House of Commons Hansard #29 of the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was agreement.

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Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Bloc

Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise and speak to the bill to ratify CUSMA. We are at third reading; things are moving fast. I am glad this is moving forward, but it is important not to rush. We need to take the time to properly study and debate this bill.

The job of the Bloc Québécois is to represent the interests of Quebeckers. That is why we are here. We agree with free trade agreements in principle. We need free trade. In economics, Quebec could be described as a small, open economy. We have a large territory with a population of about eight million. We need to trade with the rest of the world. Our areas of expertise include aerospace, artificial intelligence and computer science. We are proud of our farmers and our forestry workers in the regions. We are well positioned to trade. In essence, we support free trade agreements.

Obviously, no agreement is ever perfect. NAFTA was not perfect. Did we really need a new agreement like CUSMA to replace NAFTA? Our neighbour to the south demanded it. I would say this agreement is fairly good for the Canadian economy. The government did pretty well for the auto industry, for example.

There is one thing I find disappointing about this agreement and other agreements Canada negotiated recently. Generally speaking, an agreement should benefit the majority of the population, Canada's population in this case, but somebody always gets the short end of the stick. I do wonder—though not for long—why sectors that are important to Quebec's economy are always traded away.

In this agreement, concessions were made with respect to supply management. That happened with the trans-Pacific partnership too. Quebec is nowhere near the Pacific Ocean, but a significant chunk of the economy was traded away. The same thing happened with the Canada-EU free trade agreement. It seems that when Canada negotiates, it is all too ready to give up Quebec when it needs to offer something in exchange. Canada would like to protect Quebec's interests, but when it has to choose, it sacrifices part of Quebec's economy.

We saw the same thing happen when China joined the WTO. That killed our textile sector. It is still around, but as a shadow of its former self. The government did nothing to support that sector. Many women who had worked in the industry all their lives were left out in the cold, empty-handed. In contrast, the United States supported its textile industry and managed to save more jobs.

The same thing happened with our shipyards. The agreement with northern Europe ended up putting shipyards in Montreal and Sorel out of business, with neither compensation nor support. What a shame.

That being said, this agreement may not be perfect, but we think it offers a great opportunity to resolve the softwood lumber dispute. Quebec's forestry system was overhauled from top to bottom to ensure that the U.S. would have absolutely no reason to say it is subsidized and that we could do business on softwood lumber with our neighbour to the south.

Sadly, the new agreement did not resolve that dispute. The U.S. strategy is to drag out the dispute as long as possible and levy taxes to cool down this industry's market. Once it is on the verge of collapse, we will sign on the cheap. So far, this has not been done. I lament the fact that the Prime Minister has never spoken up in defence of Quebec's forestry industry. Forestry companies are paying more for lumber, since the price is determined by a market mechanism, and on top of that, they get taxed at the border as well. We did what was needed to fix that, but the government did not do its job at the federal level. As a result, our industry is paying twice. That is truly deplorable.

Given all that, we decided a year ago that the Bloc would support CUSMA on two conditions. The first was full compensation for supply-managed farmers. I am quite proud that I asked for the unanimous support of the House for full compensation for the last three agreements before ratifying this agreement. Naturally, we had to wait for the former member for Beauce to step out to go to the bathroom, because he was fiercely opposed to supply management. After all, he could have held it in. When we saw the support in the House we decided we could support this new agreement since half our conditions had been met.

The other condition was to have the illegal taxes on steel and aluminum cancelled. There are indeed steel producers in Quebec, as my colleague from Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères confirmed. However, we were mainly concerned with the aluminum sector because 90% of the aluminum made in Canada comes from Quebec. There has been longstanding trade with our American neighbours when it comes to aluminum. I went to Washington and I wrote newspaper articles there. We held several meetings, we all pitched in and managed to get these taxes lifted. We thought that was it.

On December 10, 2019, after Mexico and the United States had signed the agreement, the House decided to move forward and the Liberals were patting themselves on the back. However, when we saw the final version of the agreement, we saw that a key section of Quebec's economy had once again been sacrificed. There was a disparity between the protection given to steel, which is primarily manufactured in Ontario, compared to aluminum, which is primarily manufactured in Quebec. Once again, Quebec got a last-minute surprise in the House. Quebec's economy did not receive the same protection as Ontario's. That is unacceptable. Since the United States and Mexico had already ratified the agreement, it was very difficult to go back and renegotiate provisions so that Quebec would have the same protections.

