Mr. Chair, as this is the first time I have been able to rise for a speech, I want to thank the residents of Windsor West, and I could not think of a more appropriate way to start this engagement.
My riding represents 40% of the daily trade that goes to the United States, between 30,000 vehicles and 10,000 trucks pre-COVID. It is returning to that level. As well, we date back to the underground railroad by which slaves escaped to our community of Windsor, across from Detroit. We were there for the War of 1812. We were there for times when Detroit came over to fight fires in Windsor, and during 9/11 we sent our firefighters there, so we are very much ingrained with U.S. culture and the U.S. economy. In fact, during COVID-19, around 2,000 health care professionals have gone over daily as essential workers to the United States, to serve in their hospitals as doctors, nurses and other health care professionals.
At the end of the day, we have a broken relationship with the United States. This is a part of the problems we are facing with softwood right now. Ironically, this June it will be 20 years since I first attended my original lobby as an MP with Pierre Pettigrew, the then minister of international trade. Down at the Canadian embassy we lobbied against softwood lumber tariffs for this country and this nation. Many times I have been down there as part of the Canada-U.S. Inter-Parliamentary Group, in a non-partisan fashion, to continue to push the issue.
However, the reality is that what we have seen over the last several years is a breaking down of that relationship, and it really is at the feet of the current government right now. It is going to take a conscious effort to reverse that course. We look at the situation with the USMCA, the CUSMA, the new NAFTA or whatever we want to call it, and the fact of the matter is that Canada was outnegotiated and outmanoeuvred even by Mexico in signing that agreement. The progressive forces, senators and congresspeople who I am very familiar with in the United States took note that Canada originally wanted an agreement that did not include the environment or labour. It was Mexico and the United States that added that component, and later on Canada had to come back to the table to ratify that change.
I can tell members there is a two-way breakdown here that is very succinct. A good example, though it might seem like a small one, is that Canada is negligent on our fisheries commission contribution, which is around seven to nine million dollars, to fight lampreys in the Great Lakes. We refuse to pay the bill.
We have ourselves wanted to build a nuclear waste facility off the Great Lakes, where the United States did not do it because Canada, under Joe Clark, asked that they not do that on the American side. We have a series of different issues that have emerged, and they were front and centre when, most recently, the government went down to the United States to push on EV vehicles. In fact, when we signed the original NAFTA, it hammered communities like mine, which actually lost the auto industry compared to what it used to have, because in the new NAFTA we lost the auto pact, a favourable trading position that was negotiated by previous governments.
They went down there, and when they came back I had never seen anything like that. As the member for Timmins—James Bay noted, they actually got another repercussion, which previously was not even in their rear-view mirror, from what they could see or what they would admit. This is equivalent to rubbing the dog’s nose in it. That is what took place. It is very significant and shows the breakdown we have, which has become more significant.
However, I do not want to stop without saying that with these tariffs we have to remember that they are jobs, families and value-added work that men and women have done. I know my whip just recently lost another plant in her riding, another mill that was closed. As New Democrats we have called for sectorial strategies for auto, the lumber industry, oil and gas and a series of different industries, so we are not dependent upon rip and ship. The negotiation tactics we have to push back against are buy America and other protectionist policies that are in the United States. They are part of their culture, and only if we develop our sectoral strategies will we have weight at the table to push back against this protectionism.
Mr. Chair, I would love to ask the member about Crown copyright, but that is a discussion for another day.
We are seeing more and more investment shifting southward. That is bad for workers who want to put their skills to use and who want to put food on the table for their families. It is bad for those communities, specifically for those communities that rely extensively on forestry for that employment.
We have seen the government plod along, not paying attention to this file. In fact, my very first words in the opening of Parliament in 2015 were whether the government would put in its mandate letter a specific reference to getting a softwood lumber arrangement. The Liberal government continues with the status quo. When members of Parliament, like this member and members from British Columbia, ask questions of the government, it seems it has no plan to deal with it.
Would the member agree that the government needs to start to get serious on this file and actually engage with the Americans? What other things need to be done to get this job done?
Mr. Chair, we will follow up on Crown copyright. It is really important. This sets an example of how immature we really still are as a nation. Other countries, including the United States, have sectoral strategies for aerospace. The United States, with its electric vehicles, is a good example. Now it is softwood lumber. We saw this coming, quite frankly.
When we see what is happening with regard to mineral deposits in Canada, right now we do not even have a plan on how to make this into a robust development strategy for our electric vehicles. That is why the government was upset in having to scramble at the last minute to go down there. We already had a national auto strategy. We used to be number three in the world in manufacturing. We are now down to number 10.
Sectoral strategies, where we protect workers but also invest in their future like other countries do, is how we push back and have integrated supply lines that mean something at the negotiating and bargaining table.
Mr. Chair, given the urgency and the speeches in this evening’s debate, it is apparent that the softwood lumber issue could affect several areas, especially in our regions in Quebec. I am naturally thinking about Abitibi and Lac-Saint-Jean, but I have to say that even back home in the eastern townships, there are mills that will be affected. This has an impact on our overall land use. This is a major industry. The Bloc Québécois has a good idea for developing tertiary processing. When I was campaigning, I met some forestry producers. It is a major part of our regional economy. We have to do more.
I would like to hear my colleague’s thoughts about the importance of protecting these forestry producers.
Mr. Chair, here is where we can take advantage of our current situation. There is no reason why we could not use this in the interim as we go through for a robust housing strategy across the country.
There will be a supply issue that will create a moment, if we keep some of these facilities in operation as we deal with the unfair trading process, to set some national objectives and national goals. That is why I think a unified Canadian component with regard to the industry was so successful in the past on pushing things back.
Again, a strategy, a plan with guidelines, timetables and follow through with a directive by people is how we get something done, and it will be respected in the United States. It means something when they have something in front of them that way.
Mr. Chair, a paper mill was permanently curtailed in Powell River, and I know that will have huge impacts. Hundreds of people are going to be impacted in this area. One of the most frightening things is we have a federal government that does not seem to take these things seriously and does not understand the huge impact that these kinds of events have on our small rural communities across the country.
I wonder if the member could explain for the government the action that needs to happen, so these communities are not left so far behind.
Mr. Chair, one of the most important things is to have that type of long-term commitment for a sectoral strategy. There is no doubt that the products that are being produced are worthwhile. They are being affected by other things outside in the world. Those workers and communities are worth it. They cannot just go and find another job. We used to have that vision. We need to return to it. That is what other countries are doing. We did it strong before, we can do it strong again, but it takes a commitment, a long-term commitment, from the government. That is the protection we need and the support workers are expecting.