House of Commons Hansard #45 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was industry.

Topics

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-273, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (deduction for volunteer emergency service), as amended, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank the House for the opportunity to speak to this very special bill. I also commend my colleague from Cape Breton—Canso for bringing forward this initiative.

As my colleague from Alberta rightfully mentioned, this bill was debated in the House before and I agree with him that it is most unfortunate that it was four votes shy of a victory. Why it did not pass, I will never know. I know how mildly upset the hon. gentleman was at that time, but he has a good-natured temperament and as Saskatchewan beat Edmonton in the last playoff game, he understands defeat. However I know he is a very happy man today because he is a very strong advocate for our firefighters and first responders.

Again, I thank the hon. member from Cape Breton. I also thank my colleagues in the Bloc for supporting this initiative.

One of the things that is overlooked tremendously is when firefighters, especially those who are volunteers have basic training every Tuesday night. In Fall River where I live every Tuesday night the firefighters get together. They practise, train and do a great job. They truly love what they are doing. That applies to all the firefighters at the other community halls throughout the area I represent. They never know when that phone call is going to come in or when that bell is going to ring.

I can only imagine in my greatest depth of fear what it must have been like in West Lincoln when Mark Woerlen lost his wife and seven children in a house fire. I pray to God that no one on the planet ever has to go through that. It was tragic for the family, and we extend our condolences to the family, we can never do enough to offer our sentiments for their grief. The first people on the scene, the first responders, were firefighters. Imagine the horror they must have felt.

This bill will assist them financially and will recognize their sacrifices in terms of the hours they put in, but it will never replace the horror that they feel. I mention this because we should be concentrating on further assistance for firefighters when it comes to incidents of that nature.

Every day in this country three people die from a fire, either in their home, their business or their vehicle. Usually the first people on the scene are first responders, firefighters, search and rescue, people of that nature. It takes a unique and very brave individual to enter a building when everyone else is leaving.

We only need to reflect upon what happened in the United States on September 11. We saw the firefighters and the other first responders. We heard the stories of what they did.

This is a bill that we wholeheartedly support. We are very glad to see it. We hope that we can move this bill forward very quickly. With cooperation from the four parties there is no reason it cannot be fast tracked to third reading, sent to the Senate and make it happen very soon.

I also have a private member's bill that recognizes volunteers. Volunteerism in Nova Scotia alone is a $2 billion activity. Some $2 billion of economic activity is driven by volunteers alone.

According to my bill, people who volunteer in a registered organization such as the Lions Club, Kiwanis, a church or the legion and who put in 250 hours a year or more should be able to claim a $1,000 tax deduction.

I am very hopeful with the passing of this bill in the very near future that we can quite possibly revisit the other volunteers who are out there, such as the people who volunteer with Meals on Wheels.

Friends of mine in Sheet Harbour, Nova Scotia are with the Lions Club and they drive people all the way into Dartmouth and Halifax for their medical appointments, shopping and so on. They do not ask anything in return. They do not get a per diem for their mileage. They just do it out of the goodness of their hearts. That money comes out of their own pockets. They do it because it is the neighbourly thing to do. They do it because as the Lions Club says, “We are here to serve”. They do not ask for anything in return.

I am hopeful that in the near future there will be an opportunity for us to stand in the House and recognize all the volunteers in Canada. I hope we will be able to offer them not only recognition but a financial consideration with regard to their income tax at the end of the year.

One of the nicest things about where I live in Fall River is I happen to know most of the volunteers at the Fall River fire hall. There is a fire hydrant right in front of my home which knocks $10 off my insurance, thank you very much. The reality is I can sleep at night knowing very well that if anything happens to my neighbours or to me, almost instantaneously someone from that fire hall will be there to help us.

I have seen it happen many times in our area, be it a brush fire, someone who had a heart attack, someone who cut their leg with a chain saw. In any kind of incident they are always there to help. They do not ask any questions. It does not matter what the incident is. All they want to do is help. They do not ask for anything in return, except perhaps a cold beer and pizza after their training on Tuesday nights. That is something we can handle. They are some of our finest Canadians.

I want to say how proud the New Democratic Party is to support the bill. We also want to thank the hon. member for Lethbridge for his work in the previous Parliament. We thank the Bloc Québécois for its steadfast support. We also thank the member for Cape Breton--Canso. This is another great idea, although it might have been copied a bit, that comes from Nova Scotia. What else would we expect from a maritimer?

On behalf of the federal New Democratic Party we salute all the firefighters of this country. We hope for speedy passage of the bill.