There was all kinds of pressure from the government and various stakeholders to sign the agreement, and we were made to believe that it could no longer be amended. My colleagues from Lac-Saint-Jean and Jonquière immediately rallied stakeholders in their regions, elected officials, workers, unions and businesses. They said that they could not allow this to happen and that they would do something. We were being told to sign the agreement because it was good for the rest of the economy. We were being asked to forget that supply management and the aluminum sector were being short-changed, and to think about the sectors that were gaining something.

We nevertheless decided to fight this and to stand up for the aluminum sector. We did not know how to proceed, but we managed to make significant progress with the help of stakeholders and—credit where credit is due—the Deputy Prime Minister.

We now know that the problem caused by last-minute changes to CUSMA was that steel was being given significant protection. The “melted and poured” provision of the agreement required that most of the automotive parts made in the territory of the agreement were to be made with North American steel. This clause did not apply to aluminum.

Many automotive parts are made in Mexico, which imported aluminum from China, the dirtiest aluminum in the world because it is made at coal-fired plants, compared to Quebec's aluminum, which is the greenest and made at the most energy efficient plants in the world. All Mexico had to do was process the Chinese aluminum to make it North American aluminum. Even the Prime Minister acknowledged that the dumping of Chinese aluminum is unacceptable and illegal in international trade.

We obtained a commitment from the government that it would ensure that Mexico applied the same traceability measures as Canada's to track Chinese imports and the portion of components made with Chinese aluminum. If a problem arises, we can then revisit the “melted and poured” clause. I have been led to believe that the Americans agree with us and that very soon they will implement traceability measures to prevent Mexico from using dumped aluminum.

I will stop here, as my time has expired.

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the comments, and I really appreciate the fact that the Bloc has decided ultimately to support the legislation, which makes it unanimous among the parties.

The provinces of Quebec and Manitoba have a lot in common. We can talk about the textile industry, and some of the things that were to the detriment of the textile industry a number of years ago, supply management, our garment industries, our aerospace industries, and how much we love and want to protect our culture and arts. Much of this stuff is in fact protected within the trade agreement.

When we have these types of negotiations, as I am sure my colleague would recognize, there is give-and-take. I made reference to some of that give-and-take with the last presenter from the Bloc. I said that President Trump was determined to dismantle supply management. Here, at least, we have now guaranteed it into future generations. I see that as a positive thing for the dairy farmers and others in Manitoba and Quebec.

I wonder if the member could provide his thoughts in terms of that particular guarantee.

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

Bloc

Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his comments.

I will acknowledge that in the past, Manitoba and Quebec shared a number of cultural connections. One such example is the great Louis Riel. I think that his tragic fate was what ultimately led to the development of Quebec's national conscience.

Back in the early 1900s, French was still dominant in Manitoba. Clearly, our culture still needs protecting in Manitoba. That is for sure.

Donald Trump obviously wanted to get rid of supply management entirely, so the government eventually agreed to open a crack. We feel that this crack is still too much, because it is the third time, in three consecutive agreements, that it has happened. That is unacceptable.

In closing, I remind members that the American agricultural industry is also protected. The same sectors in the U.S. are protected, along with the sugar industry, and I do not think that the Americans made any concessions.

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Speaker, I commend my colleague on his speech.

He spoke about the aluminum industry, which we were very concerned about. We also stood up for the aluminum industry in the House.

Unfortunately, I think the Bloc Québécois is being quite naive. It was satisfied with the Deputy Prime Minister's stated intention to perhaps do something with the Americans to protect our aluminum industry, to provide for traceability measures.

These negotiations unfortunately never materialized. They are yet to happen, and the Bloc Québécois seems to be taking the Deputy Prime Minister and the Liberal government at their word.

Earlier the parliamentary secretary spoke about give-and-take. Where is the give-and-take in all of this?

