Madam Speaker, it is my privilege and honour to rise today to speak to this bill on free trade between Canada and the Ukraine.
I represent the riding of Calgary Centre, but a lot of people know that I grew up in small towns around Edmonton, Alberta. When someone grows up in and around a bread basket of Canada like Edmonton, Saskatchewan, as they do in so many parts of the Prairies, they become intertwined with the Ukrainian communities. I think of so many friends and hockey teams from when I was young, Harvey Chewinski, the Boychuks and all the families we were intertwined with.
This was the result of the wave of Ukrainian immigration that came into Canada after the Holodomor, which is a horrific episode in history, a genocide of the Ukrainian people. We have built our lives together with those of the Ukrainian immigrants who came at that time, and it is a wonderful blending of cultures. We know these people, and we love these people. We will continue to support these people in any way we can going forward.
I am also a Conservative, and everybody knows that. Part of the bedrock of what I believe is the openness of free trade around the world, free and fair trade. Conservatives started free trade in Canada back in the Mulroney years. In the 1988 election, we fought for free trade with the United States. Other parties opposed that then, but it carried. The parties that opposed it are now are jumping on board and saying what a great thing free trade is. I remember pushing Canadians over the line because of the negative talk from the opposition parties, both the NDP and the Liberals, who were staking our country's future on not having free trade. I am glad they have come on board, and they have helped expand free trade into other countries, including Ukraine.
The Ukraine free trade agreement was implemented by the last Conservative government, again expanding on that free trade, which we require across the country and across the world so we can continue to advance economic progress and our values, our values of freedom and democracy. Let us think about how that took root in Ukraine. We supported Ukraine. The Conservative government recognized Ukraine as a country at the time. It was one of the first to recognize Ukraine as a country. There was that bedrock of our blending with the Ukrainian people because of our common threads that bind us. This is something that we continue to build upon today.
This is a great debate. I am glad we are actually having this debate on this free trade agreement and that we can talk about the importance to Ukraine and the importance to Canada. This is an important free trade agreement, as was the one that was just recently negotiated and came into effect in 2017. It was less than six years ago that we started having open free trade with Ukraine.
What happened since then, of course, close to two years ago, was that Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine. We recognized then what his goal was, and it was to submerge the Ukrainian people. He does not believe they are a separate people, a separate country or a separate entity where the people get to decide, in a democracy, how they rule themselves. We stand for them doing that. We stand for that here in Canada. We stand for that around the world. Democracy is something we need to uphold, and we will uphold it anywhere we can.
My party and, I hope, all parties in the House agree that this is a bedrock of democracy. We continue to support democracies around the world. We continue to strongly support the people of Ukraine in their struggle against an oppressor, on their border and inside their border, which is killing people on a daily basis. These people are putting their lives on the line to maintain what we have built together. We support them every step of the way, every day.
I remember when the invasion first happened. I asked the Minister of Energy and Natural Resources a question about whether he would stop the oil trade between Canada and Russia because it was a transfer of about $5 million per day from Canada to import Russian oil. At that point in time, the minister stood up and said that we do not import any crude from Russia. The minister did not then understand the difference between crude and oil.
We did import about five million dollars' worth per day of partially refined oil from Russia to Canada to supply our needs on the eastern coast. We are a country that imports energy in the east and exports it in the west. This is a bit of a travesty because we were funding $5 million per day to Russia's war machine, so it could take away the sovereignty of a democratic country.
This was an issue we had to get ahead of very quickly. Eventually, the minister, in about a week, figured out I was right. We do have trade with Russia on oil, and we do need to do something about it. Of course, within the next month, they looked around and figured it out. It was incompetence. I accept that not everybody is going to be on top of every file.
It was brought to the attention of the government what it should do about trade with Russia while it was subsuming, or attempting to subsume, one of the best and emergent democracies in Europe. We needed to act quickly, and I deplore the government for not acting as quickly as it should have. I implore it to act more quickly in getting Ukraine its needs as soon as possible, particularly in this existential fight it has with an authoritarian regime right on its borders.
We gave support. Let us think about where Conservatives are on this. Conservatives have supported free trade everywhere in the world. Everywhere there is free and fair trade, we have negotiated great agreements all along the way. We have one here we have to look at. Of course, like with everything, the devil is in the details. We are going to go through it. We are looking forward to looking into the details of this and getting input from so many people at the international trade committee when we examine it there.
I think about the other support we have given Ukraine. Under the Harper government, we helped it build its military. We brought a bunch of expertise. Effectively, its ability to defend itself is largely dependent on the fact that Canada stepped up at a time when danger was not on the horizon. Ukraine needed our help to build the infrastructure and security, which has sustained it, and it has helped ensure it does not just become subsumed by a much larger entity, Vladimir Putin's Russia, as it has been historically. It is called the “bloodlands” for a reason. A lot of conflict has happened there over the centuries.
We talk about all the things we could be doing with Ukraine if the government were to look at what trade means to this country. We do not have liquefied natural gas going to Europe. Why not? It is because we have had our head in the sand about the number one way we can contribute to fixing global warming around the world, and that is to get so many countries off of coal.
Who has stepped up? Vladimir Putin's Russia has. It exports natural gas everywhere it can. It has pipelines into Europe. It has pipelines through Ukraine going to Europe. It actually has pipelines of natural gas supplying the people it is fighting against. We stand against this. We think there should be the availability of resources from a democracy such as Canada to supply Europe with the energy it requires now.
I want everybody to know that, when conflict happens, such as a war in Russia and Ukraine, resources are everything. If someone does not have the resources to fund their democracy, they will have to eventually capitulate. We need to continue to supply those resources and think about what we can do here, think about how we can displace the Russian oppressors here. We could actually replace its natural gas with Canadian liquefied natural gas.
We can replace its fertilizer. They are the number one and two exporters of fertilizer around the world. Canada is the swing producer, and we could get a whole bunch of fertilizer, potash, offshore to displace Belarus and Russia, which are funding a war machine that is challenging the existence of Ukraine. Those would be important trade mechanisms to take here. International commerce has to proceed.
I remember very well the CUAET program. At the beginning of the war, the government developed the CUAET program, which is the Canada-Ukraine immigration program, where we allow them to come to Canada and potentially move back. It is a temporary program for Ukrainians to come and be safe here in this country.
Many of them came through Calgary Centre. My office helped so many of those people. I am proud. I meet with those people often, and it is another great testament to how our two countries work together, hand in hand, in advancing common goals, common objectives and common culture. Let us see how this free trade agreement melds into that.