The House resumed from March 6 consideration of Bill , as reported (with amendment) from the committee, and of Motion No. 1.
Mr. Speaker, we continue to press the government to understand the critical nature of splitting off this one significant piece from the bill. It would do several things all at the same time. Most important, it would send a signal to Canadian industry and value-added manufacturers in this country that Parliament cares about the families and workers involved in that industry.
It seems, after hearing the government's comments in defending its practice of putting this one piece into the agreement with Europe, that it is unable to defend its position. That is unfortunate, because whether we agree or disagree on issues, all members are sent to this place with the expectation that they can defend their positions, that they can provide reasons and substance for why they consider one thing or another to be true.
To remind Canadians who have been following this debate, we are asking for a hiving off of the shipbuilding industry from this agreement. Members of Parliament have been receiving mail from constituents from coast to coast to coast, particularly the constituencies in which the few remaining shipyards still operate, expressing their concern. Over the years, this industry has been hammered by agreements that the present government and previous governments have signed, by government policies that slowly squeeze out the very oxygen this industry needs in order to survive.
Recently, my colleague from gave me a letter from the Lauzon ship workers' union that said, “We represent CSN-affiliated workers working at the Lévis shipyard. We stand with workers in all Canadian shipyards in supporting your efforts to exclude Canadian shipyards from the Canada-European Free Trade Association Free Trade Agreement”.
This is really important, particularly to our Bloc Québécois colleague, because this speaks to the needs of workers in all provinces, of all workers connected to this industry.
The time has come to protect these workers. If we do not, we are basically saying that this Parliament and our work here are not important. The NDP believes that is unacceptable. We will continue to talk about our disagreement with the government. We have a different perspective on the economy and negotiations.
The Conservative government slips into an ideology far too easily. There is not a trade agreement in the world it would not sign. It negotiates looking backward instead of forward to what needs to be established.
At the very least, to most Canadians the notion that all trade agreements would have a net benefit to the Canadian economy would seem very straightforward and plausible. Yet we see time and again across the table at these negotiations representatives from other countries defend the interests of their nations, protect the industries they believe need protecting and make trade arrangements to the net benefit of their nations. Yet we have to appeal on bended knee. We have to fight tooth and nail with our own government to represent our own industries at the table.
The NDP has been a long and consistent supporter of fair trade. The NDP has been a long and consistent ally of those around the world looking to establish trade agreements that protect the environment, labour relations and standards, and enhance the capacity of our country to trade. We are a trading nation. Time and again we see governments come forward with the idea of sensible trade but present other ideas.
When the Americans negotiated with us and set up caveats for their own shipping industry and steel industry that exempted them from that agreement, Canada had no problem at all accepting that condition of trade and yet made no such considerations for Canada's own industry.
I have some vague recollection of the Conservatives having a little saying in the election, something about Canada first or stand up for Canada. I do not hear it much any more and we do not hear it when the government negotiates trade agreements.
This is an opportunity for Conservatives, Liberals and Bloc members to join the NDP and understand that we can protect and enhance this industry and make it a viable one for future generations. That industry helped build this country. To turn our backs on that industry at this time would only continue the economic ruin that has been put upon this country by the Conservative government. It is time for it to stop now.
Mr. Speaker, once again I rise in connection with Bill , but this time at the report stage. I hardly need mention that we in the Bloc are here first and foremost to defend the interests of Quebec. We also count on the people of Quebec to keep us informed, and at times that makes us almost a substitute for the government. To date the government has never really given us any impact studies to provide an overview of the repercussions of a free trade agreement on the economy of Canada or Quebec as a whole.
But some careful analysis is required. Overall, in Quebec, we see that we will stand to benefit from the free trade agreement with the European free trade association. As hon. members know, pharmaceuticals are hugely important to Quebec. We export and import with one of the countries, Switzerland. As well, nickel is an important mineral and some 80% of trade in nickel is with Norway. Then there is aluminum with Iceland. Those three factors mean that Quebec would stand to gain from this free trade agreement, and would have huge potential opportunities in future.
As we can see from a closer analysis, the shipbuilding industry is an important component of this free trade agreement. The agreement has been in negotiations since 1998. Preparations to sign it have taken 10 years. We know there have been slowdowns, and even interruptions in the negotiations, in large part due to the shipbuilding component. This industry is an important part of the negotiations. Today we see that, whether or not there is a free trade agreement that would do away with duties applicable to ships after 15 years, after an initial 3 year period—so 18 years in all—that is not the only thing that threatens shipbuilding. What does threaten it is the lack of a policy for this industry, particularly on the part of the federal government.
The federal government, for all intents and purposes, has not given any type of subsidy to the shipbuilding industry since 1988. Norway has heavily subsidized this industry, allowing it to modernize, progress and become more productive, while Canada and Quebec were dealing with gaps in the federal government's shipbuilding policy. For one thing, measures to assist the shipbuilding industry were ill-suited. As well, the Quebec government had a refundable tax credit which for some years was considered by Ottawa to be taxable income under the Income Tax Act. That allowed it to claw back 20% to 25% of the assistance that Quebec paid to the shipbuilding industry. Not only did the federal government cut assistance to the industry but it raked in 20% to 25% of the funding and refundable tax credits that Quebec gave the industry.
So, with or without an agreement, if we want to preserve the shipbuilding industry, it is imperative that the government invest heavily in it.
The government appeared before the committee today to testify. It said that the help it is giving to the industry is sufficient, be it structured facility financing or accelerated capital cost allowance. That is far from sufficient.
My NDP colleague stated earlier that his party recently received the support of the union at the Davie shipyard in Lauzon. The union is supporting the NDP attempt to have the shipbuilding industry excluded from this free trade agreement. However, this agreement has been under negotiation for 10 years with countries in the European Free Trade Association. Since the shipbuilding industry is the problem, if it is excluded from this agreement, another agreement will have to be negotiated.