At this time, Mr. Speaker, I would like to say Merry Christmas to you, all members of Parliament in the House and members of the Senate, all the pages, and everyone who works on Parliament Hill, and I wish everyone a very Happy New Year.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

West Nova
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Robert Thibault Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to engage in debate today with my fellow hon. colleagues on the matter of Bill C-273 sponsored by the hon. member for Cape Breton--Canso.

It is a particular pleasure to have the member for Malpeque in the House tonight considering all the work that he has done on this matter in the past, as well as the member for Lethbridge. It is also a pleasure to have the support of the two other parties. Everybody is pulling in the same direction on this issue. It is nice to see this recognition of the work of volunteer emergency workers in our country.

As I understand the bill, it is supposed to provide a graduated tax deduction to qualifying emergency service volunteers based on the number of hours volunteered. Basically, the more they volunteer the more they would receive in tax assistance. Moreover, the deduction would be claimed against income from all sources. Let us look at what this means. It means that the number of hours these people would have to put in to start to touch back would be a minimum of two hours a week, essentially. These are people who give a lot of time.

I believe that all members of the House appreciate the valuable roll that volunteers play in our society and we are grateful for the unwavering dedication of volunteers who sometimes risk their lives to help their fellow citizens in emergency situations.

Indeed, these volunteers respond to thousands of calls each year and in doing so expose themselves to danger, such as going into a home engulfed in flames and filled with toxic smoke in order to rescue a fellow citizen or responding to a rail accident where there may be an explosion at any time.

It is plainly evident: these volunteers underpin the security and safety of our country and citizenry. They accept risks and dangers while gallantly performing their duties for the sake of protecting others. Their role is particularly important in many rural communities that are not in a position to have full time emergency service personnel, in handling extreme circumstances such as hurricane Juan, the ice storm, the floods in Quebec. We can talk about all of these and we can talk about the recent snow storm in Nova Scotia, when all these fire halls, these voluntarily operated fire halls, became EMO centres where people could find refuge and warm food.

We see many examples of things like that. These people are involved in emergency measures organizations within their communities, which goes beyond what they do regularly. We see them dispensing first aid.

It was entirely appropriate for the member of the Bloc Québécois to indicate that the bill does not concern only volunteer firefighters but other people too.

But let us just talk about firefighters. They take their first aid training and are ready to dispense first aid. They attend fires. As for fires, we can all imagine the burning house, but in my community in rural Canada volunteer fire departments attend weekly to chimney fires, which tend not to happen on nice warm summer days. Chimney fires tend to happen when there is freezing rain, snow and wind.

Search and rescue is another matter. Volunteer firefighters are always involved in search and rescue. It is not only the search and rescue personnel who are involved, but also the volunteer firefighters. Often they are first responders at accidents, and even if they are not designated as first response, they attend accidents. They have to get out of their homes and out of their businesses to attend.

We talk about their homes, but a lot of these people are small businessmen. They are tradesmen. They are plumbers or carpenters or electricians. They are service station operators who must leave their places of business and do their volunteer work.

We see them at community events quite often, events that are not emergencies. We do not see the gallantry at that time; they are parking vehicles so that we can have our fall fairs, our summer festivals and all these other things, so that they can raise a few dollars for their departments or assist the community. Again that is time away from their businesses, their leisure, their families and their other interests, time that they are dedicating to their community.

What do they do except put out fires and fight fires? They do training. It is important that they be properly trained and that they train the new recruits within their departments. They give a lot of time to that.

They also do fundraising. They do not necessarily depend on the tax base for all of their equipment. I just opened two new fire halls in my riding, in Wedgeport and in Little Brook, and most of the money was raised by these fire departments and their auxiliaries. They do all that in addition to training.

More important, and I think it was mentioned very well by the member from Lethbridge, who is, I understand, is a volunteer firefighter himself, it is a family contribution. It is not only a family contribution when there is an emergency, but a family contribution when there is a training night, when there is a fundraiser or when there is community event. One or two or both members of the family, the parents, are not there for their children those evenings or to do other family events. They are contributing to the community, so it is a cost to the family. It is a contribution to us.

Each Canadian who has been on the receiving end of the vital assistance provided by an emergency volunteer knows the value of their service and every Canadian should appreciate that one day that they may be the ones in need of help. Knowing that these volunteers are there gives us all great comfort and for that we should all be thankful.

This government knows that the safety and security of Canadians is an important issue. I have figures on the amount of money that is put into emergency preparedness and to security. They have been given in the House in many instances, so I will not repeat them.

The priority that the government gives to security is clear. It is also clear that the government agrees with the member for Cape Breton—Canso on the important role of emergency services.

Under the Income Tax Act, emergency service volunteers can receive tax-free compensation of up to $1,000 from a public authority, which represents an increase of $500 since 1998.

