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Conservative MP for Abbotsford (B.C.)
Won his last election, in 2015, with 48% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Food and Drugs Act June 15th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, yes, we do need to have a border service that is able to process the billions of dollars of trade that travels across our borders from other countries around the world. However, it is important to note that the trade facilitation agreement that we are debating in this House today actually would apply mostly to countries that do not have an already high standard of customs processes of trade facilitation within their own jurisdictions.
When we look at this agreement, virtually everything that is outlined in this trade facilitation agreement as being required of the partner countries to implement, we have already implemented. In fact, we have implemented them many years ago.
We do not expect that this agreement would impose any substantive additional burdens upon our border officials who have to ensure not only that excise duties are paid but also that smugglers are not using the borders for illicit gain. We understand the work that the the border officials do is absolutely critical to keeping our borders safe and ensuring trade happens in a legal manner.
Food and Drugs Act June 15th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, I am glad to answer that question.
The trans-Pacific partnership, of course, involves some highly developed countries, like Japan, Canada, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand, that have very high standards not only when it comes to non-tariff barriers and disciplining non-tariff barriers but also have high standards when it comes to things such as intellectual property.
One of the biggest challenges Canadian companies have around the world is doing business in places like China and Vietnam where those standards are not robust. Canadian businesses lose value. The TPP actually raises those standards for everybody within that partnership.
The same thing is true for labour and environmental standards. There are separate chapters for each of those that would impose upon the parties much higher standards than many of them have been accustomed to actually applying within their own jurisdictions.
This is a huge opportunity for Canada to carve out preferred market access within the Asia-Pacific region. That is a region that is difficult to do business within because often it is a very opaque trading environment where we do not always know exactly what the rules are or how they are going to be applied.
The TPP actually sets out very strong disciplines on how behind the border issues, such as standards, regulations, and rules are applied in a manner that actually facilitate trade rather than hinder it.
Food and Drugs Act June 15th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to build on the comments of my colleague from Battlefords—Lloydminster. In his speech, he mentioned some of our remarkable trade negotiators. He mentioned Kirsten Hillman, who spearheaded our TPP negotiations, and Steve Verheul, who spearheaded our negotiations with the European Union.
There are others and I do not want to leave out. For example, Marvin Hildebrand negotiated our trade agreement with the Ukraine and our updated agreement with Israel. Ian Burney did that monumental trade agreement with South Korea and J.B. Leblanc was responsible for negotiating a number of trade deals within Central America and South America. All of these trade deals are driving prosperity and job creation within Canada.
Let us get back to Bill C-13. Those who are viewing across Canada may not understand what we are talking about when we talk about TFA, trade facilitation agreements, when we talk about the Bali package. We need to go back 30 years when there was a large number of like-minded countries around the world that realized there were no common sets of rules around the world to govern trade. As countries traded with each other, tariffs could be increased or reduced, protectionist measures could be enacted day upon day, and it made trade very unpredictable.
Back in 1986, negotiations started under what was called the Uruguay round and then in 1994-95, an agreement was finally reached, in which tariffs were eliminated or, in many cases, reduced. It also addressed some of the behind the borders challenges to trade. That was called the Uruguay round. That culminated into the creation of the World Trade Organization. Today, I believe there are 162 or 163 members in the World Trade Organization.
It was under this WTO that a second round of trade negotiations started back in 2001. Think about it. That was 15 years ago. Very little progress had been made over those years and I will get to the reasons for that in a moment.
Countries at least were able to get together and put together a small package under the Doha round, which we now call the Bali package. This was an outcome that included trade facilitation, which, in other words, improved customs processes and the ability to export and import products more efficiently.
There was a second piece to that, which involved food security for developing countries, things such as the public stockholding of food, and also addressed export competition. Certainly, there was financial support agreed to for the least developed countries, to help them actually take advantage of trade opportunities around the world.
During the Bali package negotiations, I was in Bali, Indonesia and at that time there were 157 countries. It was hard fought because there were so many different competing interests trying to come to a consensus. We finally came to a consensus on these three smaller packages, which we bound up in a ribbon called the Bali package.
We took it home and then, suddenly, we heard that India had a change of government. Prime Minister Modi was now in charge. He said he did not like the agreement and wanted to renegotiate it. That is an indicator of how difficult it is today to reach consensus within the World Trade Organization.
Fortunately, negotiations among India, the U.S., and some other partners were finally able to resolve that impasse and today, we are here in the chamber implementing one part of the Bali package, which is the trade facilitation agreement.