The Bloc Québécois is here to work in the interests of Quebec. Those interests are well served by this agreement in various ways, even in terms of the shipbuilding industry. As we can see, the agreement covers a period of over 18 years. The federal government will definitely change during that time, and a new government would see the need to invest heavily in the shipbuilding industry. If it were to receive nothing from the government one way or another, free trade agreement or not, the shipbuilding industry would probably not survive. We must give it a fighting chance of surviving through direct assistance, which could take many forms.
We often hear about loans and loan guarantees these days. This is important. The government can also provide assistance for lease agreements for boats, which would have the same effect as accelerated capital cost allowance and have an impact on the working capital of the various businesses. We could also talk about funding for the purchase of boats. A responsible government could bring all of these elements together in such a way as to establish a real policy for the shipbuilding industry. The term “responsible”, however, applies less and less to the current government . It is hard to say if it was any more applicable to the previous government. People often learn from their mistakes. Perhaps one day this country will have a truly responsible government to the great benefit of these industries, which make such an important contribution to Canada and Quebec.
In any case, 18 years is a long time. That is enough time for Quebeckers to give themselves their own country, one that will take charge of its shipbuilding industry and its own trade agreements with the rest of the countries on the planet. We would then have the best of all possible worlds.
Mr. Speaker, as I stand today to speak to Bill , yet another free trade agreement, I am concerned for the workers of Hamilton and for Canadian workers as a whole.
Canada has gone through over 20 years of free trade agreements. In my riding of Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, particular the Hamilton East portion, I have watched this seemingly endless parade of companies that have left Hamilton or closed as a direct result of free trade. My observation is that most Canadians do not feel free trade is free at all.
I watched Burlington Street in Hamilton go from a dynamic, bustling centre of manufacturing to a mere shadow of its former self. In fact, the very day the original draft free trade agreement was tabled, the first one between Canada and the United States, Firestone Canada in Hamilton, on the words of that draft agreement, closed its once proud plant on Burlington Street.
We, the labour movement and organizations like the then brand new Council of Canadians warned them, Because most Canadian cities were within 100 miles of the American border, we warned them that with free trade and the removal tariff barriers our plants owned by American companies would move or close.
I take absolutely no satisfaction in having been right. During the first two years of that original free trade agreement, between 1988 and 1990, Ontario lost 524,000 manufacturing jobs. Canada and Hamilton, in particular, quite literally bled jobs to the United States and Mexico.
Hamilton, long known for steel production, was once one of the leading textile manufacturing sites in all of North America. Those plants are long gone. During the past 20 to 25 years, Canada and, to a great degree, much of the free world has been on the track, a track comprised of deregulation and free trade as espoused first by Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Brian Mulroney.
For evidence, look to today's crisis in the American market, a place where business was conducted in this wild west environment. Now we can see the outcome, the lack of proper regulation or deregulation and the requirement of enforcement. It is almost like the sheriff left town and Wall Street ran rampant with that reckless abandon, which we have become so aware of in the last few months.
Canada once had an auto pact, which protected our market and ensured employment in that important industry and the associated support industries. The Liberals, when in government, let that agreement slip away. Now we not only have cuts to auto plants, but Hamiltonian steelworkers are being laid off. In fact, we are seeing thousands upon thousands of support jobs lost along with those direct manufacturing jobs.
For Hamilton and Hamilton steel plants, this has proven to be devastating. No orders means no work which means layoffs.
As I said before, I can recall in 1988 when the labour movement and other organizations like that newly minted Council of Canadians were warning that this day would come if the Government of Canada signed on to that free trade agreement.
Similar warnings were issued in 1993, regarding NAFTA. The Liberals were at the front with those warnings. In fact, they were warning themselves. They made promises that they would not sign onto NAFTA, which they did shortly after winning that election.
Today Canadian industries are very fragile. Industries like shipbuilding, in particular, need attention from their government. Canada has been known worldwide for the quality of our shipbuilding, but other countries have worked hard to protect their shipbuilding with massive subsidies to aid their development, such as with Norway. Canada has lagged and has not had the comprehensive strategy to protect this important industry.
At committee, the New Democratic Party tried to protect this industry with no less than 16 motions, which were turned back by the chair with the aid of the Liberal Party members present. For the information of the members present today, shipbuilding is exempted from NAFTA.
At committee, the Shipbuilding Association of Canada made it clear that shipbuilding must be removed from the Canada-EU trade agreement. This agreement would reduce Canadian tariffs on ships from 25% to zero over 10 to 15 years. If we allow this to happen, we will lose our market altogether.
Members also need to know that the United States has always protected its shipbuilding industry ever since the Jones bill of 1920. That legislation protects the U.S. capacity to produce commercial ships. The Jones act requires commerce between U.S. ports on inland waters to be reserved for ships that are U.S. built, U.S. owned, registered under U.S. law and U.S. manned. In recent years the United States has implemented a heavily subsidized naval reconstruction program. All of this is to the direct benefit of its shipyards and its U.S. workers.
Where has Canada been? Canada can and must do the same thing. Canada must separate shipbuilding from this free trade agreement.
Finally, the shipbuilding sector must be completely excluded from the agreement, as I have said. The government should immediately put together an enhanced, structured financing facility, along with an accelerated capital cost allowance for this industry. An important component would be a buy Canadian strategy.
We have heard this buy Canadian strategy at a number of levels. We heard it first when the United Steelworkers made representation to the Congress in the United States on the buy American plan.
Within the free trade agreements to which we are now party, there are provisions that allow for a buy Canadian strategy. They allow for municipalities and provincial governments to buy Canadian. There are some limitations to that, but the Conservative government does not seem to want to entertain this option at all. In fact, the so-called free traders of the world raise their arms in concern when it happens, but that could be the very foundation for the salvation of not only shipbuilding, but our manufacturing sector altogether.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to stand and talk on behalf of Canadian workers. I do so with a heavy heart. I do not understand why we have to think of making this exemption, to take the shipbuilding industry out of this agreement. It would stand to reason that members from all parties would largely support protecting Canadian industry, regardless of which political spectrum we represent.
