MP Report by Jay Hill, M.P.
Protecting Livelihoods Requires a “Global” Effort
“Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” – George Santayana, Spanish Philosopher (1863-1952).
The “history” being widely discussed this week dates back to 1930 when the United States Congress, misguided into thinking it would save American jobs, legislated protectionist tariffs on thousands of products entering the U.S.
Countries around the World returned fire with tariffs of their own. The global economy ground to a halt and a severe recession became the Great Depression.
Mr. Santyana’s famous words are now being used as a warning to President Barack Obama and the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, as legislation to enact the U.S. $819-billion economic stimulus package winds its way through Congress. The bill contains a protectionist “Buy American” provision that all of the iron and steel used in any of the projects funded by the stimulus money must be produced in the U.S.
We are in the midst of a global economic crisis requiring global cooperation. Fortunately, as I write this, it appears that President Obama is listening to aggressive diplomatic efforts by Canada and its other trading partners, when he said, “I agree that we can’t send a protectionist message” and that it would be “a mistake”.
While this is an encouraging sign that the Buy American clause could be amended or removed by the U.S. Senate, where it is currently being debated, the Government of Canada is not taking any chances. Four-fifths of our nation’s exports head to the U.S. The U.S. exports more of its goods and services to Canada than it does to the entire European Union. The impact of a trade war would be devastating to both of our nations.
Our Government and Canadian officials continue to be closely engaged with their U.S. counterparts at all levels as the legislation continues through the U.S. legislative process.
As for the legislative process here at home, Canada’s Economic Action Plan also continues to work its way through Parliament.
Constituents have been contacting my office since the federal budget was introduced last week, asking when new programs and funding to stimulate Canada’s economy in the midst of this global economic downturn will be launched and “when will the money start flowing?”.
This week MPs passed the budget “in principle” but now the “Ways and Means motion” on any tax measures proposed in the budget, as well as the Budget Implementation Act itself, must be debated and passed by both the House of Commons and the Senate. Typically, it can take several months for a federal budget to be completely passed and sanctioned by Parliament.
However, given the urgent need for the economic stimulus measures proposed in Budget 2009, our Government is doing everything we can to move through the required steps as soon as possible. As Government House Leader, passage of the budget is my top priority. How quickly that can happen is now up to the opposition parties. I am pleased that, so far, they have been very cooperative.
You can monitor the progress of the federal budget at www.parl.gc.ca. Go to the “About Parliament” section if you’d like to learn more about how a bill becomes a law.