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

Bloc

Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker, first of all, I find my Conservative colleague's comment pretty ironic because the Conservative Party was quick to vote in favour of the new NAFTA at second reading and at all subsequent stages even before we had these enhanced protections.

Second, elected representatives, union members and workers in Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean are all very pleased with what we achieved.

We targeted Chinese aluminum and proved that dumping is illegal, and we ensured that measures will be implemented, as is the case in Canada for what enters Mexico. That sends the right signal.

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

Bloc

Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

I would really like my colleague to stop interrupting and let me speak.

We are well aware that the U.S. government agrees and clearly wants to make sure that aluminum entering Mexico is traceable.

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Before I recognize the next person, I would like to remind members to be respectful and listen to the answers. We must show others the same consideration we would hope to receive.

If members have another question to ask, they must wait for the next round of questions and comments.

The hon. member for Markham—Unionville.

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Saroya Conservative Markham—Unionville, ON

Madam Speaker, I come from the private sector and I am really glad to speak to this very important subject.

For Canadian businesses, when it comes to finding customers, Chicago and Toronto are separated by only 800 kilometres. Vancouver and Toronto are separated by 4,000 kilometres. For businesses in Vancouver, customers in Seattle are much closer than even customers in Calgary.

To put it into perspective, 66% of Canadians live within 100 kilometres of a border. It is closer to ship to the south. Geography is a part of it, but over 325 million potential customers is a powerful reason for businesses to look south before they look east or west. For any growing Canadian company, it is just a matter of time before it looks to expand south.

Business is just one part of this equation. Customers in the United States demand Canadian products and Canadians demand American products.

In terms of trade, no relationship compares to that between Canada and the United States: 75% of Canada's trade is done with the United States and $2 billion worth of goods crosses the border everyday.

Just because trade is mutually beneficial does not mean it is easy. Trade can be complex, with different regulations, safety concerns and government help to the industry in different countries. Free trade is never free of rules. That is why agreements need to be reached.

When Canada and the United States began to trade, we did it piecemeal until 1992. That is when Canada, led by then prime minister Brian Mulroney and the Progressive Conservative Party, signed the North American Free Trade Agreement. That created the world's largest economic trading zone. That agreement was an overwhelming success in growing our trade in both the United States and Mexico.

The deputy prime minister put it into perspective when she said, “Today, Canada, the United States and Mexico account for nearly one-third of global GDP despite having just 7% of the global population.”

The clear benefits of NAFTA have helped establish free trade as a foundation of Canadian conservatism, a foundation that former Prime Minister Harper built on by signing trade agreements with South Korea, Jordan and Columbia, among others. Let me remind everyone that the new European Union trade deal was negotiated almost entirely under the previous government. Simply put, the Conservatives understand that.

I am here to discuss the next stage of our trade relationship with the United States and Mexico, the Canada-United States-Mexico agreement, CUSMA, also known as the new NAFTA.

We all know how we got here. On the campaign trail, President Donald Trump promised Americans a better deal with trade. Millions of Americans were concerned that jobs were flowing south to Mexico because of low wages, little regulation and few rights for workers. President trump told them that they were right. On election night, many analysts pointed to these words as the reason that President Trump was able to carry the rust belt states. That delivered him the presidency.

Unfortunately for Canadians, as soon as President Trump was elected, it became clear that calls for a new deal were more than just hot air. Renegotiating NAFTA was a primary goal for his presidency. That meant Canada would be back at the negotiating table.

The talk around the negotiating table was not comforting. Statements made by the Canadian government made it look like it did not take the situation seriously. The Prime Minister threw personal attacks at President Trump, which showed an interest in scoring political points rather than securing a good deal for Canadians.

On the other side, statements by the President about Canada were often not true. At times, it seemed as if Canada was an afterthought, as President Trump focused on Mexico.

The good news is that the deal is done. After years of uncertainty, businesses can once again begin investing in Canada, and investors can be assured that trucks, ships and planes carrying goods between the United States, Canada and Mexico will not grind to a halt due to the repeal of NAFTA.

Many businesses and industries as a whole have made it clear that they want this deal signed, and they want it signed soon. Premiers across the country have also added their voices to that message.

I have already made it clear that the Conservative Party supports free trade. We understood that billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of jobs, if not millions, were at stake. We wanted the best deal possible for Canadians.

