Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government is set to ratify a softwood lumber agreement that is simply bad for Canada.
After removing all the support from the lumber industry by eliminating the loan guarantee, the Conservative government is trying to force companies to accept this flawed deal.
I cannot in good conscience support a deal that relinquishes $1 billion to the American government and the American lumber industry, one that gives Canada's lumber companies an ultimatum to comply or be heavily taxed, one that sets a dangerous precedent that seriously undermines our rules based trading relationship with the United States. This agreement is simply not good enough for the Canadian lumber industry or Canadians.
The softwood lumber agreement is a prime example of the government's willingness to accept mediocre deals from the U.S. rather than stand up for Canadians. Since when did giving up $1 billion to the United States equate to a good deal for Canada? Since when did bullying Canadian companies to take this deal or face a 19% penalty tax equate to standing up for Canadians?
The fact is this deal leaves $500 million in the hands of the American lumber industry which it can use to attack the Canadian industry by undercutting our prices or by launching future lawsuits. This deal gives the American government roughly $450 million of the illegally imposed duties. This deal creates an export tax that is actually higher than the current U.S. duty. This deal has anti-surge provisions which will deprive the Canadian industry of the flexibility to deal with unexpected situations like the pine beetle infestations. This deal abandons each of our legal victories under the rules of international trade in exchange for only 24 months of peace.
The fact is this deal is a bad deal for the Canadian lumber industry as it sells out Canadian interests for political expediency and the Conservative election checklist.
I want the House, the lumber industry and all other industries in Canada to take a look at the larger picture that is at stake here. This Conservative softwood lumber agreement sets a dangerous legal precedent.
By ratifying this agreement the Conservative government sacrifices Canada's credibility and the credibility of the dispute resolution provisions of NAFTA.
By ratifying this agreement the Conservative government is encouraging other U.S. sectors to ignore trade rules and instead seek political decisions that will act in their favour.
By ratifying this agreement the Conservative government will create more trade uncertainty which seriously undermines Canada's international position in the export market and inhibits investment in our forestry sector.
By ratifying this agreement the Conservative government is saying that it is okay to force a 19% penalty tax on companies that are unwilling to sign on to this agreement.
By ratifying this agreement the Conservative government is saying to Canadian industries that they must accept this deal or the government will abandon them.
This deal carries with it the potential to establish Canada's long term trading relationship with the United States. Do we want that relationship to be based on selling out Canadian companies and accepting less than 100% refunds or should the Canadian government establish a relationship that sends out a clear message, a message that says the Canadian government will fight for the rights of our companies.
Sadly this deal says to Canadians that losing $1 billion to the American government and the lumber industry is okay. That is not good enough for me. I stand here to fight for a better deal for Canada's lumber industry, a deal that does not bully companies into a flawed agreement.
Canadian companies have the legal right to the full repayment of the illegally imposed import duties and the right to opt out of the Conservative softwood lumber agreement.
Forestry companies should be able to pursue their legal rights, both under NAFTA and in our domestic courts. The government should be there to support these companies, not dictate to them.
The government should immediately make loan guarantees available to these companies so as to provide them with the credit worthiness that they will need to enable them to reclaim the money owed to them. From the onset, Conservative the softwood lumber agreement has been more about politics than what is best for Canada and our producers.
The government owes it to Canadians to achieve nothing less than what it promised: free trade and 100% refund. The Liberal Party has long been a staunch supporter of the lumber industry. We are steadfast in our commitment to a resolution of the softwood dispute that is based on the rule of law in international trade and one that seeks full compensation of the $5 billion in illegal lumber duties.
We call for the American government to fulfill its NAFTA commitments so as to lawfully resolve this dispute and set a clear precedent that Canada stands behind our industries.
The Liberal Party believes in a long term solution to the softwood lumber dispute. This is why we have developed and proposed a supplementary aid package that better meets the needs of the industry. This package is modelled on the very same package that was introduced by the former Liberal industry minister, David Emerson. This industry--