I want to be very clear that we in the Conservative Party strongly support this legislation. We strongly support trade facilitation because it would allow us not only to improve our own trade opportunities around the world but also give a hand up to other countries, in most cases the poorest countries in the world, to start to think about trade as a way of improving their own prosperity and raising up more people into the middle class.
The trade facilitation agreement is actually the first multilateral trade agreement to be concluded since the WTO was established over 20 years ago. It would likely eliminate up to 14% of the trade barriers and the costs related to those trade barriers around the world.
The biggest beneficiaries of this trade facilitation agreement are actually the poorest countries in the world. Of course, they cannot do that without receiving support from the developed countries, countries like Canada. We have agreed to support them. We are streamlining the flow of trade across borders.
The agreement sets forth a series of measures for expeditiously moving goods across borders based on best practices from around the world. Most of those best practices come from the developed nations, like Canada. It will also simplify customs procedures, reduce red tape, expedite the release and clearance of goods, reduce costs associated with border processing, and make international trade more predictable. As I mentioned, it will also establish a program to financially assist the poorest of the WTO members to actually take advantage of trade.
The reality is that the WTO has struggled to make meaningful progress and eliminate additional tariff and non-tariff barriers. The Doha round was started 15 years ago, and we have the Bali package, which is actually relatively small compared to the aspirations of the Doha round.
Many people have asked me what has made the WTO somewhat sclerotic, in other words comatose, in achieving the kinds of trade goals and trade ambitions that we as Canadians have for the world.
It is all about the emerging economies. Countries like India, which I already mentioned, Brazil, China, Russia, and South Africa, the BRICS countries that are flexing their muscles, realizing they have some economic clout within the global marketplace, and are exercising that clout, often preventing consensus from occurring at the WTO.
That is why it is so difficult to get this Doha round completed, to make meaningful progress in eliminating tariff and non-tariff barriers around the world.
What has Canada done? In the absence of a robust trade agenda at the WTO, we are doing bilateral agreements, trade agreements with countries like South Korea and Ukraine. We have negotiated trade agreements with countries like Jordan. Of course, the largest agreement of its kind is our free trade agreement with the 28 countries of the European Union.
This is an economy of some 500 million consumers with whom Canada will now have preferred access. The same thing is true for the trans-Pacific partnership. I am quite disappointed that the Liberal government does not seem to understand the importance of being a leader, showing leadership in moving forward with ratifying this very important agreement.
This agreement, the TPP, actually involves 12 countries that want to raise the ambition for trade, have high level rules for trade within the Asia-Pacific region. We are talking about partners like Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, but also other partners that are less developed, like Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Peru, and Chile, all countries that want to work together to eliminate trade barriers, to drive prosperity in our own countries.
Our previous Conservative government really worked hard to embark upon the most ambitious trade agenda Canada had ever seen. Over a 10-year period, we were able to negotiate free trade agreements with 46 different countries, bringing to 51 the total number of countries with which Canada has trade agreements.
I am issuing a challenge to the Liberal government that has yet to show a sustained interest in trade. In the previous 13 years, under the Chrétien and Martin governments, very little was accomplished, just three small trade agreements. It left Canada far behind in the global marketplace, in the global trading world.
We need to be ahead of the curve, otherwise we lose out. Our Canadian businesses lose out because they do not have preferred market access that other countries have.
This is my message to the Liberal government. Take trade seriously, as perhaps the most significant driver of prosperity our country has available. It is a key tool. Then get us to the next level, improving standards of living within Canada, providing consumers with the kind of value that they look for when they are buying goods, providing our businesses the kind of preferred access they need to expand their opportunities around the world.
Again, we strongly support this trade facilitation agreement and encourage everyone in this House to vote in favour of it.
Food and Drugs Act June 15th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my good friend on his speech and his support for the TFA, but as he knows, this was a hard-fought agreement, one which had emerging economies up against some of the developed economies. It took a lot of hard work to finally arrive at a consensus post-Bali.
I wonder if the member could comment on the state of the World Trade Organization. There are many who believe that the organization is moribund and I would appreciate hearing his comments about the WTO.
Business of Supply June 14th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question from my very respected colleague here in this House.
I am glad he raised the issue of non-tariff barriers because a lot of Canadians understand that trade agreements can be about eliminating tariffs or duties. In fact, they go far beyond that. Most of the value today in trade agreements is actually getting rid of those standards, regulations, and rules behind the borders that are not being applied to protect health and safety, but are being applied to prevent free trade. The member is absolutely right.