The measure that is now in place is reasonable. I will have to run through my notes because there is not enough time to do it all and there is a lot to say about this. What is being put forward is reasonable. I fully support the principle.

There is a question I must ask, which we must face in debate and which the committee will grapple with. Is this the best way? Is it too bureaucratic, as was raised by the Bloc? We will have to look at that. On the marginal rate, does it have the same impact for all volunteers? The marginal rate of taxation can be different, so is there a way that would have the same input? Not all volunteers pay taxes, so they would get no contribution.

Other volunteers in our community who contribute as much might not get similar treatment and we do not want to draw away from other services toward one where there might be a special treatment. I do not know that it would be an issue, but I think it would be important to hear this debate and hear from the committee.

I support the idea. I think it is a great idea. I look forward to the debate. I can assure the House that I will vote in favour.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired, and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

Pursuant to order made earlier today, the House shall now resolve into committee of the whole to consider the textile industry. I do now leave the chair for the House to go into committee of the whole.

(House in committee of the whole for consideration of a motion on the textile industry under Government Orders, Mr. Strahl in the chair.)

Textile Industry
Government Orders

December 14th, 2004 / 6:30 p.m.

Brossard—La Prairie
Québec

Liberal

Jacques Saada Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec and Minister responsible for the Francophonie

Mr. Chair, I am pleased that the House is having this debate, and my first words will be for the people in Huntingdon who are experiencing today the anxiety of knowing that they will lose their jobs. My heart goes out to them not as a politician, but only as the father of a family, and I am wondering how it is possible to live through such hardships just before Christmas.

If I may, I will do tonight something I seldom do, that is being totally apolitical. I would like to deal briefly with the challenges ahead. What can we do to prevent the reoccurrence of similar events, and what can we do to help people affected by this?

Globalization is not just communications and knowledge but also includes trade. Globalization cannot be avoided, and it has consequences. To rise to the challenges of the 21st century, the Canadian textile and clothing industries are trying to adjust. Trade barriers are coming down, and international competition requires companies to broaden their horizons and explore new ways to do business, and to promote themselves and their products more effectively.

All industries are subject to this new dynamic. Of course, textiles and clothing are no exception. In this context, there are two key words: innovation and creativity.

We believe that the role of a responsible government, which in my opinion we are, is to support such innovation and creativity. I want to tell the House about various measures implemented over the past months. This matter is not new to us. We have been working on it for a long time already.

For example, on February 27, 2004, almost one year ago already, after having heard the recommendations of a joint industry-government task force, the former industry minister, now Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, announced new measures to help Canadian textile and clothing manufacturers become more competitive abroad.

These measures, set at approximately $53.4 million, include the allocation of $26.7 million to CANtex, a three-year Canadian initiative to assist companies to enhance their productivity and improve efficiency, as well as reduce tariffs on imported fabrics used by clothing manufacturers.

If I mention CANtex, it is because, in Quebec, Economic Development Canada, my department, is responsible for implementing this program. It targets textile manufacturers that want to refocus their activities, lower production costs and increase productivity.

I just said so, but I will repeat that we all recognize the importance of fostering innovation and competitiveness in an increasingly competitive world market. CANtex has been in operation since last October 13 and comes with a budget of $14.6 million over three years for Quebec alone.

One project was approved in Quebec; 11 applications were received under the CANtex program; five information sessions were held to provide businesses with details on CANtex; sessions were organized in partnership with regional organizations. I am referring to those sessions held in Sainte-Marie-de-Beauce, Drummondville, Sherbrooke, Bromont, Montreal.

These measures designed to enhance the competitiveness of Canadian businesses build on the success of the Canadian Apparel and Textile Industries Program, or CATIP. This program is the result of the hard work of several parliamentarians. I would like, if I may, to name at least three, for obvious reasons that, everyone will agree, transcend political differences. They are, first, the hon. member for Ahuntsic, second, the hon. member for Beauce and, third, the hon. member for Brome—Missisquoi. Other members, from both sides of the House, have shown concern for these issues.

The CATIP led to the completion of 159 projects in Quebec. The Government of Canada contributed nearly $9.5 million under that program, which generated $28 million in investment and led to the maintenance of 12,000 jobs and the creation of a further 436 jobs.

To give a few examples of successes, first of all there is Régitex. Five years ago, Régitex Inc.in Saint-Joseph-de-Beauce was a small operation with a handful of employees producing leading-edge yarns for industrial, apparel and home furnishing purposes. Today, it has a staff of 140. One of the keys to that change was financial assistance provided by the program I have referred to, which enabled it to introduce new business practices. This has enabled Régitex to better promote its products to furniture manufacturers in the United States.

