Madam Speaker, it is always a pleasure to address the House of Commons either on the floor or virtually.
I want to pick up on something the member said in one of his answers. He said that free trade was not a strong suit of this party or this government. The member needs a strong reality check. I would challenge that member to indicate another prime minister who has signed off on more trade agreements with countries than the current Prime Minister. The Prime Minister and the government has signed off on more agreements than Stephen Harper did, and any other prime minister, from what I can recall.
Members of the Conservative Party talk about the importance of trade and try to give that false impression that theirs is the party that negotiates and is capable of getting trade agreements when history does not necessarily reflect that.
The Liberal Party has always recognized the importance of international trade. Trade does matter. It means good, solid middle-class jobs for Canadians. We will continue to look at ways to build that relationship between Canada and other countries around the world in order to continue to strengthen Canada's economy and our middle class. It has been about that virtually since day one.
When we took government in 2015, initiatives that might have been started by the Conservative government were picked up and carried over the goal line. It is all about trying to recognize how important and valuable it is to have policies directed at Canada's middle class and those aspiring to be a part of it, whether it is budget actions, legislative actions or agreements such as the debate we are having today on Bill C-18.
When we talk about trade, I like to try to put it in a way that most people can relate to. I am very proud of one of the industries in the province of Manitoba, the pork industry. It is symbolic and embodies so many reasons why it is important the government pursue international trade.
Manitoba's pork industry would not be what it is today, by a long shot, without trade. If I were to guess, 90% of it would disappear if we did not have trade, whether within Canada or internationally. Manitoba has a population of 1.3 million people. At any point in time, we have double that number of hogs in our province. We are not consuming them. Those hogs are up for trade. We sell them.
The community of Neepawa in rural Manitoba is thriving today, in good part, because of the hog industry. HyLife is a healthy, growing company today because of international exports. Over 90% of what is being processed there is being exported.
Let us think of the ramifications of that. Each one of those hundreds of employees working out of Neepawa now require a place to live, a place to do their grocery shopping. They have vehicles. There are indirect spinoff jobs, not to mention the hundreds of jobs that are there today because of that.
That is just one aspect of the pork industry in the province of Manitoba.
We could go to Burns Meats in Brandon. My colleague from Brandon would be tell us how that plant adds so much value to Brandon's economy and society as a whole. That industry processes over 10,000 hogs every day, which is one number I heard, and this is somewhat dated. There are well over 1,000 jobs, good rural Manitoba jobs. We could go to the city of Winnipeg and see the same industry. I think Burns there employs over 1,500 people. The best pork in the world comes from the province of Manitoba.
Let us think about the farming communities and the impact that has for our farmers, not to mention the others who feed into our farms, to have those hogs produced.
When we think of trade, we can quickly understand the value of that trade when we look at an example of an industry.
I just finished talking glowingly about the hog industry. I could go on forever talking about Manitoba's bus manufacturing industry or other manufacturing industries, in the City of Winnipeg in particular. We might have one of the largest bus manufacturers located in the city of Winnipeg, which exports all over the place. Again, it is providing those valuable jobs
The government and the Prime Minister understand the value of those jobs. That is why a mandate has come from the Prime Minister to pursue these agreements. Even though the Conservatives did not sign off on CETA, they like to take credit for it. The Conservatives might have started it, but they did not sign off on it.
I remember Deputy Prime Minister travelling to Europe. People were saying that the deal was on the rocks, that it looked like was falling off the tracks. It was not because of Canada. All sorts of things were happening in Europe. It took a concentrated effort by this government in particular and today's Deputy Prime Minister, the minister of trade back then, to put it back on track. On behalf of Canadians, they were able to get it across the goal line so we would have that CETA agreement. Hundreds of millions of additional dollars have been realized through trade, generated in part because of that agreement.
That is not the only agreement we have had to deal with in a very short period of time. We could talk about Asia or our neighbours to the south, whether it is Mexico or the United States. The United States is our biggest trading partner. We need to trade. I would remind my neighbours in the south that many of their states' exports come to Canada. Both countries benefit.
It is absolutely critical that Canada has trading relations with countries around the world. In fact, Canada is probably further ahead on trade agreements than any other G20 country. In good part it is because of the mandate Canadians gave the Liberal government five years ago. The driving force has been that we want to build Canada's middle class and those aspiring to become a part of the middle class. One of the ways we do that is by looking beyond our borders.