Government needs to get out of the way of business people who are trying to trade with each other. That is how we drive economic growth. That is how we drive economic prosperity for our country.
Business of Supply June 14th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, that is a very good question. I appreciate the member's question.
I have two answers to that.
One, as former minister of international trade over four and a half years I was busy engaging in the most ambitious and active trade agenda our country had ever seen. Members should remember that we did trade agreements with 46 different countries around the world, something that the previous Liberal government had never gotten done.
The second answer is that the Comeau case was not decided until after we left government. Until the Comeau case was decided by a lower court, it was generally accepted that the constitutional law in Canada allowed provinces to interfere to a certain degree in international trade and to put up barriers for different reasons. Those included regulatory reasons, safety and health reasons, and also reasons that actually were simply protectionist in nature. The Comeau case was decided post-election. A court actually established that there is truly a constitutional right to free trade.
We welcome the Liberal government's intervention in that case, because it is critically important for Canada and would open up a whole new opportunity for economic growth within our country.
Business of Supply June 14th, 2016
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to engage in this debate. I will be splitting my time with the member for Mégantic—L'Érable.
Yes, the motion before this House is about freeing beer, but it is far more than that. It is about determining whether in fact Canada truly has free trade, not with other countries; we have a lot of that already, but do we truly have free trade within our country, among our provinces and territories?
We are a trading nation. We trade all over the world. I remember way back to the 1980s when Canada signed that monumental agreement called the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement, which eventually morphed into the North American Free Trade Agreement. That was a defining trade agreement for the world.
For the first time ever, a comprehensive trade agreement was signed where two, and later three, countries—Canada, the United States, and then Mexico—agreed that the North American production platform would be one in which we have highly integrated supply chains and where we trade across our boundaries without the barriers of tariffs. Why do we do that? It is because it makes our nation, Canada, more competitive.
The same thing is true when we talk about internal trade. The more we can remove barriers to trade within our own country, the more productive, the more competitive we become, the greater the value to consumers, the greater the value to businesses, as they have expanded markets within their own country.
We saw a great example of this when three provinces, British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan, had the vision to say that they wanted free trade among their three provinces. They tried to bring Manitoba onside, but Manitoba at the time had an NDP government, which was not in favour of trade at all, so they established what they called the New West Partnership, British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan. For the first time ever in Canadian history, they were able to remove many of the barriers to trade, to the trade of goods and services, to the mobility of people across our provincial boundaries. They have achieved significant improvement in their competitiveness, because when we are competitive within Canada, we also become that much more competitive within the global marketplace.
The previous Conservative government, of course, was very active in negotiating trade agreements all around the world. After the North American Free Trade Agreement came into force, we had 13 years of darkness under the previous Liberal government under Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin, when they were only able to negotiate three very small trade agreements.
When we were elected in 2006, our Conservative government said it had a lot of catching up to do, and in the intervening 10 years, we were able to negotiate free trade agreements not with three, six, or 10 countries, but with an amazing 46 countries around the world.
We expanded our global and commercial reach to markets that had been closed to us for so many years, and the same thing is true when we do this in Canada. We need to eliminate the barriers that reduce our competitiveness, that reduce our ability to improve our standard of living. It is right for Canadian businesses to ask why they cannot do business within Canada freely when they can trade with countries all around the world.
The irony is that countries from around the world can do business with individual provinces more easily than businesses in Canada can do business with individual provinces and territories. Who gets hurt? Canadians, consumers, small and medium-sized businesses, and taxpayers writ large get hurt, because of the loss of potential tax revenues that can sustain our great standard of living within Canada.
The barrier we have within Canada among our provinces and territories is protectionism, really, at its very worst. It is freer and more open trade that represents the pathway to secure a strong and prosperous economy going forward within Canada.
Canada has been an outspoken proponent, a champion of free trade on the international stage. The economic freedom index, which the Heritage Foundation puts out on a regular basis, ranks countries in terms of their openness to trade.
Do members know where Canada fits in? It is number six out of 166 countries. We do very well when it comes to openness to trade with countries around the world, but when we look within Canada, it is quite a different picture.
We have set these barriers where regions of the country and individual provinces and territories try to protect their own businesses and do not recognize that the ability of their businesses to actually expand and thrive is based on more competition and freer and more open trade.