However, I will pursue this and explain why I believe the shipbuilding industry should be taken out of this agreement. I have a letter written to my colleague, the MP for , from the Shipyard General Worker's Federation of B.C., which states:
On behalf of these members, I am writing to urge that the government reconsider signing EFTA as there will be many seriously negative consequences for the shipbuilding industry.
At the very least, we request that the shipbuilding industry be exempted from EFTA...
I have a letter, which I find disturbing, that has been written to members of the Liberal Party on behalf of 700 Halifax shipyard workers, asking that party to support us in making this exemption. It states:
In every free trade agreement since 1924 United States of America has seen the importance of this strategic industry to its sovereignty yet we in Canada fail to put policies in place to even protect our shipbuilding industry, although the conservative government would like the people of Canada to believe that a 15 year phase-out of the 25% tariff on shipbuilding would put us on a level playing field with the European trade association this is pure fantasy...
This is according to Jamie Vaslet of the Industrial Union of Marine and Shipbuilding Workers of Canada.
Mr. George MacPherson, president of the Shipyard General Workers' Federation of B.C. basically has stated:
The Canadian shipbuilding industry is already operating at about a third of its capacity. Canadian demand for ships over the next 25 years is estimated to be worth $40 billion. Under the proposed FTAs with Norway and Iceland, and the planned FTA with Korea and then Japan, these Canadian shipbuilding jobs are in serious jeopardy. In these terms, this government plan is an absolute outrage.
The only thing missing is the political will of this government. We fully support the position of Mr. Andrew McArthur, member of the board of directors of the Shipbuilding Association of Canada, and the CAW who made a strong case before the committee.
First of all, the shipbuilding sector must be excluded from this agreement. Then the federal government must immediately establish a structured financing mechanism with accelerated capital cost allowance.
Over the last 20 years we seem to have had a tendency in our government to forget about the workers and those Canadians who depend on various professions when we sign agreements. We are looking right now at an example, the shipbuilding industry. I believe this is a symptom of our attitude as a country towards all industries in Canada.
I would like to talk a little about agriculture. As we speak, there is a movement on the part of the World Trade Organization to put pressure on Canada to bring about the end of the Canadian Wheat Board by ending its ability to borrow at government rates and by requiring Canada to eliminate single-desk selling by 2013. The Wheat Board is supported by western farmers in Canada and has been getting good prices that enable farmers to make a living in these troubled times. Regarding that same agreement, I was told by representatives of the Canadian dairy federation that each dairy farmer stands to lose $70,000 if modifications are made to supply management at the World Trade Organization.
That is not acceptable. We saw it when we signed under NAFTA and the free trade agreement with the United States. We have seen over the last 20 years that cattle ranchers are making less than half of what they were making before the free trade agreement was signed in 1989. We have seen thousands of vegetable producers devastated in Ontario and British Columbia because they are no longer to compete with cheap produce coming in from the United States. Before the free trade agreement, we had in-season tariffs so that a vegetable producer on the Niagara Peninsula could make sure that he or she had a market and was able to make a living.
We do not have any more of that because of these free trade agreements we are signing. As I said earlier, shipbuilding is symptomatic of the attitude we have somehow developed in Canada, the attitude that we have to give away everything. Americans have not given away their shipbuilding industry. Americans have protected their energy under NAFTA, while we have given away our energy under NAFTA. We cannot even decrease our exports of oil and gas to the United States without proportionately decreasing domestic consumption.
We have signed a chapter in NAFTA that allows foreign corporations to sue our Canadian governments, with the result that our tax dollars go to trying to defend our governments, whether provincial, federal or local, against these suits.
It is time for us to realize and determine the direction that we want to take as a country. A very positive step in this direction would be to get this shipbuilding clause out of this agreement so that it becomes a fair trade agreement and an agreement whereby we can protect Canadian jobs.
I would like to go further. I would like to say that all of us here in the House should start encouraging the idea of giving preference to Canadian procurement when we are buying military vessels or airplanes or food for Canadian institutions. It is ludicrous that we have to bring up the topic that we have to either support our industry or support our farmers, that somehow we have slipped along this path and it does not really matter anymore.
In conclusion, as many of my colleagues here have mentioned, I think that taking this shipbuilding clause out of the agreement would signify that we are ready not only to start protecting our shipbuilding industry but also to set a precedent for the future, so that no country would be allowed to put pressure on us to get rid of our jobs as we sign these agreements.
Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House in support of the motion by the hon. member for to strike out clause 38 from the Canada-Europe free trade agreement.
It may come as a surprise to the House that a landlubber such as the representative from Edmonton--Strathcona would care about the shipping industry, but let me share with the House today the long historic background my family has with this industry.
Let me share with you that first of all we allowed the decimation of the fish stocks on our east coast, and now the fish stocks are disappearing on our west coast. Entire communities have lost their revenue source.
Now former fishers and fish plant workers must leave their communities and commute to the northern area of my province to toil in the tar sands to feed their communities.
Now we witness, with the support of the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party, the demise of the historic nation-building shipbuilding industry and the jobs once provided by this historic sector. We witnessed every representative of the shipping industry, whether workers or owners, coming to the parliamentary committee and begging for the support of the members of the House for the continuation of their industry. No support was given to them, except from the members of my party.
Shame on the official opposition members. They are supposed to stand up for Canadians. The promise of the Conservative Party to stand up for Canadians disappears when it comes to speaking for Canadians' benefit in yet another free trade agreement.
Shipping and shipbuilding, next to the coureurs des bois, have been the key to building the very foundations of our nation. My family's roots, beginning around 1610 in Mosquito Point and Carbonear, were based on the shipping industry. My ancestor, Gilbert Pike, was a buccaneer. Their ships attacked my ancestor's ships, and they moved to Newfoundland and became very active in the fishing industry.
