Brian Speaks on Softwood Lumber Sellout
October 3rd, 2006 - 7:22pm
Mr. Brian Masse (Windsor West, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to ask my colleague a question in starting the debate this morning.
One of the things that is important to remember about Bill C-24 and the subamendment from our colleague, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, is that this affects a whole series of trade agreements with ourselves and the United States.
Does the hon. member believe that this sets a precedent? What we have here is basically the hijacking of a trade agreement that we have with the United States where a set of rules have been put in place and those rules are now being altered unilaterally by one side and now, with complicity, the government.
Does the hon. member feel that it will affect future trading relations under this current agreement?
Mr. Brian Masse (Windsor West, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to speak to Bill C-24, the softwood lumber sellout deal, as it is known across the country. We have heard a lot of discussion in this chamber about the bill. I would like to first thank my colleague, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, who has done an incredible job and put a lot of hard work into this file as well as other trade files that are important for Canadian jobs, which is what this is about.
This is Canadian jobs, cultures and communities that will be grievously affected by unfair trading practices. This is a trade crime that is being perpetrated on this country and facilitated by the current government.
I will begin by reading a quote from the House of Commons Debates that we had about this issue over a number of years in this chamber:
Most recently, the NAFTA extraordinary challenges panel ruled that there was no basis for these duties, but the United States has so far refused to accept the outcome and has asked Canada to negotiate a further settlement. Let me repeat what I have said before, and let me be as clear as I can. This is not a time for negotiation. It is a time for compliance.
The right hon. Prime Minister made those comments and then he flip-flopped on his position. It is an unconscionable dodging of accountability. We have a Prime Minister who gave his word to Canadians that he would live up to ensuring that Canada and its trade agreements would be effectively moved forward through the negotiation settlement that we had under NAFTA and free trade and he has abandoned that.
It is also important to note, not only for members in the chamber but for experts and panel members abroad, that those who have been affected by this issue have come in and made comments. I would like to read a comment made by Frank Dottori, co-chair of the Canadian Free Trade Lumber Council, an advocacy group representing Canadian lumber companies. He says:
We expect our government to help us fight U.S. protectionist forces, and get our industry a long-term solution.
I have another comment by BMO Nesbitt Burns analyst, Stephen Atkinson:
Why would you give 22 per cent to your competition? This money belongs to the companies and their shareholders, and the Canadian government is giving it away.
It is a broad range of people in Canadian society, whether it be the workers who are affected, whether it be industry analysts or whether it be advocacy groups that are rejecting this deal.
It is important in the context of our greater trade relations with the United States.
When I first came to this chamber in 2002, I remember participating in a softwood lumber lobby. We went to Washington to talk with a number of different analysts, advocacy groups and organizations, as well as different members of Congress and of the Senate about the harmful practice this was having on the Canadian industry and how unfair it was.
People need to understand, going back to that time then and to this date now, that many groups and organizations support the Canadian position. The Canadian position that should be from the House of Commons is that of a fair trading relationship with the United States and we have an injurious affection. However, it has been the high-powered ranking lobbyists, a select few from Congress and the Senate, who have driven the White House in this direction. We have many American friends who understand this is hurting both of our nations.
I do not care if the current Minister of International Trade is a Liberal or a Conservative and whether his position flip-flops just like he does on parties. What we need is a cessation of this legislation, the introduction of supports and the continuation of a fair settlement. This is not just about what we gave up in the past, which I will discuss later, but also where we go in the future with our trading relations and how it affects Canadian jobs.
I come from an area of the country that has flourished in many respects but which has struggled in relation to the auto industry. In 1965, Canada negotiated an auto pact with the United States that was based upon fair trade between our countries. It was one that benefited both countries and one that had a lot of strengths that developed, not only the automotive industry in Canada, across Ontario and other parts of our country, but even in American counterpart jurisdictions like Michigan and a whole series of other states. It also led to other industries, for example, the tool and die industry, the mould making industry, all of those technical innovation industries that are responsible for Canadian economic development. It was a fair trade deal that was set up with rules and those rules were respected.
What ends up happening? We enter into NAFTA, and the free trade agreement later on, and we lose a ruling that kills our auto pact. Since that time we have struggled. We have diminished market share. We have had a whole bunch of obstructions put in place that are difficult to compete against. We have lost a very good trade agreement that was a great success for Canada. It paid millions into our coffers on an annual basis through taxation, it provided good jobs for families and it provided innovation in our schools and universities. We gave that up because we played by the rules.