Another thing that barriers to trade do in our federation is that they undermine the strength of our federation. Here we are as a country, trying to improve Canada's economic performance, trying to improve our trade performance, trying to improve growth in GDP, trying to nurture our small and medium-sized businesses, and the best thing we can do is to get out of their way and let them do business in an unimpeded way.
That is what we are looking forward to doing. This motion, if I might quote it, just so that listeners and viewers across the country understand what we are debating here in this House, says:
That the House: (a) recognize that it is a constitutional right for Canadians to trade with Canadians; (b) re-affirm that the Fathers of Confederation expressed this constitutional right in Section 121 of the Constitution Act, 1867 which reads: "All Articles of the Growth, Produce, or Manufacture of any one of the Provinces shall, from and after the Union, be admitted free into each of the other Provinces”; (c) recognize that the recent Comeau decision in New Brunswick creates a unique opportunity to seek constitutional clarity on Section 121....
Over the years, section 121 has been interpreted by our courts as actually constraining free and more open trade across Canada. We now have an opportunity with the Comeau case to have the Liberal government show leadership and step into this litigation, have it referred to the Supreme Court of Canada, and let the Supreme Court of Canada determine whether we are actually allowed to have free trade within the country.
The motion also asks for there to be constitutional clarity on the matter of the relationship between the provinces and the federal government, and their ability to trade amongst each other.
I mentioned the New West Partnership earlier, simply because this is already being done. The provinces have voluntarily gotten together and said that freer and more open trade amongst them is beneficial to the people they serve and to the people who elect them. They have moved forward with that and have achieved significant improvement in their competitiveness.
Moving forward, what we are asking the Liberal government to do is to take a leadership role in this. It is negotiating an agreement on internal trade with the provinces. I get collaboration. We are looking forward to co-operative federalism between the new government and the provinces and territories.
It is very difficult to negotiate an agreement for fewer barriers to trade when we do not know the constitutional framework within which we are negotiating. It is absolutely critical that the Liberal government step up to the plate, show the leadership that is required, engage as an intervenor in this litigation, and make the case that Canada is a country that is built on trade, not only with the rest of the world but amongst the provinces.
Our government started this work with the Agreement on Internal Trade, but having the proper constitutional framework within which that discussion takes place is going to be very helpful as the Liberal government tries to get this right. We have an opportunity to get this right, but it is going to require the leadership that allows us to be an intervenor in this court case, the Comeau case.
I look forward to questions from my colleagues.
Business of Supply June 14th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, like my Conservative colleague before me, I question the relevance of the speech we just heard. We heard a lot about innovation. We heard a lot about collaboration with the provinces. However, we did not hear anything about the Supreme Court case, the Comeau case, which I believe could be the defining case when it comes to determining whether we truly have free trade within Canada.
The Comeau case is the perfect case to refer to the Supreme Court of Canada, so that, once and for all, Canadians can understand whether we will be able to buy and sell products across provincial and territorial boundaries free of interference from the provinces and territories. Obviously we do not want to tread on provincial and territorial jurisdiction, but this is something that the Supreme Court is perfectly positioned to determine.
I want to bring the discussion back to what the speech should have addressed, and that is the Supreme Court case. I would ask the member for Hull—Aylmer why the Liberal government will not refer this matter to the Supreme Court of Canada to ensure that as the new agreement on internal trade is negotiated it is actually in compliance with Canada's constitutional law.
Mr. Speaker, I am grateful to my colleague on the environment committee for bringing forward this initiative. I think he would admit that this legislation builds on our previous Conservative government's actions to control mercury within our environment in Canada.
A lot of Canadians do not realize that Canada does not mine mercury. Canada is arguably the richest country in the world when it comes to natural resources, but mining mercury is not one of those activities. Ninety-five per cent of all the mercury deposited in Canada comes from foreign sources, which is why our former Conservative government was active in negotiating the Minamata Convention on Mercury, an international convention that essentially calls for tough measures to reduce mercury emissions. That was in 2013.
In November 2014, we followed that up with the products containing mercury regulations, which essentially prohibit the broad import and manufacture of products containing mercury, with limited exemptions. These regulations are expected to reduce by somewhere in the order of 21 tonnes the mercury that will be emitted into our environment between 2015 and 2032.
I appreciate the member's effort to build upon our previous government's work. This is important. The work we do at committee is not only about the environment but about sustainability, the long-term balancing of the environment with our economic objectives. We want to make sure that, as the Liberal government has said so often and as we used to say, the environment and the economy have to go hand in hand.