My family depended on the shipping industry to bring in the supplies so that our community could survive and to ship the cod out to the European community. It was very critical to trade. If not for the shipbuilding industry, the entire community of Carbonear would not exist. The most famous person in Newfoundland, Sheila NaGeira, is my ancestor.
I say to the House at this point in time that we are talking about the demise of one of the founding industries of our country. How can the other members of the House sit by and allow this industry to disappear?
It may be unknown to other members of the House, perhaps even those from my city, that one of the most important founding industries in my own city of Edmonton was the historic shipbuilding industry on the banks of the North Saskatchewan River. It was one of the most important industries that founded our city and kept our city going. They built both sailing ships and barges that plied the rivers, developed the north, fed the fur trade industry, and supported the aboriginal and the trapping industries and the gold rush.
If it were not for that industry, the city of Edmonton would not have developed into the burgeoning municipality it is today.
The shipbuilding industry has come to the members of Parliament pleading for the support of their own elected officials. I ask my colleagues to please stand up for shipbuilders and for those who work in that industry, to please stand up for Canadians.
One of the other nations that will be party to this agreement, the Canada-European agreement on free trade, has stood up for its industry. Norway stood up for its shipbuilding industry and now has a burgeoning industry. Our southern partner, the United States of America, has stood up for its shipbuilding industry. What is wrong with our country? What is wrong with our elected officials?
We have the members of the shipbuilding union and the shipbuilders themselves taking the time away from their families and their jobs to come to Ottawa to plead with members of Parliament: “Please, we are all for free trade. We are all for selling our products overseas and entering into this very important agreement, but stand up for our side of the trade”.
Are we going to be a country only of buyers, and not sellers? We need also, though, to keep in mind, as the hon. member for the Northwest Territories regularly reminds me in the House and outside, that we have to look to the future. What about the Arctic trade?
The members across the floor keep talking about how they are going to build development in the Arctic. What the heck do they think we are going to use when we are protecting and developing in the Arctic? We need ships. Should those ships not be built in Canada? Do we not have the expertise and wherewithal to develop and build those specialized vessels that not only Canadians, our Coast Guard and those who ply our oceans will use, but we could sell those specialized ships to people around the world who are chomping at the bit to come into Arctic waters?
In the presentation by Dr. Vincent, renowned polar expert, last week to parliamentarians, he pointed out that Canada has an opportunity, both in the Arctic and the Antarctic, but for the Arctic by virtue of geography it is ours to claim. Why are we not claiming this piece of the industry and developing and building the very ships that will ply the Arctic so that we can ensure they are safe and do not cause environmental harm.
The member said that our opportunity for marketing was In the Antarctic. We could also be marketing specialized ships to ply the Antarctic and support the researchers.
I am standing today, as are the other members, in support of this recommendation to strike clause 38, which means that we will be speaking on behalf of Canadians when we sign onto this trade agreement.
I had the privilege of working for the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation. That organization was formed as part of one of the side agreements to NAFTA. I am very proud to say that I contributed in a positive way to free trade in North America.
However, we need to ensure we stand up for the important sides of free trade and that we remember the interests of Canadians not just the interests of major corporations or people who might want to sell Canada wares or might want to sell Canadian ships. We should be thinking in terms of the workers in Canada in this time of economic constraint. We should be thinking, first and foremost, of supporting Canadian industries and Canadian workers.
I rest my case. I think the request of the hon. member is eminently reasonable. It speaks on behalf of Canadians. It is about time the official opposition of this House spoke up on behalf of Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, I will begin by quoting a couple of witnesses who came before the committee because they were referenced here when I was in the House today. I, like the hon. member, was at the committee when they were there.
In reply to a question about his belief as to whether this was a sellout of the shipbuilding industry and should it be a carve out, one witness, Mr. Andrew McArthur, said:
If it's not a sellout, it's getting close to it. It certainly doesn't enhance the survivability of the industry. It jeopardizes it. It would be pretty hard to say it's an absolute sellout, although it's getting close.
That was said by an industry representative who talks about his multiple years in the industry. In fact, the gentleman has had experience on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, originally being from my homeland of Scotland and knowinf the shipbuilding industry there as well. He goes on to say:
It's not only EFTA that concerns us. The ground rules may be set.
I repeat that, through EFTA, the ground rules could be set because we are negotiating with Singapore and South Korea. Once we set those ground rules, if we get the same with all these other countries, the industry could be in very tough conditions and could only survive on government contracts.
This side of the House and the other side of the House know what happened to those government contracts. I believe there was a sense that there would be two new supply ships built for the Canadian navy. I could ask my hon. colleague from , if he were here, if he had seen those two supply ships in Halifax lately and I think the response would probably be no, since they have not been built. Part of the reason that they were not built was that the government said the bid was too expensive. That is from our yards. Of course the bid may have, in the government's estimation, been too expensive but it is because the shipyards are not producing at maximum level. By their own records, they are producing at about one-third capacity, which means they need to retrofit the yard to do a vessel of that size and they need to find workers. That multiplies the effect of what the cost will be when we bid the job because we will need to find those workers and, indeed, enhance the yard so that it can produce the product.
All those things contribute to the cost and the fact that the cost was so high. One could argue whether the cost was really that high when Canadian taxpayer money would be building Canadian ships, Canadian sailors would be on those ships and those ships would be made by Canadian workers in Canada who would be paying Canadian taxes to the Canadian government. The government would then be able to circulate that money back into the economy through other measures and other programs. More important, inside the community where those Canadian workers live, they would now be putting money back into the economy because they would be earning a wage and not be collecting employment insurance, which comes out of the fund and which could be used for other folks.
The multiplier effect is enormous. When we look at the cost of something and think that it is a little bit higher, a little bit higher than whose, begs the question. Is it Korea? Was that the government's intention? If Canadian yards are too expensive, it will send those Canadian vessels for the navy to Korea. Is part of the master plan to get EFTA in place and then simply negotiate the next shipbuilding contract with Korea? We will see what the industry and the workers representatives have told us at committee that the industry cannot survive.