As my colleague from Prince Albert put it, we wanted a good dealt that would last for the next 50 years, but that is not what we got. Instead, Canadians have a deal with new red tape and other barriers that hurt Canadian businesses, a deal that ignores ongoing problems and mutually beneficial economic opportunities.

The barrier I find most disturbing involves trade deals with other nations. Under CUSMA, if Canada continues expanding it free trade network, it will have to seek permission from the United States. This overreach into Canadian sovereignty is a hard pill to swallow. Canada should be free to pursue its trade interests with anyone.

That question of American oversight also made its way into the rules about dairy products. Canada gave up 3% of the market to American suppliers in the deal, but the concessions did not end there. Milk protein exports are now something the United States government has a say over. The Canadian government also negotiated away milk classes 6 and 7. With all these drastic changes, it should not be a surprise that the dairy industry will need help. That help will most likely come in the form of subsidies or payouts for which Canadians will be on the hook.

The new rules around aluminum have also raised concerns. Canada is a massive producer of aluminum. Globally we are the fourth-largest producer in the world. When CUSMA was being negotiated, it was clear we had to protect our market share in the United States, which, according to the Financial Post, is “just over half of it.” The new rules protect our steel industry but do nothing for aluminum.

As I mentioned before, one of the problems with this deal is the issues that were ignored. The issue that comes to the top of mind is the buy America policies. We failed to get rules in CUSMA that would stop the unfair boxing out of Canadian companies from government contracts in the United States. Mexico was able to strike a deal.

As for the lingering softwood lumber dispute, it was ignored and left in the hands of the World Trade Organization, an organization that has struggled to make any progress on the issue at all.

In terms of opportunities lost, a glaring example was not including more professions under section 16. That would have made it easier for companies to bring in high-demand low-supply professionals who they need to grow their businesses.

Instead of the 50 years of certainty, the new NAFTA gives 16 years, 16 years before we are back at the negotiating table, and that is if we can make it past the six-year formal reviews of CUSMA.

While there are many flaws, a deal is better than no deal, and we need to focus on the next steps. The agreement has put many industries at risk. There needs to be discussions on how Canada is going to ensure CUSMA is not a crippling blow for them. Unfortunately, that means Canadian taxpayers are once again facing new costs because of poor decisions by the Liberal government.

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I have had the opportunity to listen to a number of Conservatives speak, and it has become quite obvious that there is a Conservative spin such that no matter what would have been achieved, the Conservatives would have been highly critical of it. I believe we did get a good deal. That is one of the reasons we have received the support we have throughout the nation.

One of the things the Conservatives continue to bring up is the C.D. Howe Institute. They will say, for example, that Canada's GDP has gone down, so they draw the conclusion that this agreement is a bad deal. What they do not mention is that it actually affects the GDPs of the U.S.A. and Mexico as well. All three go down. That is partly because of the issues surrounding the protection of our automobile industry.

Does my colleague across the way not believe that it is worthwhile to protect our automobile industry here in Canada?

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Saroya Conservative Markham—Unionville, ON

Madam Speaker, when we talk about the industry, the negotiation, etc., this deal was negotiated by Mexico. The Prime Minister was calling the president names, and vice versa. That did not help. The deal was negotiated between Mexico and the United States. We signed it at the end of the day because we had no choice. There are many flaws.

As I said earlier, I come from the private sector and I believe in private enterprise. Dairy products, the softwood lumber industry, the aluminum industry and many other industries will suffer with this new deal.

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

NDP

Scott Duvall NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Madam Speaker, my friend mentioned earlier some of the issues with this deal, but I have heard from many major stakeholders in the steel industry, the president of the Canadian Labour Congress and the president of Unifor that although they are not really entirely happy with this deal and are disappointed, they feel it is a much better deal than the original deal. Does the member agree with those comments?

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Saroya Conservative Markham—Unionville, ON

Madam Speaker, back in 1992, if my memory is correct, when NAFTA was created, most of the unions and many other people said it was a bad deal, that it would never happen, that it would take jobs and many other things. However, at the end of the day, it was one of the best things the Conservatives did back in 1992. In today's deal, as I mentioned, there are many flaws.

