Madam Speaker, it is always an honour to rise in the House as a representative of the amazing people and spectacular region of North Okanagan—Shuswap.
Before I speak to Bill C-57, I would like to acknowledge that many of us have returned to Ottawa today after spending Remembrance Day and last week in our ridings. I would like to thank all of the volunteers who gave up their time to organize and participate in the Remembrance Day ceremonies in 16 different communities and locations across North Okanagan—Shuswap and those who participated across Canada. Without those volunteers, the many ceremonies of remembrance would not have been possible.
It is especially heartwarming to see the large turnouts paying respect to our veterans and heart-wrenching to know that, at the same time, there are still battles going on around the world with soldiers and civilians losing their lives to war every day.
I rise today to speak to Bill C-57, an act to implement the 2023 free trade agreement between Canada and Ukraine.
Conservatives have a long history of supporting free trade with other countries. My Conservative colleague, the hon. member for Abbotsford, served as Canada's longest-serving minister of international trade and worked on many successful trade agreements during his tenure in the portfolio, including Canada's existing free trade agreement with Ukraine, the agreement that this bill seeks to amend. In fact, he negotiated trade agreements with 46 countries in that time.
As we look at this bill and the agreement itself, we as legislators have a duty to ensure that the law and the agreement are in the best interest of Canadians. We are closely examining this bill, to ensure that this is the case. We as Conservatives and Canadians also believe in supporting our Ukrainian allies. Increasing trade between our nations is but one way of providing that support.
No one is debating whether we should have a free trade agreement with Ukraine. Indeed, we currently have free trade through the 2017 Canada-Ukraine free trade agreement. In 2022, Canada's total merchandise trade with Ukraine was $420 million, $150 million in exports and $270 million in imports. Obviously, trade is happening between our countries. In fact, following the ratification of the original Canada-Ukraine free trade agreement, non-coal exports to Ukraine grew by 28.5% between 2016 and 2019.
Canada's relationship with Ukraine is strong, with over 1.3 million people of Ukrainian origin living in Canada. Some of those are newcomers, who have come to Canada fleeing Vladimir Putin's illegal invasion of Ukraine, which began in February 2022.
I have had the pleasure of meeting some of those newcomers to Canada at special events in Vernon and Salmon Arm and other locations, where the outpouring of community support has made them feel welcome and eases the burden of fleeing their homeland, many with nothing more than what they could carry in their arms or on their backs. Meeting those newcomers from Ukraine and hearing their resolve to maintain their freedom and desire to return and rebuild their lives and their country has been inspirational.
This legislation aims to implement the 2023 free trade agreement between Canada and Ukraine, which contains 11 new chapters. These include rules of origin, government procurement, monopoly, digital trade, e-commerce and more. The document is around 600 pages long. Proposed paragraph13.10(8) states, “promote the rapid transition from unabated coal power to clean energy sources”.
It also contains purposes, including “promote sustainable development” and “promote high levels of environmental protection”.
When I consider what this could mean, I find great differences in what the government promotes and what it actually achieves. I say this because Canada has some of the largest reserves of natural gas for producing liquefied natural gas, LNG, in the world, and yet when Canada was approached to supply LNG to Germany, a neighbour of Ukraine, to help break Europe’s dependence on gas from Putin’s Russia, Germany was told there was no business case. Not only would the export of Canadian natural gas have helped defund Russia’s war machine, but it would also have helped transition Europe away from coal-fired power generation.
So here we have a free trade agreement that is to promote a high level of environmental protection and a government that refuses to acknowledge how much Canadian energy could do toward that goal if we were able to export it to replace energy from regimes with lower standards for production and disregard of human rights.
The government has denied the opportunity for Canada to export clean-burning natural gas with its burdensome, red-tape strangled regulatory process. Rather than promoting a product that would help Ukraine build and rebuild, and transition to a cleaner energy source, the Prime Minister said there was no business case for it. This is a loss of opportunity for Canadians and a loss of opportunity for Germany, Ukraine and other European nations. Canada could help displace dirty coal-fired electricity generation with cleaner LNG. There is a reason that this should be done expediently as Ukraine suffers from the ravages of war, requires energy to rebuild and can no longer obtain LNG from Russia. Canada could be helping.
I will go back to remind the hon. members here of the number of free trade agreements that were completed or negotiated under the previous Conservative government and the work that Canada, under a Conservative government, accomplished on the world stage. It is also worth noting that Canada supported democracy in Ukraine when we sent 500 observers to Ukraine to monitor the presidential elections in 2014.
Before I close, I would like to raise the matter of another item that should be addressed through a different free trade agreement, one affecting British pensioners living in Canada. These pensioners from the United Kingdom receive retirement pensions, but those pensions have never been indexed to the cost of living increases for U.K. pensioners living in Canada. This is an issue I hear about from U.K. pensioners living in the North Okanagan—Shuswap and I hear about how it is causing them to lose thousands of dollars in their retirement. While this government is negotiating a trade agreement with the U.K., I urge the government to press for indexing of U.K. pensions in Canada, just like Canadians retiring in other countries, including the U.K., have their pensions indexed.
As we continue debate on Bill C-57, an act to implement the 2023 free trade agreement between Canada and Ukraine, I urge this government to focus on what will be good for Canada, good for Ukraine and good for the people of our two countries by ensuring that our laws and trade agreements benefit both nations and do not unduly hinder our energy sector and the progress that could be made in both countries by promoting it.