Let us take a step back and see what is inside those yards. The people who work in those yards have very specific skills. Most of those skills are only adaptable to the yards that build those vessels. This is a highly-skilled workforce and building vessels is fairly labour intensive. An investment in a yard today produces jobs today as well, and, from those jobs, we produce apprenticeships, which is retraining.
I know the government is fond of talking about its action plan, about money for retraining and about money for jobs. This is the opportunity to take that rhetoric and simply write a cheque. The government should procure those vessels from Canadian yards, put those workers back to work and allow them to take on apprentices. Today the average age of a yardworker across the country is 53.
Albeit for someone such as me, who is just a little north of 53 years of age, to say that is getting on, by the same token, it does not take that much longer before those workers will retire. Without replacing those workers through an apprenticeship program, we will see the demise of the yard, because the labour component will disappear across this country. That would be a shame not only for those communities and those workers but for this country, which has the largest coastline in the world.
We really are a maritime nation, albeit some of us do not want to believe that from time to time. My own riding of Welland, of course, is named after the Welland Canal, bordered by two lakes and a river. It is split in half by the Welland Canal. It is hard for us to understand that we are a maritime nation when we live in the centre of Ontario, but indeed we are surrounded by water.
In my riding, from time to time we can actually watch the ships go across the bridge. It is really a tunnel for us but a bridge for the boats. For those who have never had the experience of heading down that tunnel and seeing a boat go across the top, it is the strangest feeling when it is experienced for the very first time.
To lose that ability to build those vessels in this country would be tantamount to criminal negligence.
We need to understand what the industry is saying to us. I would think my hon. colleagues on the other side of the House, who tend to be friends of that group, would understand that, and if they do not, certainly the Liberals would, because the Liberals were on this file before the Conservative government was.
What the industry has said from day one is that they need a viable industry in this country to build ships, and we need to help them establish that. They are willing to do their part. In fact, the industry and the workers in the marine units have done that. What they are saying to the government is, “Allow us to do what other nations around this world are doing, just like the Jones Act did for the U.S. Let us carve out shipbuilding. Let us have the same opportunities that Americans have and we will be able to compete.”
Not only that, but we would have the sense of security in this country that we are actually going to build naval vessels in Canada for Canadian sailors. It seems to me that is the very least we owe the women and men in our armed services, to understand that when they get on that vessel, it is Canadians who have produced it for them, it is Canadian quality that went into it, and it is Canadian security that provided it for them.
Not only that, but Canadian taxpayers are looking to us to spend their money wisely. They entrust us with their money and they expect us to spend it wisely. I have said this in my other career as a municipal councillor: There is no wiser decision we can make as people entrusted with their money than to spend it on them, to invest it in Canadians, who give it to us. Unwaveringly they say, “Here it is,” and they provide it to us.
It seems to me that what we really need to do is have a carve-out. We look at the tariff program and say we can build it over a number of years. The industry is saying that will not let it survive. The Norwegian industry, which is the one that really we are going to compete with here, is an industry that spent the last 20 years being subsidized by the Norwegian government, so indeed it could end up going to the marketplace. Why is it that we cannot do the same thing?
We are not asking for any more than that. Carve it out. Carve it out so that we have an opportunity to do the same things the Norwegians have done. It seems the fairest thing to do. If the Norwegians thought it was good enough for Norwegian citizens, the least the Canadian government can do is say it is good enough for Canadians.
Why should we be second-class world citizens when it comes to looking after ourselves? Why would we want to put an industry and our workers in jeopardy when indeed we do not have to do that?
We have this opportunity here, and I would look to my colleagues on this side of the House, especially the Liberals, and say to them that they should rethink their position on the carve-out. They should rethink the perspective of what they are doing, which is selling out shipyard workers from coast to coast to coast in this country and decimating an industry that has been here for hundreds of years.
The first folks got here by ship. Whether they happened to be the aboriginal nations or not, one can talk about a land bridge, but a lot of folks actually sailed to this country. To think that somehow we do not have that industry anymore, it make one want to weep, to be honest, especially someone such as myself who came here as a new Canadian with my parents.
My father came here to build ships. As a legacy to my father, because he has passed on now, the least I can do is stand in this House and say that I stood for shipbuilding in this country. That is what brought my family to this place and I will not let him down.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today and speak to Bill . I particularly want to acknowledge the tireless work of two members from the New Democrats.
The member for , of course, is a very familiar voice in this House and has called consistently over the years that I have been here for a shipbuilding policy. The reason we are speaking today in this House is because both the Conservatives and the Liberals have failed on that account.
I also want to particularly acknowledge the member for . It is with his very good work that we are here today to oppose vehemently the inclusion of shipbuilding in Bill .
I want to turn to some of the work that the member—
I was going to say “the minister”. That would be an improvement, if we had here a minister from .
I want to refer to some of the work that the member for has done in connection with identifying some of the issues around shipbuilding. When he tabled a dissenting opinion, what he said was that Canada's shipbuilding industry is not operating anywhere near its maximum capacity and lacks support from the federal government.
Canada is the only major seafaring nation without a strategic plan for its shipbuilding industry. Unlike Canada, Norway has used its period of tariff protection to invest heavily in an expanded shipbuilding industry, making it competitive and efficient. It was thus able to phase out its government subsidies by the year 2000.
Because the shipbuilding industry has been worn away for so long by a lack of interest from the federal government, by the time the tariffs are dropped in 15 years, if no aggressive policy is put in place, there will be little left in Canada other than foreign shipbuilding firms.
The major concern, of course, is that this trade bill reduces tariffs on ships from 25% to zero over a period of 10 to 15 years, depending on the type of products, and nothing happens for the first three years.
Why does it matter?
I want to draw members' attention to a news release from 2007 that was titled, “No celebrations Friday for BC shipyard workers”. It talks about the fact that BC chose to build ferries in Germany. What we see is not only the fact that we could have had the capability to do it here, but as this particular article states,
While BC Ferries holds a $60,000 party in Germany for 3,000 people on Friday, there will be no celebrating the launch of the first of three German-built Super-C Class ferries that have cost the province 3,500 direct and indirect jobs and the loss of $542 million in investment, says the BC Shipyard General Workers' Federation.
