Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa.
It is always a great day when I get to rise in this place and defend the interests of the wonderful residents of my riding of Dufferin—Caledon.
I want to start off by saying that members on this side of the House support this agreement. It is good for business. It is good to have certainty. Those are some of the benefits of having this trade agreement resolved.
However, Conservatives have been asking for information from the government on a number of issues. In fact, we have been asking for some information not for one or two weeks, but for several months and we are not getting that information. Specifically, we have been asking when the government will release the economic impact of this agreement. I would think that is something the Liberals would have and would be willing to share.
Members on this side of the House would like to be informed before deciding how to vote on this issue. Instead of releasing this information to us and all Canadians, we get no information. In fact, what we do get is a request to please approve this agreement as quickly as possible. If we want someone to dance with us, we actually have to ask them to dance. We do not just grab them and pull them out onto the dance floor and start swinging them around. That is not the proper way to do it.
This is a very clear request that we have made, and to date, we have had no response. Effectively, we are being asked to vote in favour of a trade agreement without knowing what the economic impacts are going to be not only in our own ridings, but all across the country. Quite frankly, I think the government's request is inappropriate. The Liberals should be giving us the information that we are demanding.
My friends on the other side of the House will say that they have offered us a briefing. A briefing is not an economic impact analysis. I am wondering when the government is going to raise the curtains and give not only parliamentarians but all Canadians the economic impact of this agreement so we can all make an informed decision.
It is bad enough that we are not getting the economic impact, but what I find far more insidious and odious is the fact that there is a report on the economic impact on dairy and SM-4, and guess what: It has been kept confidential by the government.
Why would the Liberals keep an economic impact analysis on important agricultural sectors confidential? Why is it not being released? As parliamentarians, we are being asked to vote on something without information. Some information the Liberals clearly do not have. They do not have an economic impact analysis, despite years of negotiations. However, they do have a very specific economic analysis that is very important to the constituents of my riding of Dufferin—Caledon.
In Dufferin, the number one economic driver is agriculture. In agriculture, we of course have dairy and other supply-managed industries. They are nervous because they know there will be economic impacts, but the Liberals are choosing not to release that information. Therefore, people do not know the extent of the impact.
I met with dairy farmers in my riding two weeks ago. They are concerned about the agreement itself, without still knowing the economic impacts. One of the things they are concerned about is that dairy products coming in from the United States are not going to be subject to the exact same standards as Canadian dairy products are subjected to. There are hormones used in dairy production in the United States that will allow for greater production at lower cost, but they are not allowed to be used in Canada.
Not only have they negotiated a deal for further access to the supply-managed dairy market in Canada, but they have also not levelled the playing field. It is a double hit on our dairy sector. Producers do not know the economic impact and they do not know what the compensation will be.
We ask repeatedly what the compensation is going to be for sectors that are adversely affected. Again, like so many things we get from the Liberal government, there is no transparency; we get no answer. A great example of the lack of transparency exhibited by the government was how they opposed the Parliamentary Budget Officer looking into their infrastructure spending. This is a government that said it was transparent and “open by default”. That is not what is happening specifically with that vote; it is certainly not what is happening with this trade agreement.
All we are asking for is information. It seems like a very simple and basic request. The Liberals are saying to us that they need a partner in this chamber to pass this trade agreement, but they are not going to give us any of the information that we need in order to make a really informed decision. It is especially needed for the residents of my riding, who are going to be affected by the changes to the dairy industry.
What did the government get in return for negotiating away milk classes 6 and 7? We have asked this question; again, we do not have an answer.
What did we get in exchange for effectively giving a tariff on exports in the dairy market that go above a certain threshold? What did we get in exchange for that?
What did we get in return for negotiating away our sovereignty over exports of milk protein concentrates, skim milk powder and infant formula?
These are legitimate questions that we are not getting answers to. This is becoming a pattern with this government. The Liberals do not want to answer the tough questions. I sit here like all of us during question period, when there are lots of great questions that are asked, very specific questions that can have very specific answers. Of course, we do not get very specific answers, do we? On this side of the House we know the answers are the old “Ottawa spin and twist”: spin the question around, do not really say anything and then time is up. That is what we are getting on this trade agreement. We are getting no answers. I know my friends are going to say that we were given opportunities for briefings, but that is not sufficient.
I have two final points to raise on this. Why has softwood lumber not been included in this trade agreement? We know that this is a very serious issue, not in my riding, but in ridings all across the country. Why was “Buy American” not addressed? This is a major impediment for Canadian companies that are trying to do business in the United States.
These are simple, basic questions. All it would take is someone on the other side of the House to take the time to actually answer a straight question. To date, they are not doing it. I am losing faith that it will happen. We want to approve this trade agreement. We want to vote in favour of it, because Canadian businesses and industries need certainty. We need the information. My request is that the Liberal government start providing us some answers instead of pulling down the curtains and saying to vote blind on this issue.