I wish the Liberals had asked for advice from the member of Parliament for Abbotsford, who negotiated with the European Union and many other countries. The Conservatives could have given them advice at no cost, but the original NAFTA was the best deal possible for us.

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

March 11th, 2020 / 5:50 p.m.

Bloc

Denis Trudel Bloc Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.

Generally speaking, what I am noticing this afternoon from my Conservative colleagues' comments is a wilful blindness with respect to protecting aluminum. They seem to have difficulty understanding that my Bloc Québécois colleagues, our leader and I worked very hard with the Deputy Prime Minister to negotiate an agreement that includes the traceability of aluminum. Today, the greenest aluminum in the world is protected thanks to the efforts of the Bloc Québécois. Of course, this remains to be seen, but time will tell.

The Conservatives agree that we relinquished 3% of supply-managed markets in this agreement in addition to what was lost in previous agreements.

Today we are talking about compensation. Could my colleague tell us what compensation might be offered?

In his view, what is 3% of the dairy market worth and how much should we give farmers in the coming years?

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Saroya Conservative Markham—Unionville, ON

Madam Speaker, yes, I agree with you that Quebec produces the greenest aluminum. That was left behind because the deal was not negotiated with Canada. The deal was negotiated with Mexico, and we ended up signing the deal for the sake of signing a deal.

As I said, I come from the private sector, where we would rather have this deal than no deal, but the deal was not negotiated with President Trump in good faith and at the end of the day we took what he gave us.

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I want to remind the member that he is to address all his comments and questions to the Chair because he started his intervention by addressing it directly to the member.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Lac-Saint-Jean.

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Bloc

Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Bloc Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, I am very happy to be rising in the House again, this time to speak to Bill C-4 and also the aluminum industry.

I first want to acknowledge all those who worked hard to ensure that the Bloc Québécois could support the agreement. This includes elected officials, such as the mayor of Alma, Marc Asselin; the mayor of Saguenay, Josée Néron; union representatives, in particular Éric Drolet, Sylvain Maltais and Alain Gagnon; as well as economic stakeholders.

People were indeed expecting us to vote, but they wanted us to be voting for gains. Instead of ordering us to shut up and vote no questions asked, they instead chose to work with us, which worked out really well in the end.

Indeed, it was a pretty good idea. We used the full power of our positions to ensure that the fundamental interests of Quebec and its regions were protected. We were not simply criticizing without making any suggestions.

It may have been a long shot back in December, since the House seems to have forgotten that an opposition can do more than oppose for the sake of opposing. We had to believe that it was possible to make gains. Clearly, our belief ultimately paid off.

I will come back to the steps that finally led me to say that I would vote in favour of Bill C-4. It think they are worth mentioning, mainly for those who are watching at home and who are wondering what happened between two days before CUSMA was ratified and now regarding the loss of protection for aluminum.

On December 10, we learned that aluminum was no longer protected, as my colleague from Joliette so clearly pointed out. The government abandoned the aluminum industry even though aluminum is Quebec's second-largest export. What is worse, the government considered the matter to be closed for the next 10 years. That was a disaster for us and for many stakeholders in Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, the North Shore and central Quebec.

On December 12, we clearly announced our intentions. We would not vote in favour of the agreement unless aluminum was given the same protections as steel. Even the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord was on our side. He told the media that he planned to vote against the agreement. He issued a press release with us, which basically said the following:

There are some good things in the agreement, but the lack of protection for the aluminum industry is unacceptable...my constituents will always come first. The aluminum industry was not respected...and unless something is done to secure our place on the North American market or unless export programs are put in place, I am seriously considering voting against the agreement.

That has changed, but that is what he was saying not too long ago.

I imagine that he trusted us to do the rest. The following week, on December 19, we took part in a demonstration, without him, but with many unions, business owners, and municipal and provincial officials from all across Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean. More people turned out than for LNG.

Aluminum has been a big industry for us for 100 years. What is more, the aluminum produced in my region and in Quebec is the greenest in the world.

Fundamentally, however, what everyone needs to remember is that when all this started, the Bloc Québécois were the only ones saying aluminum had not received the same protection as steel, because we were the only ones who had read the agreement carefully.