By investing in shipyards in this country, we not only create direct and indirect jobs, we not only generate significant amounts of dollars in new investment, but what we always fail to calculate when we are looking at costs of shipbuilding are the returns to government. Those workers pay taxes, and successful businesses pay taxes. That needs to be factored into any kind of equation when we are talking about support to our shipbuilding industry.
When the committee was hearing testimony on this, there were a couple of industry people who came forward and talked about the importance of shipbuilding and why we should exempt shipbuilding from this particular agreement.
George MacPherson, the president of the B.C. Shipyard General Workers' Federation, at the standing committee on trade, on March 3, 2009, said,
The Canadian shipbuilding industry is already operating at about a third of its capacity. Canadian demand for ships over the next 25 years is estimated to be worth $40 billion.
Andrew McArthur, from the Shipbuilding Association of Canada, said,
The position of the association from day one is that shipbuilding should be carved out from EFTA. We have been told categorically time and again by the government that we do not carve industries out. We raise the question of the Jones Act in the U.S., which was carved out from NAFTA. We are not allowed to build or repair for the Americans. The Americans have free access to our market. So industries do get carved out. I'm sure there are numerous other examples.
So we have industry and labour arguing for this.
I want to touch on a couple of companies on Vancouver Island.
In my very own riding of , we have the Nanaimo Shipyard Group. This shipyard has been in business since 1930 and has been in the same location, in the Newcastle Channel. It has over 10,000 square feet of covered area. This company mainly carries out refit and maintenance on DND, Coast Guard, and BC Ferry Corporation vessels. It also carries out work on deep-sea cargo vessels, fishing vessels, tug and barge fleets, yachts, fish farming service vessels and other coastal vessels. We can see that it has a wide range of experience in terms of the kinds of repairs it does.
Point Hope shipyard in beautiful Victoria was first established in 1873. Some have said it was the first shipyard in B.C. In fact, the ways were of wooden construction. It has a very significant history. It had written a letter to a number of ministers and talked about its long history, but it also pointed out their capabilities. It said:
Point Hope's capabilities extend to the construction of complete steel and aluminum vessels up to 1,500 tons and 60 meters in length.
It went on to talk about the fact that it was ISO certified. It was also applying for additional ISO certifications so that it would meet environmental standards. It said:
We are a key participant in Canada's defence and industrial marine sector providing significant employment and revitalization in the core of the City of Victoria. Point Hope is a success story and a model for the industry and has the capabilities and resources to continue to grow and expand.
We should be standing up for our shipyards. The member for says that we should stand up for Canada. The shipyards and labour have some solutions. The Nanaimo shipyard has written to the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates saying that it is the owner-operator of a small to medium-sized enterprise engaged in shipbuilding and repair. It employs approximately 100 to 150 people in four locations, Halifax, Nanaimo, Port Alberni and Victoria.
The shipyard talks about the fact that so many of the small and medium-sized enterprises have either gone bankrupt or been forced out of the industry. It has asked why the Government of Canada, in the context of a larger shipbuilding strategy, does not have a policy that carves out some work for the small and medium-sized enterprises. It has pointed to the example of what happens in the United States.
The United States has something called a small business administration program. I will not go through all of the details on this, but it is a really good example of how the U.S. government has created categories for contract opportunities reserved exclusively for small and medium-sized businesses. There is a whole procedure that small and medium-sized businesses can access.
In case members do not think there is not widespread support from shipyard workers in industry, I want to quote from some letters.
One letter is from the Shipyard General Workers' Federation of British Columbia, dated March 11, 2009. This is written to the member for , but it feels so passionately about this that it wanted to ensure some of its words were said in the House. It says:
The Shipyard General Workers Federation represents approximately 2,000 skilled members who work in the shipyards, marine manufacturing and supply industries, and in the metal fabrication shops in British Columbia's coastal communities.
In its letter, it is requesting that, at the very least, the industry should be exempted from EFTA. It says:
We urge the government to recognize and act in the interest of this vital and strategic sector and develop a comprehensive industrial strategy that has as its' objective the long term stability and viability of a shipbuilding and marine fabrication industry on both the East and West coasts.
In the Pacific Northwest, which includes Victoria and Nanaimo, we know that between the major retrofits that used to be available through Point Hope and some of the other shipyards, we also have a significant number of small pleasure craft. I do not have the exact numbers, but it has been rumoured that in the whole base, including Washington and Oregon, there is up to a million small pleasure craft. When we are talking about a shipbuilding industry, we are not only talking about large-vessel building. We are also talking about the smaller pleasure craft. There is a whole range of abilities there.
A national shipbuilding strategy needs to look at that range of abilities. The fact that we have the longest coastline in the entire world, that we literally do go from coast to coast to coast, could be a significant economic driver in many of our communities. It used to be.
In the words of the member for , we need to remember shipbuilding. It was one of the founding industries in our country. When I talk about coast to coast to coast, I am not ignoring the inland waterways, which the member for rightly brought up. However, I want to focus on the west coast for now.
We have the ability to rebuild that industry. We still have infrastructure in place. I urge the members in the House to not support this bill, carve out shipbuilding and develop that national shipbuilding strategy.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to join in the debate on Bill . First, let me pay tribute to the member for for carrying this debate on behalf of our party.
I come from a shipbuilding province, but I do not want to be parochial about this. We are a shipbuilding nation. My part of the country has been building ships for hundreds and hundreds of years for the fishing industry, going back 400 and 500 years.
