By Trevor Busch
Speaking in the House of Commons on May 12, Bow River MP Martin Shields pressured the government for a timeline on the ratification of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement.
“As NAFTA and the Canada-EU free trade deal are crucial for the constituents in Bow River, the TPP is one of the most important trade agreements that Canada will ever ratify. We cannot ignore this agreement and stick our heads in the sand. The future economic prosperity of Canada is in jeopardy if we do not get ourselves organized and get this deal ratified. If we can get the TPP ratified, we would become the world’s only major economy with free trade access to Europe, the NAFTA region and the Asia-Pacific region. That is over 60 per cent of the world’s economy,” said Shields.
Just when government consultations on the agreement are set to commence was a point of contention for Shields.
“When the government hears that fact, all I can ask is, if not now, when
will the consultations happen and when will it be back in the House? Can the government please explain to the House why we are not seeing a timeline for completion? That is what we are looking for, the timeline. Let us get it done and use that timeline.”
The TPP agreement could have a profound impact and benefits for key sectors of the Bow River riding’s economy.
“Overall, the TPP is a good deal for our people,” said Shields. “It is a good deal for the Canadian companies that employ Canadians, and it is good for our economy as a whole. One of the biggest sectors in my riding is agriculture. There are very large farms in Bow River. In fact, Alberta’s crop commissions were here last month to lobby the government to get the TPP ratified immediately. Essentially, if we do not get this deal ratified, agricultural exporters in my constituency will be hurt because of it, (and) placing this sector at a disadvantage in some of their export destinations is just unacceptable.”
A large employer in the Bow River riding, JBS Food (Lakeside Packers) in Brooks would stand to benefit from the ratification of the TPP.
“I would be remiss if I did not mention one of the largest employers in my riding, which is JBS Food Canada. JBS Food is the largest meat packing plant in Canada. Producers, processors, workers, innovators, investment, exports, rural communities and domestic food security in every region of Canada would gain measurable benefits from implementation of the TPP. All would suffer severe, rapid, and enduring negative consequences should the TPP be implemented without Canadian participation. This is a very high-stakes agreement for food processors like JBS in Brooks, and they absolutely need to see this deal ratified,” said Shields.
Beef producers throughout the riding would also stand to benefit from the agreement, according to Shields.
“Another group that is excited about this deal are the ones who supply the
beef, the Canadian cattlemen. There are many of these cattlemen across my
constituency. We have some of the best ranches in the country in Bow River,
and our cattlemen are a dedicated bunch. Have I mentioned how much I love Alberta beef? As a result of TPP, the Canadian cattlemen estimate that Canada’s cattle producers could as much as triple their export capacity to Japan, which would mean $300 million worth of exports. That is a huge number and would greatly benefit businesses in my constituency.”
All the Opposition is seeking would be greater clarity, on when to expect the government to officially ratify the TPP, added Shields.
“With all this in mind, we urge this Liberal government to make a decision on the ratification of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which they have already signed. If it would do this before the North American Leaders’ Summit on June 29, it would send a great message to our business community. The clarity that such a measure would bring to Canadians would be welcomed.”
Enhanced trade is critically important to the prosperity of Bow River, now and in the future, concluded Shields.
“Madam Speaker, I live in a constituency that not only has a large cattle ranching industry with beef to trade, but it is also a large irrigation district, the fourth largest in Canada, and produces many significant levels of high-value crops. Trade is critically important. We trade with many parts of the world. We produce some of the best quality production coming out of agriculture in the world. We are one of those areas that can feed the world many times over. Therefore, with our cattle industry and our agriculture with the niche crops and the many things it produces, trade is critical for those industries to survive.”