My Speech on the Canada-United States Mexico Agreement (February 5, 2020)

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House tonight to talk about Bill C-4, the Canada–United States–Mexico agreement implementation act, better known over here as NAFTA 2.0.

Since tonight is my first time addressing the chamber at length since the October election, I want to take a moment to thank those who have sent me here for my second term as the member of Parliament for Saskatoon—Grasswood.

I thank my volunteers. They made it possible for me to come into the chamber tonight for the 43rd Parliament. As well, I think everyone in the House would agree that our spouses are the most important. In this case, yes, my wife Ann has had to put up with me for 42 years now. It has been a long time, but we have had a great journey, and for the first time, during the election I also had my two children, Courtney and Geoff, door knock in Saskatoon—Grasswood, which is probably another story, but we certainly enjoyed it as a family.

It is my privilege to talk about this bill, because it is the most important bill in the 43rd Parliament. It would affect every territory and province in this great dominion. The relationship between Canada and our neighbour to the south, without question, is our most important relationship. Most of our trade is with our partners in the United States, including 75% of our exports and over 50% of our imports. Between goods and services, our bilateral trade with the United States is almost $900 billion. The original NAFTA deal that was put together by Prime Minister Mulroney and the Conservative government has done this country a great deal of service. We have all enjoyed free trade.

At this time, I would also like to speak of the member for Abbotsford, who spoke earlier on this bill. Without question, he is one of the greatest trade ministers we have ever had in this country. We went from five agreements all the way up to 55. He is known around the world. I went to Taiwan, which had great things to say about the member for Abbotsford and the trade agreement that he brought during the Harper years. It should be recognized in the House that the member is still with us and is a valuable contributor. He spoke the other day on this agreement and had several very good points.

It was kind of a surprise that Mexico is our third-largest trading partner, so NAFTA 2.0 is very much front and centre in this country. The three countries are very close, both economically and politically. As well, at this time of year, many Canadians go to Mexico for weeks or months, and they know how important it is for Mexico, the United States and Canada to get along.

The importance, though, of this trading relationship is felt particularly strongly in my province of Saskatchewan. It is a trading province. It has a population of 1.2 million people, roughly, and exports more than it takes in, which it always has and hopefully always will, from agriculture to energy to manufacturing. Much of the provincial economy, more than 50%, is dependent on trade both within Canada and outside Canada. That is why it is important to recognize that Saskatchewan’s premier, Scott Moe, is in Washington today with the Deputy Prime Minister. Trade is foremost in my province of Saskatchewan. We are dependent upon the NAFTA 2.0 agreement. Every community in my province of 1.2 million people depends on the NAFTA 2.0 agreement. Let me get that out into the open.

Conservatives from coast to coast understand exactly how important this trade is. Conservatives negotiated, as I mentioned, the original NAFTA. We did all the heavy lifting of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with the European Union and worked with the government of Israel to expand and modernize our agreement with that country. There are dozens of other countries that the Conservatives have negotiated new trade agreements with as well, such as South Korea, Honduras and Panama. The world is ours.

In this country, we produce more than we can use. We have a population of only 37 million, so it is important that we have trade with each and every country in the world if we can do it.

As I have mentioned, perhaps more than any other province or territory in this dominion, Saskatchewan has benefited from the increased trade between Canada and our international partners. The economy in my province of Saskatchewan is growing like it has never grown before. With it, the population is growing, including 80,000 new jobs since 2007, largely due to the increase in trading opportunities created by the previous Conservative government for nine and a half years. Exports from Saskatchewan are up nearly 60% in that same time frame, and now our province ships to over 150 countries around the world.

I was in Regina on Monday for the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association address. Our premier has an ambitious growth program for our province. In 2030, we want to get another 100,000 people in our province and we want to increase our trade by another 50%. We can see that this agreement here is front and foremost in the province of Saskatchewan.

What has this meant? It has meant more for young people now who no longer have to go to Alberta to search for jobs. We have new schools in our province for the first time in a long time. We have young families who can stay home in Saskatchewan and share their families with grandma and grandpa. We have infrastructure, and the province makes investments in services for the people of my province.

It is concerning that the current government has not been able to live up to this record. In fact, it has been hurting our trade relationships. I will give a couple of examples.

Saskatchewan’s minister of trade reported that Saskatchewan’s exports to India alone plummeted from roughly $2 billion in 2015 when we left government, to only $650 million in 2018. Let us think about that. India was one of our biggest trading partners when the Conservatives left in 2015, and now my province of Saskatchewan is suffering at only $650 million. Our agriculture sector in particular is so tied to trade with India, in chickpeas and so on. We know all about that. I might add that part of the problem has been the Prime Minister’s trip to India. It has hurt the provincial economy.

Trade is important in our province. I cannot emphasize that enough. In light of the current government’s weakness on this file, to compensate and to further our province’s trading relationships around the world, Saskatchewan’s provincial government has had to open new international offices in Japan, India and Singapore. I ask members to think about that. Our provincial government has had to go out and seek new trading partners because the federal government has let us down in the province of Saskatchewan. We now have trade offices in India, Singapore and Japan. These kinds of actions are so important because the people of Saskatchewan know how difficult it can be when we are facing uncertainty in our trading relationships.
Saskatchewan caucus has heard over and over again from our producers, our workers and our unions about how the U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum hurt Saskatchewan workers and producers.

I want to thank a number of people from our caucus because they have raised some flags in this trade agreement. For the member for Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo there is the softwood lumber issue where we have lost tens of thousands of jobs for B.C. Regarding automotive, our Oshawa MP has certainly stood up in this House and talked about the differences in this trade agreement. On aluminum, there is our member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord. We all know that Quebec aluminum is the greenest and best in the world, and yet we are being penalized with NAFTA 2. There appears to be a cap on milk exports that we have talked about before in the House.

In closing, it will be an interesting time. We want to see this bill go to committee. We want to bring in many stakeholders because it is the stakeholders who in the next six years will have the biggest say on this NAFTA.