We are building ships now. We have a modern shipyard in Marystown that is capable of terrific work. It was selected, in fact, for the joint supply ships for the Canadian navy, one of the two final bidders that were ready to roll and go to build these ships. What happened? At the last minute, or 72 hours before the election was called, the government cancelled the contract. The Canadian navy was about to issue a contract that was worth some $2.5 billion, which would have provided work, if Marystown was the successful bidder, and lot of people in my neck of the woods had every reason to believe that it would have been, to build those ships for six, eight or ten years of work and another fifteen or twenty years to provide the maintenance of them.
While Newfoundland and Labrador is part of the historic fishing, maritime, shipbuilding, boat building nation, we cannot forget that shipbuilding is a modern 21st century industry today. It is not part of the rust belt. Yes, ships are built of iron and steel, but they are also built with the most modern telecommunications and navigation facilities. They are built to rigorous standards. It is an industry of the future, requiring the highest degree of skill, technology and knowledge. It is a knowledge-based industry as well as part of the industrial base of our country.
It is something that requires the support of government to keep us in the game. What has happened is that other countries such as Norway have done that for their industry, for their people, for their prosperity and for their participation in the future of industry in the world, but we have not done that for ours. That is the reason why this should be out of this deal.
There are other problems with this deal too. The premier of my province has mentioned some of them. We are not using this opportunity to negotiate a free trade agreement to ensure that we remove the tariff, for example, from shrimp, which has been crippling the shrimp industry in the east coast for many years. This non-tariff barrier is being promoted now in the European Union by an attempt to ban seal products from a humane, controlled industry in the east coast.
We see no effort by the Government of the Canada to use these negotiations as an opportunity to extend our fishing jurisdiction outside the nose and tail of the Grand Banks. We still have to deal with an ineffective regime there.
Therefore, there other disappointments, but the big one, for which we are looking for support from both sides of the House, is our shipbuilding industry. We are trying to get some sense into the government, but we are also hoping that others on this side of the House will support our efforts. We are looking to the Bloc Québécois members who may be supportive, but we are also looking to the Liberals. So far I have not heard the Liberals participating in this debate and saying how they feel about this.
That was not always the case. I have in my hand a report that was produced, with the support of Brian Tobin, a former premier of Newfoundland and former industry minister. It is called “Breaking Through: The Canadian Shipbuilding Industry”. This report came out with a whole series of recommendations produced through a consultation process led by a number of individuals called the National Partnership Project Committee. Part of that was the president of the Shipbuilding Association of Canada, Peter Cairns, Les Holloway, the executive director of the Marine Workers Federation, Philippe Tremblay from the Fédération de la métallurgie CSN and Peter Woodward from the Woodward Group of Companies. They made a very good presentation with a lot of recommendations for the shipbuilding industry, which would have assisted this industry. However, we have not seen those recommendations implemented.
I would ask the Liberals, both nationally and from my own province, to support the amendment that we put forward because it would be important, not only to our own province of Newfoundland and Labrador but to the whole country. We have heard of the importance of shipbuilding on the west coast. We know it is important in the Thunder Bay area and in the province of Quebec. We see shipyards struggling to maintain their place in the modern world.
One important recommendation for this shipbuilding project was to ask the Government of Canada to eliminate the peaks and valleys of procurement for the navy and the Coast Guard through more effective forward planning and thereby keeping order books and employment levels more consistent over the long term.
That is extremely important because we do need to maintain a significant plan and a significant capital investment. According to an article in the Ottawa Citizen a couple of weeks ago on the estimated demands and needs for the navy, it stated:
One area that could provide significant employment for domestic firms in the coming decades is federal shipbuilding. With the navy's warships and Coast Guard vessels rusting out and in need of replacement, there is an estimated $40 billion to $60 billion worth of work over the next 20 years.
Where this work will take place is the question marine workers across the country are asking. With the cancellation of the joint supply ships project back in August, concerns were being raised that the government had plans to go overseas, to go offshore. It went through a tendering process and then it gave up on it.
Now we see the government supplying the Canadian Forces without contracts. It is buying helicopters from the United States without any contracts. There is not even an opportunity for a competitive bidding process. That is shocking. The government acquired C-17s and C-130J transport planes from the U.S. with no contracts and no competitive bidding.
There is a concern that the new search and rescue aircraft will go to a non-competitive bid. Canadian companies have no opportunity to participate because the Canadian Forces, apparently, have their eye on a particular Italian plane manufactured in the U.S. and there does not seem to be any plans to even have a competitive bid for that.
What is going on? Have we lost our way? Every country in the world, when it comes to procurement for their army, navy and air force, look to their domestic industries, except Canada. What is wrong with us? Is there something that I do not know about? Maybe members opposite could tell us what is wrong with us. What is it about us that we cannot build our own ships to ply the seas and look after our air forces, transport and so on? Maybe members opposite have the answers. Maybe there is something going on that I do not know about, but we seem to have lost our way.
For some reason, a bunch of Liberals seem to be going along with the government. I do not understand that. The shipbuilding industry is a modern, 21st century industry in which we should be participating. Why we are not doing so, is absolutely beyond me.
In the minute I have left, I would ask members opposite to get up on their feet during questions and comments and explain to the House and to Canadians why they are not protecting, supporting and expanding the ship industry in Canada. Perhaps some of the Liberals could tell us why they do not care either.
What is the plan for the $40 billion to $60 billion that will be spent by the government alone on the shipbuilding industry over the next coming decade? That could make a big difference to the economy of parts of this country, mostly coastal areas that have been struggling over the past many years for all sorts of reasons, some having to do with the fishery. Why is it that we cannot ensure that this kind of work is being done in this country?
Madam Speaker, I thank all my colleagues, particularly my colleague from for the work he has done on this trade deal, the Canada-European free trade agreement, and the many free trade agreements that the present government and previous Liberal government have inflicted on the people and communities of Canada.
I say inflicted because I and members of my caucus have profound concerns about the CEFTA as we did with the first Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA, the Canada-Colombian Free Trade Agreement, the Multilateral Agreement on Investment, the Korean free trade agreement and the Security and Prosperity Partnership, which is not secure, will not create prosperity and is far from being a partnership. It is, indeed, a one-sided proposal that will compromise Canada's sovereignty with regard to water, airline safety and our independence in terms of foreign policy, culture and technological products.
