Mr. Bob Corbett (Fundy-Royal):
Mr. Speaker, I rise to take part in this debate to follow up a question I put to the minister responsible for DREE, the Minister of Regional Economic Expansion (Mr. Lessard), on February 28, dealing with his knowledge of the current GATT negotiations. In his response the minister said he was not in a position at that time to report on the progress which had been made with the United States in relation to non-tariff trade barriers.
Unfortunately, time did not permit me to pose my supplementary question. It would have been in line with my proposed motion under the terms of Standing Order 43 for which I had earlier sought unanimous consent. It would have been: "Would the minister consider proposing regionalization schemes and negotiating subsidized exports so that provinces such as New Brunswick could benefit from the lowering of trade barriers with New England and become an attractive location for branch plants?"
I should like to reiterate, for the benefit of the House, that the maritimes and New Brunswick were at one time the hub of economic activity in Canada. It was only after the opening of large markets in central and western Canada that our economy began to decline. It is not the way of maritimers or of Atlantic Canadians to expect others to bear the burden of the social and economic stagnation we have experienced over the past number of years. We possess a good many resources, including people, to deal with our problems.
What has happened is that the Atlantic region and the maritime region have become a bit like a boat, adrift in the sea of economic stagnation, with a broken oar. There are all kinds of statistics to point out the fact that the maritime region and the Atlantic region are indeed a depressed area and, therefore, an area at which this government should take a strong look.
The government's approach has been through DREE and in that respect I give it full credit, although DREE has not solved the problem. It has been in existence for approximately ten years and, indeed, it has allayed our difficulties to some degree. I applaud the government's efforts from the standpoint of realizing that the maritime region does have a particular problem. I want the government to know that, as maritimers, we appreciate the feeling that the government has taken in its approach through DREE.
Unfortunately what has developed since the decentralization of DREE is that there has been no change in its attitudes, no gut changes in its approach. This has contributed to the continuing attitude of the Bay Street mandarins toward the Atlantic region, an attitude which I refer to as a "piggy bank" attitude. I feel that there should be a definite plank for development. I believe that DREE should take upon itself a program to establish definite goals that would illustrate the direction in which it would like to see the Atlantic region go. I believe that a fresher approach is necessary, and I would like
to see new life injected into the old program and hierarchy of DREE.
Let me now refer to the present GATT negotiations. I am not privy to any inside information, but I believe that one approach which could be taken to help develop the Atlantic region would be to negotiate with the United States with regard to the maritime and Atlantic regions specifically. The Atlantic region is hindered in taking advantage of the great New England market, which is comprised of millions of people, by the economic countervailing duties, trade barriers, and so on.
I would like to see the day when DREE could be disbanded altogether. I suggest that one approach would be to set up a special program whereby products which are manufactured and exported from the maritime region to the New England market are given special consideration. This would have the benefit of attracting new industry to the maritimes and of inspiring manufacturers to expand existing industry. It would also pave the way for that well known approach which has been talked about for some time, the branch plant approach, whereby major manufacturers in other areas of Canada locate and establish branch plants in an area which has access to particular markets. We offer in this case a well positioned geographic location plus a solid, substantial labour market, so that the products of an industry could be very attractive to that very lucrative New England market.
It was in this context that I posed my question the other day during question period. I appreciate the opportunity of having this allotted time to bring my concerns to the attention of the government, because I am not hindered by the question period in so far as supplementary questions are concerned.
I think that the attitude of the government, although it is channelled in the proper direction, has become stagnated. I would like to see a face lift for DREE, with the ultimate goal of phasing out the operation totally because we, as Atlantic Canadians and maritimers, have the expertise, labour, and certainly the willingness.
Topic: PROCEEDINGS ON ADJOURNMENT MOTION
Subtopic: TRADE-GATT NEGOTIATIONS ON NON-TARIFF TRADE BARRIERS