IN THE HOUSE ~ Question Period ~ Canada's costly settlement of Abitibi-Bowater's NAFTA claim

40th Parliament, 3rd Session
Context : Question Period

M. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NPD): Monsieur le Président, grâce à l'équivalent d'une boîte postale au Delaware, AbitibiBowater utilise le chapitre 11 de l'ALENA pour menacer ce gouvernement qui se soumet au chantage et paye 130 millions de dollars cash. Ces 130 millions de dollars, c'est de quoi éliminer la pauvreté pour le cinquième des aînés au pays. Maintenant, ce gouvernement veut soumettre les provinces au chantage. Il dit qu'à l'avenir, il faudra les faire payer aussi, cash, encore!

Pourquoi imposer aux provinces les conséquences de l'incompétence de ce gouvernement?

Hon. Peter Van Loan (Minister of International Trade, CPC): Mr. Speaker, we believe it makes sense for governments in Canada to actually be responsible for the actions they undertake.

When we undertake international trade agreements on behalf of all Canadians, that also includes actions for the provinces. We have to defend them in the World Trade Organization, but when those are provincial policies, we believe the provincial government should have responsibility for the policies it undertakes.

That is something we are trying to work together on. That is the way Canada should work, with the provincial governments, territorial governments and the federal government working together responsibly to ensure our trade agreements are sound.

Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP): Mr. Speaker, in Canada it does not work when we have the federal government imposing irresponsible sellouts on provinces right across the country and that is exactly what they have done in the states.

The pretensions of the government are absolutely ridiculous. AbitibiBowater is a Canadian company. Its NAFTA claim from a mail box had no chance of succeeding. Yet the government capitulated, gave in to the shakedown and sold out Canadian interests once again. Remember the softwood lumber sellout?

It is very simple. Why did it not uphold the public interest? Why did it not fight this bogus claim? Why did it not save $130 million that could be put to better use?

Hon. Peter Van Loan (Minister of International Trade, CPC): Mr. Speaker, this complaint that was raised by the company as a result of an action by the Newfoundland government was settled in the best interests of Canadian taxpayers. That is our responsibility: to look out for the bottom line best interests of Canadian taxpayers and ensure that we keep in place a trade agreement that has resulted in tremendous benefits to Canada.

There has been a significant increase in our trade with the United States, which has almost doubled, and our trade with Mexico has gone up almost five times. What does that mean? It means we have millions of Canadians working together as a result of that trade agreement. We want to defend it, keep it in place and protect its benefits for all Canadians.