The Canada-European free trade agreement, conceived by Jean Chrétien more than nine years ago, advanced by Liberal-Conservative trade minister, David Emerson, and now reintroduced by the current trade minister, presents a profound concern for Canada's agriculture and shipbuilding industries.
Evidence provided during industry committee hearings clearly demonstrated a key concern with the CEFTA related to the treatment of Canada's shipbuilding industry, which was abandoned by successive Liberal and Conservative governments.
Canada has the longest coastline in the world and yet it has no strategy for our shipbuilding industry. When the tariffs in the CEFTA come down in 15 years, Canada's industry will be unable to cope with Norwegian competition. The Canada-European free trade agreement is yet another of the Conservative government's hastily concluded bilateral trade agreements and highlights its piecemeal approach to trade that lacks a coherent, fair trade vision and policy.
Canadians are entitled to expect their government to support Canadian jobs. That point was made by Andrew McArthur, a member of the board of directors of the Shipbuilding Association of Canada, and the CAW, which made its case before the committee. It said that the shipbuilding sector must be excluded from this agreement and that the federal government should immediately help put together a structured financing facility and an accelerated capital cost allowance for the industry.
In addition to this testimony, was the concern expressed by Mary Keith, spokeswoman for the Irving shipbuilding conglomerate, about the Canada-European free trade agreement. She said:
...is a devastating blow for Canadian shipbuilders and marine service sectors.
The government of Canada is continuing its 12-year history of sacrificing Canadian shipbuilding and ship operators in the establishment of free trade agreements with other nations.
That is at the heart of the efforts made by the hon. member for to amend Bill at report stage. The shipbuilding industry is at a critical point.
As was pointed out by Mr. Andrew McArthur and Mr. George MacPherson at the international trade committee on March 3, they said:
The Canadian shipbuilding industry is already operating at about a third of its capacity. Canadian demand for ships over the next 25 years is estimated to be worth $40 billion. Under the proposed FTAs with Norway, Iceland and the planned FTA with Korea and then Japan, these Canadian shipbuilding jobs are in serious jeopardy. In these terms, this government plan is an absolute outrage.
Imagine that, $40 billion and it will not benefit Canadian workers.
The position of the association from day one has been that shipbuilding should be carved out from the EFTA. We have been told categorically time and again by the government that it does not carve industries out. We have mentioned the fact that the Jones act in the U.S. was carved out from NAFTA and now we are not allowed to build or repair for the Americans but the Americans have free access to our market. So industries do not get carved out.
Unfortunately, and apparently, that only happens in the United States.
New Democrats have proposed that Bill be redrafted by the government to exclude shipbuilding. We hope the Liberals from Atlantic Canada will see the wisdom of this amendment and support the hard-working men and women across the country who build the ships.
Bill simply must change. This is not, as I have already indicated, the first time that a Liberal-Conservative trade deal has left Canadian workers and industries in ashes. We have seen it over and over again in communities like mine, in London, Ontario, and the smaller centres of southwestern Ontario. Free trade agreements, be they the FTA, NAFTA, or the Korean free trade agreement, have robbed families of their livelihood and taken away their future.
NAFTA was supposed to bring prosperity to Canada. Instead, we have seen industry after industry abandon the workers who made them successful and the communities that paid for the infrastructure that allowed them to prosper. They have abandoned them in favour of jurisdictions that sacrifice environmental and safety standards and permit their employees to earn only substandard wages. They have done that despite the fact that Canadian workers are the best and most skilled in the world.
For example, a detailed study of productivity levels in North American auto assembly confirms that Canadian auto factories are the most efficient on the continent. The Harbour Report, the leading survey of auto productivity, indicates that average labour productivity is more than 11% higher in Canadian auto assembly plants than in U.S. plants and about 35% better than in Mexican plants. I dare say that is true of shipbuilders, too.
The Navistar truck plant in Chatham and the Sterling truck plant in St. Thomas are two tragic examples of the exodus of profitable and efficient plants that have completely closed down. They closed at a tremendous cost to families and communities. I have met with the workers from those plants and their families. The consequences of those job losses are devastating, because hopes, opportunities, dreams and futures are destroyed.
NAFTA is not the only trade deal that threatens our communities. The government is still in negotiations with South Korea to put in place a free trade deal that is profoundly unbalanced. It tolerates a trade deficit of over $3 billion at a cost of thousands of jobs. Korea has been allowed to keep its domestic markets closed to Canadian vehicles, and the promises by Koreans to remove non-tariff barriers are unenforceable.
In 2005, Canada imported $5.4 billion in goods from Korea, while it exported only $2.8 billion. Sixty-seven per cent of that trade deficit was automotive. Canada imported 129,376 light-duty vehicles with virtually no reciprocal sales of vehicles from Canada. This is not free trade nor fair trade. It is the kind of trade deal, like the FTA, NAFTA, the Colombia trade agreement, the MAI and the SPP, that robs our families and communities of jobs.
I have a couple of letters that I want to quote from. They are from people who are very concerned about this trade deal.
The first letter is from Robert Vance, who writes that he is very concerned and disheartened. He is a shipyard worker. He writes:
It is shameful to think that although other countries including those involved in the European free trade agreement strongly support their shipbuilding industry, while we as Canadians do not.
One of the most surprising things to me as a shipyard workers is that all stakeholders in the industry including owners, operators and unions from coast-to-coast have emphasized the need for this support during the many committee meetings that were held on the use of free trade talks.
Unfortunately, the Liberal Party of Canada did not feel it necessary to support these workers and backed up the Conservatives, instead.
It is up to the government and all parliamentarians to protect Canadian jobs and industries. That includes agriculture and it includes shipbuilding, as well as those in manufacturing and the auto sector. We must protect Canadian jobs and industries for the sake of our communities, for the sake of our workers, for the sake of this country.