A team needs to stay in Washington until tariffs are lifted, says Essex MP
'It's been a tough year with the United States as a trading partner,' says Tracey Ramsey
It's been a busy year for Essex MP Tracey Ramsey, going toe-to-toe with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during Question Period.
She's been a vocal critic of the government, weighing in on the new NAFTA deal and the failure of seeing U.S. tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum lifted.
On Wednesday, the Essex MP spoke with CBC Windsor News Live at 6 host Arms Bumanlag to discuss what she thinks the federal government should do to get the tariffs lifted, what General Motors (GM) should do for its workers in Oshawa and trade tensions with China.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
On Tuesday, Canadian foreign affairs minister Chrystia Freeland said the tariffs contradict a key component of the new trade deal and that's going to lead to them being lifted. What's your response?
I hope that's the case. Understanding this interpretation is something that we're looking at, but we really do believe that we shouldn't have signed this deal without the removal of those tariffs. And I believe if there was something inside of the deal that would remove those tariffs, then we would see that happening already.
It's very concerning to us here in southwestern Ontario. Steel and aluminum are the backbone of our manufacturing sector and we know that we're already seeing jobs which are being lost because of the imposition of these tariffs and the retaliatory tariffs that go along with them, so this is an issue that has to get resolved.
It's been a tough year with the United States as a trading partner, but this is something that we need to get rid of.
What more could the federal government be doing?
We should have a task force that's addressing the issues of small businesses on the ground. I was pleased that we had the Canadian Association of Mold Makers come up to Ottawa to testify before the trade committee when we held a study on the impact of these tariffs, talking about things that can be done. Small businesses don't have time to run around to try to find government programs. They need a streamlined process, one window where they can access what they need.
We also need a team down in Washington, not leaving until we see the removal of these tariffs, working on the new congressional members that are coming in, looking at what we can do to make sure that in this new Congress, there will be a voice and people will be coming forward and saying, "Let's get rid of these tariffs."
When you look at the closure of the GM plant in Oshawa, how are concerned are you for Windsor-Essex?
This is devastating. We've seen the last of GM in Windsor. We know what that looks like. People drive down Walker Road and see where they plant used to be. It was vibrant and sustained a lot of people across our community.
When we see companies which have been helped by governments here in Canada and have been a part of a community for 100 years and see the growth of their company just automatically pull out and leave, this is very concerning to us.
We have committed to GM. Oshawa has built GM and they have a responsibility to those workers there. So right now, it's about fighting to keep those jobs in Oshawa and look for a new product and talking to GM to see what that looks like.
Canada has recently seen a major chill with its second-biggest trading partner, China. As the NDP's trade critic, would you have handled this differently?
It's difficult because we're talking about a diplomatic issue that's been tied up. We do have international responsibilities and obligations that we have to honour, so when the U.S. came to us and said they wanted this extradition, we have a legal obligation to do that.
This is a snapshot of what people experience with China, whether they're trading or dealing with them on a diplomatic level. China believes the rules don't apply to them. Whether we're talking about them dumping steel into our country or the treatment of their citizens, it's very difficult for Canadians to have an expectation that China will do the exact same things that we will do.
This is highlighting the very differences between our countries and the very real concerns around trade with China and the difficulties that come with them.