Evidence of meeting #31 for Transport, Infrastructure and Communities in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was air.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Chuck Atkinson  President and Directing General Chairman, District Lodge 140, Mississauga, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in Canada
  • Jean Poirier  General Chairman, District Lodge 140, Montréal, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in Canada
  • Gilles Brosseau  Québec Coordinator, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in Canada
  • Louis Erlichman  Canadian Research Director, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in Canada
  • Tony Didoshak  General Chairman, District Lodge 140, Winnipeg, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in Canada
  • Christopher Hiscock  President, Local Lodge 764, Richmond, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in Canada

10 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder London West, ON

If I'm correct, the moneys that Aveos received were from investors who would have been reasonably sophisticated, I would have thought--larger financial institutions. Certainly we heard that in some testimony from Mr. Rovinescu last week.

Again, I come back to my business background. I have bought and sold companies, but I do that with eyes wide open. It strikes me that Aveos would have done the same thing. So it's interesting that they make these comments to you on their way out. I'm just surprised that this would never have been considered. I would find that highly irregular for any business, especially an investor-based business that would go into that kind of enterprise without having eyes wide open. It strikes me, clearly, from my experience—and these people do not seem like unsophisticated investors—that this is how they would have done it.

Can I ask a question about your current employee group, please? Was 2,600 employees the exact number of employees when Aveos bought that division?

10:05 a.m.

General Chairman, District Lodge 140, Winnipeg, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in Canada

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder London West, ON

How many employees were there at the time?

10:05 a.m.

General Chairman, District Lodge 140, Winnipeg, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in Canada

Tony Didoshak

I can only speak for Winnipeg, because I don't know—

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder London West, ON

I'm trying to get a global—

10:05 a.m.

General Chairman, District Lodge 140, Winnipeg, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in Canada

Tony Didoshak

—how it was reduced nationally. I'll let Brother Poirier talk about Quebec.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder London West, ON

Mr. Poirier, do you know the...? Okay.

10:05 a.m.

General Chairman, District Lodge 140, Winnipeg, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in Canada

Tony Didoshak

In Winnipeg, we started with over 600 employees within the maintenance base when ACTS existed, when it was sold to Aveos. We were down to 330 unionized mechanics when they went bankrupt. So we lost half our workforce within just a couple of years of Aveos purchasing ACTS.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder London West, ON

Can I ask—

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Merv Tweed

I have to stop.... I'll ask Mr. Poirier to complete the answer, and then we have to move on.

Mr. Poirier.

10:05 a.m.

General Chairman, District Lodge 140, Montréal, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in Canada

Jean Poirier

Personally, I like to paint a clear picture for everyone. What my colleague from Winnipeg said is true: the number of people has dropped over the years.

You talked about viability. In 2003, Air Canada Maintenance or ACTS—call it whatever you want—was totally viable. In 2007, when it was sold, it was still viable, because it was sold for over $700 million.

The employees have not had a pay raise since 2003. Their benefits have not improved. Their productivity increased because the number of workers decreased. So don’t tell me that the company isn’t viable. More like some people cashed in and then took off.

Aveos's management structure was unbelievable. There were so many people in that department. I think that there were more people in management than on the shop floor at one point.

It is definitely a viable company. People made sacrifices, and once again, the employees are bearing the brunt of things. They have been kicked out into the street, while some people might have taken off with buckets of money

Are we a viable company? Yes, we are. Nobody can tell me otherwise.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Merv Tweed

Thank you.

That completes the first round. I'm going to open up the floor for another round of five minutes.

I'll start with Mr. Nicholls.

April 3rd, 2012 / 10:05 a.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

What I'm going to take away from this meeting today is an idea of what the Conservative strategy for jobs is, and that's learn to speak Spanish or Chinese, buy a plane ticket, and say “Adios”.

How can a Canadian worker compete with $3 an hour or $2 an hour, or however much they pay in El Salvador or China? It takes government support to support our industry. We look at EMD: it went to the States. It had U.S. government support. The pay that they were getting in Canada got cut in half. Now, if our government had been willing to support EMD, maybe we would have been able to keep those jobs here.

I don't see this government supporting any workers in Canada. Frankly, the more evidence I see from this government, I see that it's interested in union busting, clearly.

This is the largest single loss in the aerospace industry since the demise of the Avro Arrow. Just coincidentally, the replica of the Avro Arrow is being turfed out of a museum right now.

It doesn't seem to me that the Conservatives want an industrial strategy at all. These people who were employed with Aveos spent money in their communities. They paid their taxes, they raised their kids, they raised their families, and they built local economies. Those are the people who build local economies, not a bunch of managers who put their money offshore, who don't even live on Canadian soil.

If we look at innovation, you are the innovators here. You're the practical side of the ideas application. You're doing the work on the ground. The government's job is to prepare the playing field for you, and we've seen that they've clearly failed at doing that. If you look at even the World Economic Forum, we see Canada's ranking dropping every year in terms of their competitiveness with regard to innovation. You are the innovators. And now we see that dropping further.

Now, the government is trying to roll out a plan regarding innovation, but as far as I'm concerned, it's too little, too late. They haven't been looking at the indicators and I'm not sure if their plan is going to work, especially with the Minister of Finance busy attacking the Premier of Ontario.

You got to the key there: you said mismanagement. Well, this government's being mismanaged. You talked about the top managers screwing over the people on the bottom. Well, that's what this government is doing.

Don't you agree with that? Don't you agree that this is clearly an exercise in union busting? And if it doesn't stop today, if we don't stop this union busting, it's just going to continue within each sector of the country, and unionized workers are going to be screwed over by this government.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Merv Tweed

Excuse me. Mr. Watson has a point of order.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Jeff Watson Essex, ON

I'm just not sure that the language of the honourable member is very parliamentary with respect to the government or government members. I think that should be withdrawn, and something a little more parliamentary used instead.