What do we have now? We have an agreement where the Americans have decided unilaterally that they will not accept panel after panel rulings in favour of Canada. We have continued to have success through this difficult process, a process that has required Canadian politicians and governing bodies to support the industry during these harmful times, but one with the goal at the end of the day of having a fair trade agreement and a settlement that makes sense of the trade agreement we have signed.
What the government is saying right now is that the Americans do not have to play by the rules because if they are tough enough and their lobbyists are powerful enough, Canada will capitulate, not just in terms of a settlement that has a series of clauses that are harmful for communities and industries across this country, but also in cold, hard cash. Canada is giving away over a billion dollars.
Some of that money will be given directly to American lumber associations so they can compete against Canadian companies. Other money will go into a discretionary fund at the White House that does not even have to go back to Congress for it to decide how it will be spent. It is unconscionable. The money should go back to the people who paid it out, and those are our companies in the industry that have been harmfully hurt during this practice.
The government's response to those who have been critical of this has been unacceptable. Basically, it has used strong arm tactics and it has made sure that those who are speaking out will be injuriously affected. It will not provide loan guarantees and it will not assist companies to move their rights through the court process, which they are entitled to do under this agreement. It is unacceptable.
I am greatly concerned as to where the minister is going in terms of other international agreements and trade policies.
I know the trade committee met this summer because we were concerned about what the minister was doing on the fair trade with Korea file. There is nothing fair about that file. We have been objecting to it since day one. We are hoping other members join us in that fight.
However, back in June, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster tabled a report in committee showing that if we were to go ahead with this particular agreement we would lose more auto jobs. It is not just the fact that the minister has a bad deal set up for Bill C-24, it is also his competency and his motivation in where he is moving. It gets to a broader picture of this.
Why are we actually doing these things? The study, which the committee was asked to table, did not come out until three months later. It was not until the CAW published its own studies on Korea free trade and how it would affect the industry that the government finally released the report that shows there will be major injurious effects from both files. This file right here shows it is not healthy and that it is not a good trade agreement for the Canadian government.
What is the motivation? I think the motivation is simply politics. It is politics to appease the American side so that the government can claim that it is close to the United States and actually get results, despite what it sells off to them, but also on the Korea trade file, it is politics when it is showing that the government will get a trade agreement with Korea at the expense of Canadians.
I know I am out of time but I do want to impress upon Canadians that this is a precedent setting thing. It is not just about softwood. Even if some communities do not have a softwood industry, they will be affected in the future because this gives a green light for the minister to sell out other industries. Whether it is auto, steel or farming communities, it allows the rules to be taken out of the equation, not just by those who are perpetrating against us but by our government that is supposed to be protecting us.
Mr. Brian Masse:
Mr. Speaker, the government has asked the companies to put a gun to their head. Now it is asking them to load it. It is unacceptable.
The EDC does not support what should happen, and that is the facilitation of our trade. It is just another good example of the fact that there is no support for the industry. The strong-arm tactics of the government have been reprehensible. We are talking about a government that is supposed to be business friendly. To use these tactics is deplorable. It is not acceptable and it sends a bad message for other industries.
Mr. Brian Masse:
Mr. Speaker, the member for Vancouver East brings up a very important point. At the end of the day, this is about jobs and communities. These jobs and communities are often very much dependent upon each other for success. We have seen this all over the country, where we witness towns and communities in crisis.
It is important to note that the government still has yet to come forward with a sectorial strategy on anything. The previous administration talked about it for the auto, aerospace and textiles industries, but never did anything. Now the current government, with this deal, is saying that if the U.S. does not want to play by the rules, Canada is going to agree. It is not going to play by the rules. By not doing so, there will be injurious effects to the industry and the communities. There is no sectorial strategy. Why is there no strategy for the communities that will be affected? Why is there no plan to help?
The very least the government could do is set a sectorial strategy for the industry to help those who will be punished by its bad decision. Instead, the government is saying that this is the deal, live with it and it will move on. It may be good for the government, but it is bad for others. That is not acceptable.
Mr. Brian Masse:
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has it exactly right. It is a significant problem and it perplexes me as to why the government would want to pursue it in such a hostile fashion.
I think it is part of a larger agenda to get some political points, whether it this one, or dismantling the Wheat Board, or attacking the auto and shipbuilding industries by coming forward with a creative free trade deal. All those things are thrown up in the air to confuse the public and to move forward for the government's own political agenda. At the same time, it is not dealing with the outright facts. It is not even answering a simple question. Is this all for not because the courts are going to decide?