Curiously enough, the steel industry is concentrated in Ontario, and the aluminum industry, as we now know, is almost exclusively located in Quebec. In fact, 90% of Canada's aluminum is produced in Quebec, and 60% of that comes from Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean. It is no surprise, really. Quebec is starting to get used to being used as a pawn in international treaties and being sacrificed for the sake of Ontario's auto industry and western Canada's oil industry.

We were the only ones saying it, while the Liberals kept trotting out the same old convoluted talking points. After repeating our arguments and proving them in debate, we eventually got the NDP and the Conservatives on our side. However, the Liberals continued to deny the sad truth. Unlike our colleagues in the other opposition parties, we could not let down our aluminum workers. We could not vote for the implementation of the agreement. There was just no way we could do that.

I may have mentioned this before, but I stuck a little note to the side of my nightstand that says, “Who do you work for”. It is the first thing I see every morning. The answer to that question is that I work for my constituents, for the people of Lac-Saint-Jean and for Quebeckers as a whole.

What do we do in this situation?

Some people said we were on our own. They did not reckon on the courage, strength and determination of our people. Our people mobilized, and we supported them politically and technically. We were not alone, and they were no longer alone. They all came here, to Ottawa, at the end of January, to air their concerns. Elected officials, workers and economic players from our regions came here to share their concerns, and they brought a study with them.

Basically, the study said that 30,000 jobs would be at risk if the expansion phases did not go through. Investments worth $6.2 billion were in jeopardy. That would have been $1 billion in economic spinoffs every year for 10 years gone if the agreement was not changed and a real solution not found. We needed a concrete proposal to provide better protection for aluminum.

Considering those massive numbers, should we have just sat there twiddling our thumbs?

We are talking about the vitality of our regions and of Quebec as a whole. We are talking about our families and our children, and that is why we all took a stand.

We did more than just criticize; that would not be our style. We also proposed a solution. Initially, no one on the other side of the House was listening to us. Life is like that, but only a fool will not change his mind. In the end, the Liberals did listen to reason. I will give them that, and I thank them for it.

The Liberals agreed to negotiate, and we finally reached an agreement. At the end of the day, some of my hon. colleagues were able to set partisanship aside and put the interests of their constituents ahead of the interests of the parties in the House.

There are many things that divide us in this place. For instance, I strongly believe that Quebec should become a country, and as soon as possible. Despite the obvious differences in our political perspectives, we were able to secure a win and ensure that aluminum would be better protected. It was a Bloc Québécois proposal, but it was the Deputy Prime Minister who brought that proposal to Washington. I thank her for that.

Imagine what would have happened if we had just remained in our seats and voted in favour of implementing the agreement without making any demands. It is not complicated. If the Bloc had acted like all the other parties in the House, our aluminum workers would have been left out in the cold. The regions in Quebec would have been abandoned. Quebec's economy would have once again been the big loser in another international treaty signed by Ottawa.

This House was then able to see the principles that guide the Bloc Québécois. Above all, we are guided by our conscience. There is no denying that we have had a positive influence on how work is done in the House. So much the better if the other parties represented here are inspired by our approach. In the end, it is the men and women we represent who come out on top.

Who do we work for? I know. Now it is up to all my hon. colleagues to answer that question.

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I can attempt to answer the question in terms of who I work for. I represent the wonderful, fine residents of Winnipeg North, but the residents of Winnipeg North believe that the well-being of the nation is really important to all of us, no matter what region of the country we live in.

Appreciating the importance of Canada's middle class is of the utmost importance. In providing different types of programs, whether it is health care or public education, the role that the national government can play is important. I would argue that my constituents are very similar to the constituents of all members of Parliament in all the different regions of our country.

When I look at the trade agreement as a whole, I see that it is in the best interests of my constituents, based on the type of feedback I receive from them. Would the member across the way not agree that this trade agreement is in the best interests of his constituents, as it is to mine?

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Bloc

Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Bloc Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, my hon. colleague would not be making that speech if he were the member for Lac-Saint-Jean. Obviously, the people of my riding were not really happy with this agreement.

The aluminum sector is one of the biggest economic engines in my riding, the biggest even. Right from the start, I will have to disagree with my hon. colleague.