Some of the measures we are undertaking at the environment committee include a study, which we have now completed, on the Federal Sustainable Development Act. We are undertaking right now a study on conservation, which includes parkland and marine conservation areas. We are also undertaking a review of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. All of these serve Canada's interests to make sure that, as we move forward, we continue to make our environment safer, cleaner, and healthier for Canadians to live in.
Bill C-238, a national strategy for the safe disposal of lamps containing mercury, contains three elements. The first would establish national standards for the safe disposal of mercury-containing lamps. The second would establish guidelines regarding facilities for safe disposal of these lamps. The third would create a plan to promote public awareness of the importance of safe disposal of these kinds of lamps. Right now these lamps end up in our landfills, and the mercury leaches into our soil and our water sources. Virtually all Canadians would agree that is something we do not want to see happen.
This bill attempts to establish a strategy. I would ask the member why we need a national strategy. As our former Conservative government moved forward to address the presence of mercury within our environment, we acted. We did not simply establish strategies and talk shops where we prolonged any action on these measures, but we acted. We signed the Minamata Convention. We moved forward with regulations on mercury and mercury emissions. We do not need a formal strategy to get this done. The Liberal government has within its full power the ability to move forward with its own legislation and to move forward with its own regulations and policies that would build upon the work that our former Conservative government did in this area.
Some national strategies that have been presented are worthwhile, especially the ones addressing many of the health challenges still present in Canada. However a strategy is simply a call to develop a plan, whereas moving forward with action goes to the very substance of what we hope to achieve.
The bill would also require this strategy to be tabled in the House within two years and then reviewed every five years to make sure it is in keeping with new strategies for the disposal of mercury-containing lamps.
By the way, I am going to support this bill going to committee, because I want to continue to build on the work that the previous Conservative government achieved, to make sure we continue to clean up our environment of mercury contamination. However, the challenge is to make sure any initiative or strategy is cost efficient and does not impose additional undue tax burden on Canadian taxpayers or red tape that ties up businesses, provinces, and municipalities.
The member actually admitted in his opening comments that the provinces and municipalities are implicated in this strategy. Much of the work and cost in implementing this strategy would actually be done at the provincial and municipal levels, which is where these recycling and disposal facilities would be located. Conservatives, of course, are always concerned with what kinds of additional costs will be imposed on Canadians.
As a Conservative government, we were very proud of a record of having reduced Canada's tax burden to the lowest level in over 50 years, and Canadians welcomed that. They do not want to pay more taxes, but they understand that we want to keep our environment clean.
I looked at a few pieces of legislation similar to this one that have already been presented in the House and to which I had a chance to speak. Motion No. 45 required that all infrastructure projects at the municipal level that are over $500 million in value would have to go through a full climate change impact analysis to determine what the upstream and downstream greenhouse gas emission implications would be for those projects.
The member who brought this private member's bill forward suggested that projects at the municipal level, chosen to meet the needs of municipalities and provinces, would actually be seen through a lens of climate change rather than for the purposes for which those projects were being built and planned. This would impose huge additional costs on our local governments, additional red tape, and delays, and it would discourage the municipalities from moving forward with critical infrastructure in their communities.
The same thing was true for Bill C-227, a private member's bill, which would place a requirement on contractors for projects within the federal realm. In other words, if a building contractor wanted to bid on a federal building project, the contractor would have to go through a community benefit analysis. On top of all the other red tape government has already imposed on those wishing to do business with government, it now wants an additional community benefit analysis, which again would add additional costs, more red tape, and increased costs of projects, because that would have to be built into the bid price.
On top of that, it would complicate the federal bidding process, by adding more and more red tape to the process, when in fact these projects should be bid based on best value for the taxpayers' dollar, or in other words, the best value for the best price. Therefore, Conservatives have a right to be skeptical about the bill before us. Is it going to be another example of Liberals' overreaching, adding additional cost to taxpayers?
In both of these cases, of course, as much as the motives behind these initiatives are laudable, the motion and this bill would actually pose additional regulatory burdens on Canadians, and that is my fear with this strategy. Quite frankly, the member could have moved forward with simply asking the government to move forward with regulations in consultation with the provinces and municipalities to provide the appropriate recycling and disposal policies across the country. For whatever reason, the member did not do that.
Hopefully, this matter will be fully discussed at committee. I will certainly be asking the member questions about costs, regulatory burdens, and exactly what this would mean for Canadian taxpayers. I look forward to the discussion, and I know the member and I are going to work very closely to make sure this is done in a way that is respectful of taxpayers and also addresses the very real concerns of mercury within our environment.