a $53.8-billion industry representing more than 650,000 good jobs for middle-class Canadians. For Quebec, it represents 75,000 jobs.

Yesterday, I was surprised to see the Bloc Québécois vote against this agreement. I was surprised because I know that Quebeckers, who the Bloc generally tries to represent well, want us to sign this agreement. Quebeckers need this agreement, which, in many ways, is even better than the old NAFTA.

The Bloc Québécois argues that this agreement does not offer aluminum the same protections as steel. Let us not forget that the old NAFTA did not protect aluminum at all. Before, when a car was manufactured, 100% of the material could come from China, while under this new agreement 70% of the material has to come from North America.

We hope the Bloc Québécois will vote in favour of this agreement at the next opportunity.

This new NAFTA will also help the manufacturing industry. We have modernized the process at the border in order to cut red tape and to make it easier for small and medium-sized businesses to export and import with the United States.

We have also ensured that the deal is a good one for Canadian workers. The enforceable provisions that protect labour are the strongest ones yet.

It is a great deal for Canada's car sector. The new auto rules of origin will directly secure the future for auto workers in cities such as Windsor and Oshawa.

It is time for Canada to join the United States and Mexico by ratifying this new and improved deal. It is in the national interest to move quickly to get this signed, as the Deputy Prime Minister has stressed time and time again, as signing it will bring our country economic and political certainty.

I think back to the conversations I have had with my constituents in Saint-Laurent, as well as with the many businesses in my riding for whom this deal is a great source of comfort, and I know that not signing it is simply not an option. We have worked hard to ensure this new deal is one that will benefit Canadians and Canadian businesses across the country, and it is time to secure what our top negotiators have fought so hard for.

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Madam Speaker, the member mentioned auto workers in Oshawa. I am just wondering if she is aware that our plant closed down. Within a few days after the details of this agreement were announced, GM announced that it was not allocating new product to five plants. One of them was Oshawa. Since the American plants did recover, it did have some product allocated to it. Overall, I think the auto industry is happy with this agreement.

The member did not mention the fact that the uncertainty, by dithering to get an agreement, really caused problems. The government could have signed the TPP, the original one, four years ago. It was Mr. Obama's deal, the most progressive deal out there. However, a lot of uncertainty caused problems.

The TPP was eventually signed. If trade was so important, why did the Liberal government not sign the original TPP when it was available four years ago?

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Emmanuella Lambropoulos Liberal Saint-Laurent, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to recognize that it was obviously not a great moment when the plant in Oshawa closed, which was before the agreement was signed.

Uncertainty does not help. We wanted to make sure that this deal was as good as it could be for Canadians. We were not going to sign just any deal. We wanted to make sure that Canadians across the country were going to benefit from this deal. Uncertainty never helps. However, signing this deal is going to help us move forward in a positive way and it is going to help our auto sector.

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Bloc

Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague for her speech.

I am pleased to know that she listened to the people of her riding. We are also listening to the people in various ridings in Quebec. A delegation of people from Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean came here yesterday to express their concerns regarding this agreement.

It is possible to improve the implementation of this agreement without having to renegotiate it. It would not be an exceptional procedure. In the spirit of co-operation, we proposed including standards that would offer certain guarantees for aluminum. That way, the Bloc Québécois could reconsider its voting position.

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Emmanuella Lambropoulos Liberal Saint-Laurent, QC

Madam Speaker, as I mentioned in my speech, this new negotiation includes some good news for Quebec's aluminum sector. The old agreement had no protections for that sector, but now, in the new agreement, 70% of all materials must come from North America. This will really help Quebec.

I think the Bloc Québécois should have another look at the deal to be sure how it wants to vote. This is a very good deal for Quebec.

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

NDP

Lindsay Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Madam Speaker, the government continually goes on and on about how indigenous relations are the most important relationship, that nation-to-nation building. That is admirable, except that there was absolutely no mention of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in this document.

I am wondering if the member knows if the government intends to get free, prior and informed consent on this agreement before moving forward.

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Emmanuella Lambropoulos Liberal Saint-Laurent, QC

Madam Speaker, the agreement talks about the indigenous population and how to protect them. That was already included. I mentioned it in my speech.

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Gerald Soroka Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Madam Speaker, I would like to split my time with the member for Mégantic—L'Érable.

I want to make it clear that we Conservatives are strongly in favour of free trade. The removal of barriers to trade results in lower costs for consumers and expanded production for our exporters. That is why a Conservative prime minister signed the original NAFTA.

The Liberal government claims that CUSMA is a victory, calling it an updated NAFTA. In effect, what it is doing is attempting to claim victory for striking a deal almost as good as the one that Conservatives struck nearly a quarter-century ago.

