Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-68. I will talk a bit about the Canadian Pacific gateway council.
Canada, as has been mentioned by a lot of members in this House, is probably one of the most trade dependent nations in all the G-7 countries. Much of the prosperity depends upon trade. We all know that in the neighbourhood of 86% of our trade is presently with the United States.
However, the Government of Canada has long recognized that the Pacific gateway is strategically positioned as a gateway to North America. Not only the Prime Minister but all members in this House from all political parties realize that the trade that will be coming in place with China and our friends in India as well is very critical. They are known as the emerging Asian tigers.
I think there is agreement here that we need to, on all parts, diversify our trade. We have been blessed being right next door to the largest market, the United States, but there can be downturns for whatever reason. There have been economic downturns, historically, in the patterns of the economy. We need to ensure that we diversify into some of these emerging markets.
The fact that we probably have right now the largest number of people coming from China and India to Canada gives us a real leg up in that area. I am pleased that Bill C-68 will take a look at the Pacific gateway and ensure that we have the infrastructure in place.
I agree with my hon. friends that we need to look at some of the work that the B.C. government has done in taking a look at this issue. As has been mentioned, and I know friends from the Bloc Québécois feel the same way, the provinces have a very strong say in what happens in their trade policies. That is one of the reasons why Canada, in the past, has gone on trade missions and invited the premiers from all of the provinces to attend. We are fairly decentralized in terms of our federation and the provinces do need to have a say in exactly what is happening.
I am pleased that we are listening to our friends in B.C. and the B.C. government, and what they are looking at doing in expanding in that area. I know the previous speaker talked about that a little bit and was actually very helpful, in terms of understanding what the B.C. government is doing. That is one of the reasons these debates are helpful. My good friend to the left here who spoke a little bit earlier and my friend from Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca talked about some of the things happening in that area. So, I am particularly pleased that the government will attempt to look at these emerging markets, particularly with our friends in China.
The Government of Canada is fully developing the Pacific gateway. To do this most effectively, many interconnected issues need to be addressed. I think that is paramount. It is not just one solution. There need to be some interconnected issues, not only transportation infrastructure but building deeper links with Asia-Pacific and, as well, maintaining secure and efficient borders and labour market pressures. While we talk about some of the infrastructure, and particularly in this case the transportation infrastructure issues, there are also other issues.
Federal policies and investments in this area have achieved real results for Canada. However, we cannot rest on our laurels. We need to continue to have greater focus on the need of connecting them in the gateway context. These interconnections reach beyond transportation, and so must the consensus building. That is why I believe that the advisory process of future decisions is so very important.
We must recognize, as a federal government, that we do not have all of the answers to the solutions and that we need to look at the advisory process and get some good advice in the other areas.
I am glad members on all sides have talked about some of the things that the B.C. government is doing by sharing those ideas and repeating them in the House. Having them reinforced with the various ministers can only help in achieving our goal of helping everybody who is affected by this.
There are some who would say that it affects just one area of the country. I do not believe it does. Our trade affects all the country. When we do one thing that is good for a particular area, it benefits all of us in the spin-off jobs that come as a direct result of it.
Canada's Pacific Gateway council would be created through the legislation to advise on the decision making process on a full range of transportation and other issues. I am glad to see it in the legislation. I know governments of all political stripes attempt to consult, but I like the fact that the legislation deals with transportation and other impacts affecting Canada's great Pacific gateway.
The council would provide a dedicated forum for examining these interconnected issues in an integrated way. It is important, when we are having the debates and discussions, that they be in an integrated way. There is no sense moving ahead on one front if it needs to happen on perhaps one, two, three or four other fronts as well. By having the advisory process, it will help to ensure and to reinforce the things that need to happen and get a consensus on the priorities.
I think all members would agree that sometimes priorities have to be made not only in this area, but also in areas of health care, education and the spending. If we can build a consensus on the priorities, it will make it much easier for the government to make the decisions. Far too often in the political process we do not build the consensus on the priorities. We sometimes seem to manage from day to day. By doing the long range process, we can build a consensus on priorities and that can provide the advice to the government.
I know opposition members will say that the government does not listen in respects. I think on most occasions the government attempts to listen when there is a broad consensus on what it should do. Having been involved, I know the government attempts to look at all the good ideas coming forward from all members.
If we can set the priorities, if we can get a consensus on priorities, if we can stop some of the partisanship that happens as a result of this, then I think it will be helpful to the government. We probably could do that in building the consensus on the priorities.
The council would have a mandate to advise the decision makers on the full range of issues that impact on the effectiveness of the Pacific gateway and how well the Canadian economy can capitalize on those opportunities. It is not just setting up the infrastructure. We need to ensure that Canadian businesses across the country, small, medium and large, are able to capitalize on that.
We have been blessed in many respects. We have a lot of natural resources, wood, oil and minerals. However, our single biggest factor in making us successful is not the physical attributes with which we have been blessed. It also is the fact that we have the greatest people in the world. It is those people in the small, medium and large businesses who will capitalize on these opportunities.
Where they need help from the government is in the infrastructure. That is where we as parliamentarians can assist them. I have every confidence in the world that if the government can do the right thing in helping with the infrastructure and with some of the things we have talked about, then our small, medium and large business will be able to compete in this new marketplace.
It would be fair to say that they also need government assistance for the infrastructure. This is where I believe the government can take a very strong role. It is one of the reasons the Prime Minister and our party in the last election called for an increase in the infrastructure for municipalities. We believe we have a role to play.
I know some people on all sides who disagree with that. They have told the government to stay out of the jurisdiction of municipalities. In the vast majority of the cases, municipalities, certainly in my area and I think in all areas, welcome the infrastructure investment.
The council would consist of governor in council appointments with expertise in a number of areas. Those areas will be a cross-section. They include transportation, which we have talked about a great deal here today. They include international trade, which is extremely important. We need to ensure that we have the discussions on international trade. They also include labour, which also is extremely important.
As I said earlier, our people give us the great strength. The labour issues need to be addressed and talked about with the various labour unions. They are the producers of the great products that we are then able to ship out. Again, we have the best workers in the world, bar none, in virtually every industry.
The people in the area where I come from produce cars faster, better and cheaper than anywhere else in the world. It is not because of the infrastructure. It is because of the people. When I say that, I mean the Canadian concept. I know my friends, particularly from the Bloc, may not sometimes think of that. Canadians across the country compete with the Americans. There are producers not only in Ontario, but in Quebec. I say this for the aircraft manufacturing as well. We produce products faster, better and cheaper than anywhere else in the world with the great expertise of our people.