Mr. Reginald Belair (Cochrane-Superior):
Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak on this historic Bill C-2 on behalf of my constituents in Cochrane-Superior, whom I thank for giving me their confidence on November 21.
Need I point out that this northern land is very welcoming; it is an ideal place to relax, to fish, to hunt, to go cross-country skiing or ice-fishing, etc. It has wide open spaces that ease the mind and challenge us to get to know nature better.
This great huge riding stretches from Hudson's Bay to the north shore of Lake Superior. Combined with the Kenora-Rainy River riding, they are more than half of Ontario. Indeed, we are on the map.
Before getting into the subject, let me just say that I would have preferred the witnessing of an agreement on the curbing of acid rain with its devastating effects on our forests and lakes. Some 14,000 lakes are already polluted in Canada.
There was some hope that the Prime Minister (Mr. Mulroney) and President Reagan would have struck a deal at the Shamrock Summit in Quebec. It flickered out when Reagan flashed the Free Trade Agreement in front of the Prime Minister's eyes. We all know that afterwards the environment was no longer a priority.
President-elect George Bush allotted a mere 10-second clip on the environment issue in 15 months of campaigning. There are some reasons to be alarmed because with the implementation of the Free Trade Agreement we stand to lose a lot of ground on this issue. With the Americans having unlimited access to our natural resources, and considering their low standard on the environment, one can seriously doubt the condition in which they would leave our land once they have exploited its richness.
The natives are also seriously concerned about the possible disruption of their hunting, trapping and fishing grounds. Like any other group of Canadians, they should have a say about the economic development of their regions as much as they have a right to control their own destiny.
Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement [Translation]
The Mulroney-Reagan agreement, Mr. Speaker, refers many times to harmonizing the two nations. What does this mean? There is a significant imbalance between our two countries today. Canada has a just, humane, compassionate society. American society concentrates on profits, leaving aside the welfare of working men and women when it comes to wages and fringe benefits.
And what about the impact of the agreement on social programs? Let us just say that the Prime Minister told the Financial Times that unemployment insurance and social programs might be renegotiated in the coming years.
Which country do you think will adjust to the other, Mr. Speaker? Because the Americans are extremely rich in capital, since they have ten times the population we do, it is easy to see that we will end up subject to their influence and submitting to their demands. We will suffer this harmful influence because might will make right. It will be the law of the jungle.
Mr. Speaker, rest assured that I and all my colleagues in the Liberal Party will be extremely vigilant; we will speak up vigorously every time our Canadian workers are affected by job losses due to free trade. We will see to it that the benefits they have acquired over the last 40 years will be protected, in order to preserve and maintain family well-being.
It must be borne in mind, Mr. Speaker, that 40 per cent of our workers are unionized and the benefits and protection they have acquired since the 1930s must not be eroded over the coming years. We must keep in mind that nine American states have no minimum wage law and that twelve states have a minimum wage of three dollars an hour or less.
It is also easy to conclude that fringe benefits are not a priority for their political and economic leaders.
Regional development is also a great concern of mine. The DRIE program is now considered by the United States to be a subsidization program and, therefore, existing industries which wish to adjust to increasing competition are not eligible for government help.
In relation to the forestry industry, when one compounds such an action with the 15 per cent export tax on softwood lumber, sawmills across Canada find it extremely hard to remain competitive. Their profits are greatly reduced because of a substantial increase in
December 23, 1988
Canada-US. Free Trade Agreement
stumpage fees and therefore the incentive, the motivation to contribute to Canada's economy is not as ardent. They question their future and, by extension, the workers do as well.
Since the Memorandum of Understanding was signed on December 30, 1986, four sawmills have closed in my riding.
What is the Government prepared to do to compensate for these losses? Is it prepared at least to screen American investment in Canada? Has it set up a mechanism where undue, unwanted and unwarranted competition would be controlled? Has the Government thought of negotiating with the Americans a system whereby the latter would have to re-invest some of their profits in Canada?
To summarize, we should not let the Americans muscle their way into Canada and do as they please. They should respect the fact that Canada is huge geographically, and since jobs are concentrated in the larger urban centres, rural areas do indeed depend on regional development incentives in order to remain competitive, and in the end, to survive. Survival can be achieved in other ways than open frontier economic policies with the United States, therefore limiting our exporting capacity to one country only. One should learn from one's past. The Government should expand its exporting markets to the European Economic Community, to China, to Hong Kong, to the Middle East and to the Soviet Union.
Let us not permit history to repeat itself negatively. Canadians know better. I hope the Minister for International Trade (Mr. Crosbie) will at least consider selling Canadian products elsewhere than the United States.
Hon. Members opposite say that it would be advantageous to limit exports to the American market only. We are already doing 80 per cent of our trade with the United States. Is it worth unleashing American corporations, allowing them to take over our industries, for the remaining 20 per cent?
Out of respect for ourselves, let us keep Canada Canadian. Let us be the masters of our own destiny. Let us diversify our trading partners in order to ensure that American countervailing action not be undertaken. Let us us not give them the opportunity to do so. Let us not adhere so blindly to the North American economic constitution.
I could not conclude my remarks, Mr. Speaker, without referring to the omnibus bill regarding the entry of foreign products in the United States and to the fact that Canada is not exempt from it. How can we consider free trade with the Americans when this protectionist bill aims at controlling foreign competition with American industries and small businesses! The Secretary of State, Mr. Schultz, admitted, during his visit to Canada last spring, that it would be ridiculous to talk about free trade if Canada is not exempt from it. And what are we to think of the record speed with which the American Congress passed its bill on free trade with Canada. We must infer that the Americans firmly believe that the agreement is largely favourable to their interests. Americans never lose out when they do business with a foreign country.
All in all, conscious as I am of the impact this agreement will have on our society and bearing in mind the uncertainties which Canadians will be facing, it is my duty and my moral responsibility to vote against this bill in accordance with the mandate given to me by the people of Cochrane-Superior on November 21 last.
To my constituents, and to the staff and Members of the House of Commons, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: CANADA-UNITED STATES FREE TRADE AGREEMENT IMPLEMENTATION ACT MEASURE TO ENACT