Some of the areas in which this agreement falls short of the original include concessions on dairy, the non-market country FTA, which gives the U.S. oversight of Canada's trade negotiations with other countries, and the sunset clause requiring a formal review of the agreement every six years, to name a few.

Dairy Farmers of Ontario stated:

CUSMA will have three main impacts on the Canadian dairy sector:

(1) The United States is given market access through tariff-rate quotas on dairy;

(2) Milk classes 6 and 7 are eliminated;

(3) The setting of global export thresholds for the following three products: milk protein concentrate, infant formula and skim milk powder, above which export charges will be added on any additional exports at the global level.

Dairy Farmers of Ontario awaits ratification of the agreement to know how and when CUSMA will come into force, and the more specific impact it will have on the sector.

Pierre Lampron, president of Dairy Farmers of Canada, said the following:

The signing of the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) is a sad chapter in Canada’s dairy industry and for Canadian exporters. The access to our country’s dairy market given to the U.S. represents a significant loss, the equivalent of the combined dairy production of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Market access is only the tip of the iceberg. Concessions include an oversight clause that gives the U.S. the ability to intervene in the administration of our domestic system. The concessions also give the U.S. the ability to impose the equivalent of a cap on global dairy exports, which will limit Canada’s ability to export dairy products. Would the U.S. ever accept such terms?

The Liberals failed to work with opposition parties during the negotiation and ratification process and are now rushing to push this deal through the House. The Deputy Prime Minister has stated over and over again in the House that the requirement for North American aluminum in autos will go from zero to 70% under the new NAFTA. Each time she avoids mentioning the fact that Mexico can import aluminum from China, process it and then have it qualify for preferential treatment. This was prevented in the case of steel by requiring it to be melted and poured in North America.

Why has this back door been left open for aluminum? Why did the government fail to include a definition for aluminum rules of origin for autos, requiring it to be poured and melted in North America?

Premier Legault and the Aluminum Association of Canada expressed their disappointment that such a definition is absent from the new NAFTA. What is this government's plan to protect Canada's aluminum workers from this problem?

The government has said it will monitor Mexico's imports of aluminum from China. What will it do if those imports are high? How long will it take for these actions to come into effect? What will be the net result to our aluminum industry? These questions and many more are all left unanswered.

Even under the best-case scenario where Mexico does not import large quantities of aluminum from China, which is wishful thinking to say the least, the failure of this agreement to stipulate it creates uncertainty. Uncertainty, as many know, always discourages investment and inevitably hurts the aluminum industry and negatively affects the lives of individuals who depend on it. As many as 60,000 jobs are at stake. These are not just numbers. They represent real people with families who depend on them.

What about the softwood lumber industry? The new NAFTA neglects communities that depend on this industry as well. The closure and restriction on softwood lumber mills have devastated communities from British Columbia to New Brunswick. The Canadian press went as far as to describe the situation as the “forest industry carnage”. Canada's sustainable forest industry has long been a key component of our economy, contributing over $24 billion to our GDP in 2017 and directly employing over 200,000 people. Roughly 29% of our forest export products are softwood lumber.

Since 2017, Canadian lumber entering the U.S. has been hit with a 20% tariff, whereas European softwood enters the American market tariff-free. Why? The government claims victory on the North American Free Trade Agreement, even with softwood lumber notably absent.

As I stated earlier, our Conservative Party is the party of free trade and there are certainly many aspects of this agreement we agree with. Almost all these provisions were part of the original NAFTA, which the Liberal government was so quick to open up and negotiate. However, they are still important provisions.

Here are some quotes from stakeholders that are particularly insightful.

The Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance said, “We look forward to receiving confirmation that the changes don’t negatively impact our members.”

Goldy Hyder, president and CEO of the Business Council of Canada, has said the signed new NAFTA is “good enough” for Canada, something that “gets us through this administration.”

It says a lot, however, that the only praise being levied on the new NAFTA is that it has managed to maintain several important parts of the original agreement.

It is the democratic obligation of all members of Parliament to analyze legislation that is brought before the House. This is especially true when it comes to a trade deal with Canada's largest and most important trade partner.

The Liberals have failed to provide documents outlining the impacts of the new trade deal despite numerous attempts from opposition members. It has been 49 days since we asked the government to provide an economic impact assessment on the new agreement. To date, it has not been made available to any members of the House.

Tuesday night I even attended a briefing by Global Affairs Canada in order to get some information on the specifics of this agreement. When questions were asked, the answers we received were very political, such as, “it hasn't really changed that much”, “very similar to the original”, “basically the same”, etc. I left the briefing with more questions than answers. Here we are debating the bill and still waiting for concrete answers.

The Liberals do not yet seem to recognize the realities of the new Parliament and are mistaken if they believe we will rubber-stamp the deal. That is why we need to have this debate, to finally get questions answered.

