Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Huron—Bruce.
I am pleased to rise today to speak to the Canada–United Kingdom trade continuity agreement.
While I support this agreement for the purpose of guaranteeing Canadian producers access to a critical market, it is unquestionable that the strength of this agreement has been impacted significantly by the government's dithering during the process.
Throughout the Liberals' time in power, they have repeatedly shown their lack of competence on issues of international trade and in relations with key allies, and this is no exception. From the Prime Minister's well-documented screw-up of the trans-Pacific partnership to being largely left out of the renegotiation of NAFTA, it should come as no surprise that the government has managed to dither away yet another opportunity to form a permanent and lasting relationship with the now fully independent United Kingdom.
Since the Brexit vote almost five years ago, the government has had every opportunity to be a world leader in the effort to form permanent and close trade relations with the United Kingdom. As a member of the Commonwealth and a close ally, the U.K. should have been one of the government's top priorities since Brexit, along with the renegotiation of NAFTA.
Over the years, the government has had a horrendous track record of misleading Canadians about the economic impacts of its trade deals, hoping no one would check its work. This has created doubt within Canadian industry and especially within my community. This has been best exemplified by the government's promise that a Canada-United States-Mexico agreement would be a win for the Canadian auto industry.
The Liberals promised the people of Oshawa and other automotive manufacturing communities across the country before the 2019 election that the agreement would benefit the auto industry even more than NAFTA did. After months of stalling the release of Global Affairs Canada's economic impact study, we came to find out the Prime Minister willingly misled many in my community.
Page 61 of Global Affairs Canada's impact assessment of the CUSMA deal states:
...the economic model projects that Canada’s exports of motor vehicles to the United States would decline by US$1.5 billion relative to the current trade regime under NAFTA, and imports from the United States would decrease by US$1.2 billion. At the same time, automotive imports from non-North American countries could increase, resulting in a decline of the Canadian automobile production of 1.7%.
As well, an economic impact study of CUSMA by the C.D. Howe Institute released even before the government discovered that fact states that “Canada’s real GDP stands to shrink by -0.4 percent and economic welfare to fall by over US$10 billion.”
The government over-promised and under-delivered, to put it politely. Needless to say, this has given workers in my community every reason to doubt the sincerity of the government. When the Liberals say to trust them, that they are securing a good trade agreement and that we need not worry about accountability or transparency, and then come back with a significantly weakened trade agreement, workers in my community take that to mean the government's word means absolutely nothing. Why would they trust the Liberals?
It is obviously critically important we make sure our producers have access to our third-largest customer for Canadian goods, but the government has a tremendous knack for instilling a sense of fear instead of a sense of confidence in those directly affected by the government's actions. Not only has the government once again given people in my community anything but confidence, but the Prime Minister managed to simultaneously alienate one of our closest allies again.
In March 2019, after months of negotiations and reports of a deal close to being struck with the U.K., the government walked away from the negotiating table. While continuing to negotiate would have been preferred, even a short break would have been better than waiting over a year to re-engage with the U.K. By waiting so long, the government has now hamstrung our domestic producers with the uncertainty of not knowing what the future trade agreement will actually look like.
Under the previous Conservative government, Canadian producers had the certainty that their government would work with them and consult them. We proved this by signing trade deals with 51 countries while we were in government, while before the 2006 election, there were only five. Canadian producers and workers knew that when it came to accessing new international markets, their Conservative government was going to be there every step of the way, using the influence of a strong, powerful country like Canada to make sure they had every opportunity to grow and succeed.
In a competitive global economy, a government working to open new markets is critical to the competitive advantage of our private industry and critical for job creation right here at home. However, it seems as though the government has put Canada in a situation of taking two steps forward under the previous Conservative government just to take three steps back with the current Liberal government. Now we are here today debating an agreement that has had very limited consultation from stakeholders, which the government promised would never happen again after rushing the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement through the House.
Because the government chose to watch the clock tick instead of negotiating a deal for over a year, we are now in the position of debating an agreement that has very little industry and labour consultation and still does not provide the long-term certainty producers are looking for in the post-Brexit era.
However, let us be honest here: Consultation has never been the government's strong suit. Take the example of when the government first stepped away from the negotiating table in March of 2019. Even if the government tries to justify doing so, what cannot be justified is the complete bombshell it dropped on our producers here in Canada. In fact, following the pullout from negotiations, the Canadian Association of Importers and Exporters Inc. stated that it was not consulted whatsoever on the decision. How could a government be so incompetent and lazy as to not even think about consulting with such an important stakeholder?
Our producers expected their government to stop negotiating when a deal had been reached. Instead, without notice, they were blindsided with the government's sudden decision. Perhaps just as disturbing is the agreement's lack of a sunset clause. While the deal does provide a goal of reaching a new permanent agreement by the end of the year, how are Canadians supposed to trust the government when the Liberals have done nothing but repeatedly drop the ball over and over again on the issue of trade? Are they going to wait for over a year again to re-engage? Are we just supposed to accept that this is a new permanent trade agreement?
How are Canadians and our producers supposed to trust that the government will work on their behalf when it spent years insisting that the Canada-U.K. deal was getting done, only to step away from the table and come back a year later, when it was already too late? The government procrastinated and instead of achieving a head start, it dithered away all its time. Instead of debating a bill ringing in a new era between Canada and the United Kingdom, we are forced to debate a temporary agreement that just kicks the can way down the road. Our producers need access to markets, but they also need certainty. The deal provides the access, but again there is no certainty here.
Throwing another wrench into the entire process, the Prime Minister proved once again why the most important foreign leaders in the world and our key strategic allies have little respect for his abilities. In November, only a couple of months ago, he declared that the U.K. lacked “the bandwidth” to finalize the agreement, yet in the time between when his government stepped away from the negotiating table in March of 2019 and the time when the Prime Minister made this uneducated statement, the U.K. signed trade agreements with over a dozen countries, including one with Japan that was signed literally 17 days before the Prime Minister made that uneducated remark. It is another example of the Prime Minister alienating our trade allies. If he is not careful, he is going to have another world leader publicly criticizing him on how he acts when he is supposed to be representing our great country.
The former Australian prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, tore off this Prime Minister's mask of respectability when he criticized him for being “flaky” for humiliating other world leaders during the trans-Pacific partnership talks and being more focused on his colourful socks than on securing a trade deal. In fact, Turnbull said that the world leaders negotiating TPP were even ready to leave Canada out of the deal—