Hon. Joseph A. Day (Leader of the Senate Liberals):
Minister, welcome. I think the fact that you’re dealing with such an important portfolio reflects the fact that we like to have you back here as often as possible to talk about a lot of the issues that have developed.
There is a lot that I could ask you about. I typically would ask about the Energy East pipeline and why not a pipeline all across Canada for oil, because it has been demonstrated with our trading partners to the south that there is always danger in relying on established ways of doing things.
I want to specifically ask about the status of the tariffs imposed on aluminum and steel, because even though the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement has been announced in principle, we haven’t heard what is happening with respect to tariffs.
My constituency is in New Brunswick. New Brunswick is the most dependent province in all of Canada on foreign trade, and a big part of that is oil and gas coming out of the refinery. We know that the refinery is going through difficult times right now, just to mention that as an aside. They haven’t been able to get to some of the area within the refinery. It is still so hot after all those days of cooling down.
There has been traditionally in New Brunswick the ability to avoid the softwood lumber tariff. Millions of dollars have been spent going before tribunals in the United States to establish that. Can you tell me and assure the people of New Brunswick that there is work being done with respect to that issue as well?
Hon. Amarjeet Sohi, P.C., M.P., Minister of Natural Resources: Thank you for that question, honourable senator. The conclusion of the negotiations related to U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement is good news for Canadians. It’s particularly good news for the energy sector because the unfair levies that were charged to that sector, costing close to $60 million annually, have been removed. That’s good news.
The other good news is that we have been able to preserve a side agreement with the U.S. on energy, at the same time embedding energy into the new agreement, which means it opens up Mexico’s market to Canada’s energy and energy expertise. So that is good news.
We have also been able to preserve Chapter 19, which is very important for softwood lumber and for making sure that we have a dispute mechanism in place that allows an impartial panel to make a determination as to whether levies and tariffs are fair. The softwood lumber industry has won every case because of the impartial tribunal being in place, and we will continue to fight for our industry.
On the issue of aluminum and steel tariffs, they are very unfortunate. They are not warranted. We as a country are not a risk to the U.S., so it’s very unreasonable on the part of the U.S. to impose those tariffs. We have responded — unfortunately we had to — in retaliatory dollar-for-dollar tariffs. Our hope is that these tariffs will be removed and that we will be able to continue the free flow of products between both countries.
The demands being asked by the U.S. are very unreasonable. Our industry will be damaged if we agree to the demands they are imposing on us. We will continue to defend our industry. We will continue to defend our workers. We will make sure that whatever deal we are able to secure is fair for Canadian business and for Canadian workers.