Let us be thankful that we had a Conservative government to negotiate the original NAFTA. I would hate to have seen what deal the Liberal government would have negotiated if it did not have the original to work from.

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

Vaughan—Woodbridge Ontario

Liberal

Francesco Sorbara LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue

Madam Speaker, will the Conservatives be voting for or against the revised NAFTA deal?

Also, the Premiers of Saskatchewan and Alberta have come out in favour of it. Today, the Premier of Ontario also asked for a speedy approval of CUSMA to bring business certainty to the province of Ontario, where I live and have the privilege of representing one of the ridings.

As we have all the provincial premiers, from the member's vantage point, asking for immediate passage so we can give businesses, the communities, the employees and Canadians from coast to coast certainty, will you be voting yes or no for this deal?

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I want to advise the member that he is to address the question to the Speaker and not to individual members.

The hon. member for Yellowhead.

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

Conservative

Gerald Soroka Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Madam Speaker, that is the question at hand. We are here tonight to get some answers to some of the questions I have brought forward.

Everyone knows that we understand it is an important agreement and that we have had free trade with the United States for many years. This is why everyone wants that certainty. We are not necessarily going to vote against it, but we definitely need to question many parts of it.

As for many of the premiers speaking in favour of it, that is simply because we need to get this ratified as soon as possible.

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

Kody Blois Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Madam Speaker, I have a couple of comments, and the member can feel free to engage as he sees fit.

First of all, the member mentioned that the opposition parties were not involved. I would like to remind the member that the former interim leader of the Conservative Party was involved the entire time with the deputy prime minister. In fact, she remarked that it was the best deal that could have been made at the time.

The member opposite also talked about the dairy industry. While I appreciate that its market access is unfortunate, he needs to understand that every second word from the President of the United States was about dairy. We fought to maintain that access.

I also want to remind the member opposite, because I believe he is a new member, that it was the Conservatives, under CETA and CPTPP, who negotiated that deal away freely, without the same pressure that was faced by this government.

Finally, as it relates to the text, the agreement is right here. It can be read. All that information is available, so to suggest that somehow this government is hiding the agenda is unfortunate.

I would like to hear the member's thoughts on those comments.

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

Gerald Soroka Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Madam Speaker, I will try to address as much as I possibly can.

You are right; I am a new member—

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I would remind the member to address the Speaker and not the individual member.

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

Gerald Soroka Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Madam Speaker, there are several aspects to this; that is correct. However, the TPP, for instance, had more quota reductions than what is being proposed now. This is one area where the Liberals gave up more than what was previously agreed upon. It is one challenge I have with the new agreement.

I forget the other parts of the member's question, but one thing I do know is that we were not as involved as we would have liked. This agreement affects all parties across Canada, and we should have been better addressed throughout the whole process, even in the last 48 days.

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Thériault Bloc Montcalm, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.

I would like to hear his thoughts on the fact that our colleagues opposite are claiming that we absolutely must sign this agreement as quickly as possible, even though when the U.S. Congress was studying the matter, the Democrats changed a number of things pertaining to the steel sector.

What does he think of the political position taken by our colleagues opposite?

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

January 30th, 2020 / 6:05 p.m.

Conservative

Gerald Soroka Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Madam Speaker, I believe everyone is trying to get through this process as quickly as possible because of the uncertainty that has been going on for so many months already. I know that the election interfered with the process somewhat, but it has still taken quite a lot of time.

Unfortunately, every decision we make is quite political, and that is going to be a challenge in everything we do in the House.

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-4, an act to implement the agreement between Canada, the United States of America and the United Mexican States.

I listened carefully to the exchanges between my colleagues and the members opposite on this matter. My Liberal colleague mentioned that our interim leader, Rona Ambrose, who was a member of the negotiating team, said that the free trade agreement negotiated was the best possible outcome under the circumstances. I just wanted to mention that our former leader is a very intelligent woman who was able to see the limitations of the Liberal government, the Prime Minister and the former minister of foreign affairs.

If we consider the players in the negotiations, it really is the best agreement that could be reached by the Liberals. That is the reality. Therefore, we must pay attention to the context in which statements were made. When we know the limitations of the team leading the negotiations and its weakness vis-a-vis the U.S. government and we know that we are the last ones to reach an agreement, we can understand that our former leader was right when she said that it was the best agreement under the circumstances.

The legislation to implement the Canada-United States-Mexico agreement builds on the first NAFTA signed by the Conservatives. We on this side of the House like to say that this is free trade agreement 0.5, not free trade agreement 2.0, the new North American Free Trade Agreement or the new Canada-United States-Mexico agreement. It really is a weakened free trade agreement.

Indeed, many sectors were shortchanged because this government is incapable of negotiating correctly and achieving the gains it should have. I am not the one saying so, but rather the chair of the U.S. house ways and means committee. Some of the power of what he said is lost in translation, but in English, he was very clear.