Second, we worked with the Liberals on getting improved protection for aluminum because there was work to be done. When the agreement was ratified in December it was not as good as it is today. We collaborated in order to improve the agreement.

The people in my riding are knocking on my door to say that they are not happy and they are concerned for their job, their children, their family and their future. Clearly, I cannot agree with my hon. colleague.

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

Emmanuel Dubourg Liberal Bourassa, QC

Madam Speaker, first, I would like to commend my colleague for his speech.

He very eloquently defended the interests of his constituents. I also want to tell him that there were many factors to consider in the negotiations.

Does my colleague recognize, like other elected provincial and municipal officials in Quebec, that the agreement that will be signed contains significant gains for Quebec?

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Bloc

Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Bloc Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, there are good things and bad things in this agreement, as there are in any agreement.

That being said, I woke up one morning and realized, as I read the paper, that the aluminum industry, the economic backbone of my region, was being threatened. The Bloc Québécois worked hard to develop a proposal and persuaded a lot of people. Premier Legault also said that the way the aluminum industry was being treated was unacceptable. Of course, he had his own concerns and so he wanted the agreement to be signed. If we had sat back and failed to use the means at our disposal as MPs, we would not have gotten what we did. I agree with my hon. colleague that there are good things in any agreement. There is no doubt about that, and that is what we have been saying from the beginning. We simply needed to stand up and fight for our constituents, which is what we did. I am very proud of that.

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6:05 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Simard Bloc Jonquière, QC

Madam Speaker, since my colleague is so familiar with what happened on the aluminum file, I would like him to explain how the Bloc Québécois and the Liberal Party managed to come to an agreement. I would like the entire House to be able to hear his answer.

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6:05 p.m.

Bloc

Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Bloc Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, we certainly played our cards well. We maintained the same public stance by holding the government's feet to the fire and voting against Bill C-4 at first and second reading.

We negotiated with the government behind the scenes while keeping the pressure on it publicly. Ultimately, we made a great proposal. The government had no choice but to accept it and acknowledge that it was good. The collaboration started then. The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs went to Washington, and we got a commitment from the government. All in all, I am pretty proud of the strategy used by the Bloc Québécois. We proved once again that we can get the job done.

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6:05 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Simard Bloc Jonquière, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-4, which I will be supporting, as it turns out.

I am very satisfied with the work my political party did in the spirit of openness and collaboration. However, I would say this victory was bittersweet, because an economic sector was once again left out of this agreement. I am referring to softwood lumber. The forestry sector gets no respect from the Canadian federation and is constantly overlooked. That is holding me back from fully celebrating our victory on aluminum.

At a meeting of the Standing Committee on Natural Resources, the Canadian negotiator told me that he did not include softwood lumber in CUSMA because he had to focus on other priorities. I think the phrase “focus on other priorities” says it all. It is the Canadian mantra. What are the priorities of Canada's economy? Ontario's auto industry and western Canada's oil industry, the same as for the past 25 years.

Is it perhaps because of a power imbalance? The Bloc Québécois now has 32 seats, and I feel like things are changing. However, Quebec's economic sectors are consistently ignored. The expression “focusing on other priorities” makes me think. Negotiations with the United States on softwood lumber are always pushed back.

This makes me think of an expression I often hear among federalists: “The fruit is not ripe enough”. When we talk about constitutional negotiations, many federalists use this somewhat perverse rhetoric: “The fruit is not ripe enough”. It appears to me that the fruit of federalism is currently rotting on the tree when it comes to softwood lumber and our role within this federation.

I do not want to only play the blame game, but I would like to come back to the importance of Quebec's forestry industry. It is important to note that Quebec has 2% of the world's forests, an area of 760,000 square kilometres, or the equivalent of Sweden and Norway combined. The industry provides 58,000 direct and indirect jobs in Quebec. The forestry industry is currently the economic driver of 160 of our municipalities.

If you look at Canada as a whole, the forestry sector provides 600,000 direct and indirect jobs, which is not insignificant. I cannot stress enough that we are facing global warming, and many experts have identified the forestry sector as our best shot at fighting climate change.

