Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand here today to discuss the new NAFTA and the importance this agreement has not only within my riding of Foothills, but across the country.
Today, I want to be really clear. I want to talk about some background of how we came here. I want to be extremely forthright in the fact that many of the stakeholders who I deal with in the agriculture sector, whether that is farmers, ranchers or food processors, support this agreement and they want to see it passed. So do we as Conservatives.
We are the party of free trade. It was under a previous Conservative government that the first NAFTA was born, an agreement which brought about historic opportunities for the Canadian economy, whether that was manufacturing, industry, energy and certainly in agriculture.
It was also under the previous Conservative government, with prime minister Stephen Harper, that we signed free trade agreements with more than 40 countries, bringing Canadian businesses more than a billion new customers. That was unprecedented economic opportunities for our Canadian businesses across the country.
I would like to give a little history lesson. The previous Conservative government negotiated the free trade agreement with the European Union as well as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. However, the current Liberal government almost bungled those critical trade agreements, with geopolitical mistakes, that almost proved extremely costly to the Canadian economy.
For all intents and purposes, the Trans-Pacific Partnership was to be the renegotiation of the current NAFTA. We negotiated that agreement with President Barrack Obama in the United States, probably the most progressive president in the history of the United States. However, when the current Prime Minister and the Liberal government took power, that Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement was not progressive enough for him. In fact, when the Prime Minister was a no-show at that signing ceremony, it was an embarrassment to Canada. It embarrassed our allies and it was highly inappropriate, so much so, it almost resulted in Canada not being an initial signatory on the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
However, what did result from the Prime Minister's embarrassing behaviour as part of that project, was four more years of uncertainty to Canada's economy. It also resulted in the Prime Minister saying that he was more than willing to renegotiate NAFTA under the new President, Donald Trump. That is where our concerns lie.
When the previous Conservative government negotiated the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the free trade agreement with the European Union, our previous agriculture minister, Gerry Ritz, and the previous trade minister, the member for Abbotsford, ensured that every step along the way their colleagues in the opposition had regular meetings, regular updates on what the process was, what the concessions were and what the pros and cons would be in it. In addition, all the stakeholder groups also had very keen interests and were included in all those discussions. We have none of that with the current Liberal government.
We have been kept in the dark from beginning to end with this new NAFTA. All we were asking for was some due diligence to see the details in that agreement. Therefore, people can see why Conservative members are not ready to jump on board and approve the Liberals' new agreement without giving it that due diligence, without giving it that scrutiny.
We have heard over the last few days of debate on the new NAFTA that the Liberals have asked us to trust them, that this is a great deal, better than any deal we have had before. However, the Liberals have not earned that trust. They have not earned that trust from Conservative members. They certainly have not earned that trust from stakeholders who have asked us, especially in the agriculture sector, to do our due diligence, to give this process the scrutiny it deserves.
Let us go back a little to why stakeholders are asking us to ensure we review this and why they are wary of what the Liberals may be trying to pass through this NAFTA. They have not earned that trust of many of stakeholders, especially in the agriculture sector.
It is a government that promised to do a thorough and robust review of the business risk management programs and come up with a new program that would be bankable, accessible and efficient for Canadian agriculture. The Liberals have not done that. It is a broken promise.
It is a Liberal government that promised a compensation package for dairy processors as part of its previous free trade agreements. It reneged on that promise. There is no compensation package at all for dairy processors. It is another promise broken.
This is a Liberal government that missed a critical deadline to apply to the World Organisation for Animal Health for negligible risk status for Canada when it came to bovine spongiform encephalopathy. That was a critical mistake.
The agriculture minister, the trade minister, the health minister, the Prime Minister, all of them dropped the ball. How does one miss a date that we knew of 11 years before it was coming? As a result, our beef ranchers in Ontario are struggling because of a lack of capacity and now have limited options to export their beef products.
Had the Liberal government met that deadline, and it was just putting a notice of motion on the table with the World Organisation for Animal Health to let it know that we would be applying this year, it would have opened doors for Ontario beef producers. However, the government did not do that, and has not apologized for this or admitted that it was a mistake. Not only was it a mistake; it was a crushing mistake for Ontario beef producers and certainly cattle ranchers across Canada. It was an important date that the government missed.
In addition to that, the Liberals have implemented a punishing carbon tax on Canadian agriculture. The agriculture minister has admitted this week that she is not keeping any data on the impact of the carbon tax on Canadian farmers.
People can see why our agriculture stakeholders from coast to coast to coast are questioning the ability of due diligence of the Liberal government when it comes to this NAFTA agreement. As I have said from the beginning, the vast majority of stakeholders want the new NAFTA agreement to be enforced, but they do not want us to jump in and sign this agreement as quickly as possible. They want us to ensure we look at every aspect of this agreement before we vote to ratify it.
This has been a harvest from hell for Canadian agriculture, and we have heard this from many stakeholders. I will read some quotes to show why our producers are a little wary of the Liberals' intent here.
Bill Campbell, the president of Keystone Agricultural Producers said:
We are firm in our position that there needs to be an exemption for farmers under the carbon tax framework for all the costs associated with drying all grain, as well as for heating barns and farm buildings...Now that Manitoba falls under the federal backstop, farmers are left paying prices that, as price-takers in the global economy, cannot be passed along.
Jeff Nielsen of Grain Growers Canada said this week:
The 2019 harvest season has put undue burdens on farmers’ livelihoods and every part of the country has been hit hard...Beyond just the crop left in the field, farmers have faced major grain drying expenses, courtesy of the federal carbon tax, to ensure at least some crops make it to market....These costs are adding up and we cannot continue to pay the price for inaction...A complete exemption for all fuels used on the farm is what farmers ultimately require to avoid these crises in the future and provide farmers with the resources to continue doing what we do best.
People can see why our agriculture stakeholders are concerned, because there is no trust level with the Liberal government.
Certainly, the Liberals are giving that great lip service that this new NAFTA is a better agreement, but before we make that decision, we want to have every opportunity to review it.
As many of my colleagues have said in their speeches over the last week, we have asked for an economic impact analysis, we have asked for data that backs up the agreement the Liberals have asked us to sign, but we have not seen any of those documents.
As I have said previously, the stark difference between when the Conservative government was negotiating these free trade agreements and the Liberal government is that under the Conservative government, we ensured that the opposition was involved every step of the way, that it was well informed with all of the decisions that were being made and that the stakeholders were there at the table with us. However, the stakeholders and the opposition have not had the same opportunity when it comes to this agreement.
It is an obligation as elected representatives that we do our due diligence. Our constituents demand us to do that. They are wary of what this agreement may hold. This is especially true when it comes to a trade agreement with one of our most important trading partners, the United States.
For agriculture, we must ensure that there is no question that the new NAFTA agreement represents stability and reliable trade with Mexico and the United States, two of our most important trading partners. In my constituency of Foothills, my residents demand that; they want that.
Free and fair trade is a top priority for us as Conservatives and certainly for our constituents as well.