Madam Speaker, I rise today to talk about NAFTA, but first I would like to thank the hon. Speaker for the opportunity of a lifetime earlier, having sat in the chair with some of the most important people in Canadian history.
Conservatives are the party of free trade. There can be absolutely no doubt about that. Our party is responsible for negotiating some of the largest and most important trade agreements in Canadian history. The importance of that cannot be underscored too much. Our economy today is greatly reliant on the great work of previous prime ministers from the Conservative Party. Indeed, we benefit from that today in our daily lives and in our productivity and wages.
Because of the importance of free trade, I will signal today that it is my intention to support NAFTA .7, however, it is not without deep reservations that I do so as the new NAFTA .7 will have significant impacts on the aluminum industry, the forest industry and an industry that is very important to my riding, the dairy and supply-managed sectors.
National unity should be a key issue that we discuss in every debate. It is incumbent upon members of other provinces to reach across. As the member from Ontario, I have to acknowledge and tell the members, our brothers and sisters from Quebec, that I believe this agreement has an unfair and disproportionate impact on Quebec.
Much of the 2019 discourse focused on a little company called SNC-Lavalin and the Prime Minister's decision to direct his Attorney General to act on a deferred prosecution had a significant impact on Canada. Of course, Canada is seen across the world as a beacon of virtue, honour and light. Unfortunately, that beacon dimmed a little with his actions.
In the Ethics Commissioner's report, it was found that the Prime Minister's attempt to influence his Attorney General breached the Conflict of Interest Act. Acknowledging mistakes were made, he stood and said he would not accept full responsibility, saying he will always stand up for Quebec jobs. That statement is very troubling because it means almost limitless actions to protect maybe one job in Quebec. Is he willing to put in peril the rule of law, one of the most sacrosanct principles, just to protect one job in Quebec? Apparently so.
Also, the reality of that statement was found to be untrue because the CEO of SNC-Lavalin said there were not Canadian jobs at stake with respect to the deferred prosecution agreement.
I believe that the final bit of any credibility left in the statement that the Prime Minister will stand up for jobs in Quebec fell apart with the signature of NAFTA .7. To be clear, it is the worst deal for Canadians. The pain from this diminished deal is disproportionately felt by rural Canada and by Quebec.
The dairy industry is an incredibly important part of the economy in Northumberland—Peterborough South. There are 66 dairy farms in my riding. They contribute over 34 million litres of milk to our community. I have been told over and over, most recently at a debate during the election by a farmer who said he was not going to ask for anything except that we stop going through the negotiations bartering their livelihood, farmers' futures, as the first bargaining chip that goes down. Farmers are more important than that and they deserve better treatment than that.
Quebec's dairy industry is also extremely significant. There are nearly 8,000 dairy farms averaging 55 cows per farm and three billion litres of milk are produced, which accounts for about 30% of Quebec's total agricultural production. NAFTA .7 will do significant damage to the dairy industry by reducing the market by nearly 4%. We lost that production without receiving any equivalent compensation from the United States and that is because it is difficult for our producers to get into the U.S. and European markets.
Those markets, as I am sure many members are aware, are barred by tariff and non-tariff barriers. One great example of that is the U.S. pasteurization standard. Due to technicalities in the market, it is nearly impossible for Canadian producers to hit that. However, our milk is safe, it is perhaps the safest in the world, and the only reason to apply that standard on our producers is to block entry into their markets. Why could we not have made progress on that important issue?
Perhaps just as significant as the reduction in quota and the reduction in market size is the elimination of classes 6 and 7. The milk that comes from our wonderful cows becomes many different products, such as cream, whole fat and skim. However, the reality is that the market is limited for skim milk, but classes 6 and 7 would allow that skim milk to be sold competitively. In the absence of classes 6 and 7, that skim product now becomes unsaleable and unmarketable, and could be a wasted by-product, adding to the cost and perhaps even limiting the market.
This is not a good deal for the folks in the dairy industry. It is not a good deal for our dairy producers from coast to coast to coast. When we look across the nation, we could have gotten a better deal, and it is not just me saying that this is not a good deal for our dairy. Bruno Letendre, the head of the Quebec milk producers association said that “the agreement is a bad one for the Canadian industry” and that our Prime Minister “negotiated on his knees, and I'm being generous.”
There simply can be no question that the dairy industry and the supply management sector have been damaged. However, supply management has been great for the Canadian economy. It has been great for the Canadian consumer. We have amazing milk in Canada, which is among the safest in the world. Therefore, I was shocked when a Liberal member across the way earlier today said that supply management was not a good system for our consumers. That is completely untrue and objectively false.
When we look at this agreement, we acknowledge that there has been something taken away from supply management. It is clear, because the government has signalled that it will have a compensation package. However, when I talk to our farmers, they do not want another government handout. What they want is to be left alone so that they do not live in fear that, the next time a Liberal negotiator walks up to a free trade agreement, the first bargaining chip put on that board is the farmers of our country. It is not right and it is not fair.
On the impact to the aluminum sector, I have to say that the government members have done an extremely poor job in communicating. Instead of engaging us as the opposition, as partners, they have attempted to gloss over it. Therefore, I will be forthright with members. The aluminum protection is better, because it was not there before. However, the Liberals also have to acknowledge that, to be fair, this protection is undermined, if not completely undermined, by the fact that the aluminum does not have to be melted or poured in North America. I was pleased to hear, during the conversation from members on the other side, an acknowledgement of that, but they should have done that from the beginning instead of trying to sail over these issues.
My ask of government members is that, in future communications with opposition parties, they simply acknowledge the loss issues rather than attempt to sail over them. The intellectual dishonesty of selling too hard leads to distrust, which is never useful, particularly in a minority Parliament.
Further, I ask that the government be transparent and answer the following questions.
What will the economic impact of NAFTA .7 be? The Liberals have the numbers. Please share.
What are the details of the dairy compensation package? How many millions of dollars will the dairy industry lose as a result of this deal?
What is the potential exposure of the aluminum market to foreign dumping? Why was the aluminum industry not afforded the same protection as steel, and if it had been, what would the economic benefit be?
This deal, beyond a shadow of a doubt, shows that the Liberals will not stand up for jobs in Quebec when it means doing the hard job of negotiating with President Trump, and will only act when it is politically expedient to do so.