Our greatest misfortune, however, is that the United States is our main trading partner in the forestry industry, taking in 68% of our forest product exports. I find that unfortunate because I have the impression that the Canadian government has never really made much of an effort to develop new markets.

I am always amazed when I go to France and I see all kinds of infrastructure, bridges and big buildings built of wood or glulam even though France lacks the primary resource that is wood. We have it, but I feel like we are not doing anything with it.

Since the 2000s, the forestry industry has gone through tough times because the pulp and paper industry has gone through tough times now that less and less newsprint is being sold. We need to find new market opportunities. All this was exacerbated by a string of crises during negotiations with the United States.

During a Standing Committee on Natural Resources meeting, Beth MacNeil, Assistant Deputy Minister for Natural Resources Canada's Canadian Forest Service, told us that the forestry industry is at a crossroads. I thought that was very interesting. If my girlfriend told me we were at a crossroads, I would definitely be afraid because that would mean I had not taken care of her and had a lot to make up for.

The Canadian government is now at a crossroads with the forestry industry because past governments, both Liberal and Conservative, have chosen to focus on the oil industry in the west and Ontario's auto industry, not on the softwood lumber industry at all.

I see two big issues here. We have these trade agreements, which sometimes create barriers for the forestry sector, but we also have research and development. I find one statistic particularly interesting: From the early 1970s to the late 2000s, Canadians collectively invested $70 billion in the oil sands because that technology was not profitable. My father would call that a pretty penny, not to mention it was a raw deal for us. Of that $70 billion, $14 billion came from Quebec.

One thing of note that is troublesome and that I want to focus on is Dutch disease. A few years ago, PricewaterhouseCoopers reported that when the Canadian dollar appreciates by one cent, there is an immediate domino effect and the forestry industry loses $500 million. It is an export industry, which requires that it be competitive. Investing $70 billion in the oil industry is a blow to the forestry industry. The circumstances are different today and I hope that the government will take action.

I would quickly like to review the impact on the forestry sector of the two main downturns. The first downturn, which began in 2003 and ended in 2008, resulted in the loss of 11,329 forestry jobs in Quebec alone. From January 2009 to January 2012, 8,600 jobs were lost. The government of the day took no action. I remember that the Conservatives promised to provide loan guarantees for the forestry industry in 2005.

What is troublesome is that the U.S. strategy is to ensure that major forestry producers are worn down. When that happens, they end up signing a cheap agreement. I believe that this happened often. There has been no agreement since 2017. Thus, I believe that this is happening again. They want to wear down the forestry industry so it accepts a cheap agreement. In the meantime, the government is not taking action. It is not offering loan guarantees. Neither Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions nor Export Development Canada has brought forward a strategy for developing new markets. There is no investment in research and development. No, the government prefers to focus on the usual sectors, the oil and automotive industries.

To sum up, from 2005 to 2011, Quebec's forestry industry lost 30% of its workforce, going from 130,000 workers in 2005 to barely 99,000 in 2011. From 2004 to 2005 and from 2012 to 2013, there was a 38% drop in jobs in silviculture and in timber harvesting, which reduced job numbers to a little more than 10,000 in those areas. It is disastrous for Quebec and again the government did not learn from its mistakes. In the CUSMA negotiation, it preferred to deliver that famous speech about the fruit not being quite ripe enough. At some point, we are going to take matters into our own hands and harvest our own fruit. We will become our own country.

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6:15 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Madam Speaker, I have sat here and listened to the attack on other industries in this country, and it is just so wrong. I have heard this time and again from the Bloc Québécois. I am just not going to sit here and listen to it anymore. To attack the oil industry is absolutely wrong. I hope the member knows that with respect to equalization, over the last five years, $52 billion went to the Province of Quebec. Where did it come from? It came from higher wages in Alberta, oil in Newfoundland and Labrador, and fossil fuels in B.C. If those industries are healthy, we are all healthy.

I agree we need to do more for forestry, and we have done a lot for forestry over the years. There is the spruce budworm, the pine beetle and other things that need to be dealt with. We need to do that, but for heaven's sake, let us not try to make gains in one industry by attacking another in this House. We are all Canadians. We all need to be healthy with respect to the economy, and we need to do everything we can for all industries in this country so our economy can grow.