“[The Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister] conceded to just about every point that we asked for because of the following: enforceability, enforceability, enforceability.” What concessions did we agree to in order to elicit such a reaction?

What were the concessions that prompted the chairman of the U.S. Congress's most important committee to state that the former foreign affairs minister and the Prime Minister conceded to just about every point that was asked for during the negotiations? The answer is simple. It is that their party is not the party of free trade. The party of free trade is the Conservative Party. I would like to congratulate all the former Conservative ministers who negotiated free trade agreements.

All the Liberals did was come close to jeopardizing CETA and the TPP. Members may recall that the Prime Minister did not even show up for a TPP signing ceremony. The leaders of all the other TPP countries were there, but he was not. Where was the Prime Minister? People looked for him, but he was not there. He was absent. An agreement of tremendous importance to the entire Canadian economy almost fell through because the Prime Minister did not show up. Maybe it was because the photo op was not at the right time, or he was not happy with his outfit. I have no idea. It took even more work and more discussion to finalize the agreement.

That is where the problem lies. The Liberals agreed at the last minute. We used to be the United States' main partner. Now it would seem that Mexico has more influence than Canada, even though the Americans have been our neighbours and partners forever. This is due to the fact that the agreement was first reached between the United States and Mexico. Then they told Canada that it would have to hurry up and sign if it wanted to be part of the agreement. That is where the Liberals' ability to reach a consensus and sign good agreements for Canadians gets us. That is the reality.

One of the major concessions has to do with the aluminum industry. In that regard, I really want to mention the excellent work of my colleague from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, who has repeatedly spoken out against the last-minute concessions that the Liberal government made concerning the aluminum industry.

The members opposite are bragging about how this agreement protects 70% of Quebec's aluminum, Canada's aluminum. They are saying that there was no protection before. This percentage applies only to parts. If parts are cast using aluminum from China or any other country, aluminum that was made using energy from coal or all sorts of things that we no longer want to see here, it would be considered a North American part that meets the 70% requirement. It is an insult to people's intelligence to say that this agreement protects Quebec's industry. That is completely unacceptable.

I know that my colleague from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord is working very hard with his colleagues from the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean region. I would like them to say that they are working hard with the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord. Just because he was not at yesterday's meeting with the stakeholders does not mean he is not collaborating. He met with the stakeholders. He met with Ms. Néron, the mayor of Saguenay, Patrick Bérubé, the executive director of Promotion Saguenay, Christian Fillion, the general manager of Aluminium Valley Society, and the union leaders. He met with all of them. He did not meet with all of them at the same time, but that does not matter. The goal is to work together to do something for workers and for Quebec's aluminum industry.

My colleague has some good solutions to propose. He will not oppose the free trade agreement, because we need it. At least 80% of the businesses in my riding deal with the United States every day. That is our country's economy. That is why the Conservatives decided to negotiate a free trade agreement. We knew all the benefits it could have for our country. However, something can be done. The member is opening the door for the government. He has concrete proposals to present, such as an action plan and a timeline for ensuring the traceability of aluminum in North America. We could identify the origin of the aluminum used for the parts that make up the 70% we keep hearing about. If we do not do this, one thing I can guarantee is that, given the current price of aluminum in Canada, more and more Chinese aluminum will be used in our cars.

The hon. member is also proposing that there be more transparency over the assistance that was provided. There were tariffs on aluminum. There is money lying dormant somewhere in the government coffers. We do not know what is being done with that money or what will be done with that money. Can there be more transparency so we can find out what is happening with that money? There could also be a low carbon footprint procurement policy on steel and aluminum. Why are we unable to agree with the United States and Mexico on having North America use aluminum with a very low carbon footprint? That would help us get results in lowering our greenhouse gases. It would also help us preserve Quebec's aluminum industry, and that would help thousands of workers in Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean, Portneuf and every other region with aluminum smelters to keep their jobs. This would help us ensure that Quebec remains a leader in the aluminum industry.

There are solutions. We will vote in favour of the bill. Obviously, we would have preferred not to be in this situation. We hope the government, which has offered to work with us from the start, will listen to the recommendations made by my colleague from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord to protect the aluminum industry.

I used to be the agriculture critic. I will not talk about compensation in the dairy sector. I will not talk about it because there is none. Nothing has been announced. The government made some major concessions affecting the dairy industry. Unfortunately, the Liberals were unable to tell us how much this would cost, what kind of sacrifices they made, why they put a limit on powdered milk exports to other countries and why they gave the United States oversight over how we manage our fee structure. This was part of the last-minute agreement they negotiated. They were unable to ensure that Quebeckers and Canadians would benefit.

I will probably support the bill, but I hope that the government, which wants our co-operation, will give us some answers before the final vote.