Let us think about the last year and the economic cost and impact the coronavirus has had on our country. It has been devastating. As a government, we have done whatever we can to support businesses, whether with the wage subsidy program or the rent assistance program or helping Canadians directly through the CERB program. Why are we doing this? In part, because we recognize how important it is for small and medium-sized businesses so that once we have fully dealt with this, we will be up and running.
It is a lot easier for us to recover in a better way if we have fewer bankruptcies and have more companies that did not have to lay off employees because of the pandemic. We want the population, as a whole, to have a larger disposable income as a direct result of not being able to work in order to protect and keep our society safer or because of demands for their services or products.
As much as the government was there for Canadians and continues to be there for them during this pandemic to ensure we minimize the negative damages of the coronavirus, we are also there to ensure we continue to grow. This means Bill C-18, the agreement with the U.K.
When the U.K. decided to leave the European Union, we had a responsibility and we took that responsibility very seriously. That is the reason we have this legislation right now. We want to ensure that a trading partner we have valued for over a century will always have a strong, healthy relationship with Canada. In good part, this legislation is all about that. At the end of the day, Canadian companies, businesses and Canadians as a whole, in all regions of our country, will be better served by the passage of the legislation.
I want to remind my Conservative friends of something. Other countries have acknowledged that we have some incredible civil servants on the trade file. One of the reasons for that is we have been so successful at negotiating agreements and working on these types of deals for a long time now.
The bureaucrats and civil servants are diligently putting in the effort to ensure our ministers and government as a whole, parliamentarians and politicians, have details we can go into the deals with, negotiate and try to bargain back and forth.
We listen to New Democrats and to the Bloc also. When I listen to the Bloc members speak, everything is what about this or that, or we did not get this or that. What do people think a negotiation is all about? For the NDP and the Bloc, they need a better appreciation for the fact that when we hit an agreement, it means there have been give and take.
The NDP traditionally does not support trade agreements. When I posed a question, a member mentioned “goldfish” memory and said that the NDP had supported CUSMA. However, the New Democrats did not support previous trade agreements with the U.S. and Mexico, but they were shamed into supporting this one.
Let us look at the number of trade agreements with the dozens of countries on which the New Democrats voted. They will say that it is because we did not get this or that, and they will have their list of things we did not get.
When we sit down and negotiate, we cannot expect to have everything. It is not like we ask for everything we want, put it on the table and then walk away and ask to be told when it is agreed to. It does not work that way.
When my New Democrat friends told me, as they did earlier today, that they are not supporting this legislation, I was not surprised. I was a little disappointed, but not surprised. I want to challenge the New Democrat members of the House of Commons to really think through the issue of trade. Earlier, I commented on why trade is so critically important to us as a nation. If members agree in principle with trade, I would suggest that the NDP members need to be more open-minded, and if they are not prepared to be more open-minded on it, then we could question how consistent they are with regard to the ethics of it.
They say that because of human rights not being protected in a trade agreement, we should not sign off on that trade agreement. We have had this discussion in the past. There are human rights issues in other nations with whom we have a considerable amount of trade. I do not see the NDP saying that we should stop all trade with China, though we have issues with China. I think that the NDP members do need to look at ways they can support progressive agreements. That is what this is, a progressive agreement, and they will have other opportunities to do so.
Members say that in this debate today, we do not have enough time or that there was not enough consultation. They should remember what the bill itself says. It is Bill C-18, an act to implement the Agreement on Trade Continuity between Canada and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. That is actually what the bill says. It is not a permanent agreement. In fact, within a year after royal assent, from what i understand, we will be meeting our partners across the ocean, having ongoing dialogue and looking at ways we could even improve upon this agreement.
There is the opportunity for members to make speeches, now or into the future, or to write letters when they have opposition days. There are many opposition days coming up. They should have one of their opposition days about the content of trade agreements. They can say that they would like to see X, Y or Z as a part of a trade agreement and discuss that as part of an opposition day motion. There are all sorts of ways that members on all sides of the House, even members of the government, can do that. Many of my Liberal colleagues have continuing discussions with ministers or within caucus about issues that are important, including the issue of trade. I must say that the issue of the coronavirus is dominating these discussions, as it should, but there are many different avenues for people to have direct input on trade agreements.
I want to focus some thoughts on my friends in the Bloc. I have said in the past that I, for one, am a very proud Canadian. I think that we live in the best country in the world. All of our regions that make up our great nation are so critically important to how we evolve as a nation. For instance, I care about the aerospace industry in Quebec and the forestry industry. There are some things that we have in common, such as hydro as green energy—