A second example of success, the Children's Apparel Manufacturers' Association on-line credit bureau, which was established in this way, provides credit checks and enables members to assess the risk of a specific sale.

Empire Shirt Ltd. of Louiseville, Quebec, is a thoroughly modern company with a century-old tradition of excellence. It specializes in designing and manufacturing top-quality uniforms for police forces, schools and dozens of other organizations across Canada.With financial assistance from the Canadian Apparel and Textile Industries Program, the company hired a consultant to conduct a comprehensive analysis of its operations. Each workstation was scrutinized and every process reviewed.The analysis led Empire Shirt to implement a series of new procedures. As a result, operations are much more efficient, delivery times are shorter and production costs are down.

Confections Alizée plein air of Sainte-Aurélie, has combined a love of the outdoors and a talent for design to establish a thriving business. With the program's help, the company doubled the floor space of the existing facility to accommodate a staff of 27 and introduced a computerized pattern-grading system, which has led to significant improvements in productivity.

I could not do justice in the few minutes available to all those who have benefited from this program to move their companies forward, develop a competitive edge and finally beat, even dominate the competition.

I could tell you about the Canadian Apparel Federation, which hopes to address the marketing gap through an industry portal and e-business infrastructure.

Or of the industry association CTT Group/SAGEOS of Saint-Hyacinthe, dedicated to improving the productivity of Canada's geotextile industry. With financial assistance from the Canadian Apparel and Textile Industries Program, the association has initiated the Geotextile Awareness Project, which aims to improve market share and production levels of geotextiles in Canada, and to increase knowledge and understanding of the product's many uses.

I could tell you about Groupe VR2, in Asbestos. This business, which used to focus only on clothes manufacturing, now acts as a contract manufacturer for a range of international clients and, on occasion, it imports and exports finished products. Once again, CATIP, the Canada Economic Development program, was present, was helpful, useful and effective, and served a purpose.

Of course, we all know what the situation is in Huntingdon. Let me just say two or three very brief things on this subject.

In fact, we must give credit where credit is due. For over a year now, following representations by Quebec MP Serge Marcil, the regional office in Montérégie has been working closely with parties concerned, including people responsible for the Haut-Saint-Laurent RCM, which Huntingdon is part of, to develop and implement a regional strategy of intervention for Suroît, to diversify the regional economy and enhance key natural sectors. This issue is a priority.

Yesterday, my colleague from Brome—Missisquoi organized a meeting with industry representatives and concerned parties and departments. Despite all these efforts and many others, Huntingdon Mills and Cleyn & Tinker are closing.

Whole families are experiencing pain, uncertainty, an unknown future and fear. My department is willing to examine any project that is submitted to it to diversify the local economy.

I do not know if, in five or six seconds, I can say how, for me, before being an economic question, what the people of Huntingdon are going through is a human problem. I do not know if this is enough, of course it is not, but I would like to tell them how I feel for them and how I want to find solutions with them and for them.

Textile Industry
Government Orders

6:40 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Rivière-Du-Loup—Montmagny, QC

Mr. Chair, we all sympathize with the people from Huntingdon, but let us be clear: the federal government has known for 10 years now that the tariffs and quotas would disappear on January 1, 2005. Today, they hastily made a few announcements, but nothing that will help this industry get through this crisis. Last week representatives from the apparel and textile industry came to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade and talked about how discouraged they were at the federal government's inaction.

It is quite frustrating for them to hear today's announcement making Huntingdon a priority. I want the minister to explain how he can announce two pilot projects for Laval and Ahuntsic, which may be justified, but announce absolutely nothing for Huntingdon the same day we learn that 800 jobs are being lost.

We do not understand this attitude of the federal government. In April 2004 there was a unanimous report from the Standing Committee on Finance that proposed three measures. Why then did we have to wait until today for the federal government to confirm part of these measures? The Huntingdon case is not an isolated situation. This is a tidal wave. There is an extraordinary offensive, namely the Chinese, at the ready to take over all these markets.

Again today, the federal government has delivered half measures. There are no conclusive results. If the programs they are talking about, namely CATIP and CANtex, had resolved the problem, we would not be here talking about it today.

A year ago someone was working with the people of Huntingdon and today the plant is closing. What does the minister think about that? Obviously it did not work.

And it gets worse. Does the minister not agree that the first thing that should have been put on the table today was an aid package for older workers so that those who have been laid off can have decent employment insurance benefits and a decent future? These are people who dedicated their lives to working in companies where salaries were not particularly impressive and neither was the pension fund.

Does the attitude of the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development not suggest that it is business as usual, that nothing special has happened and that nothing will be done any differently? Why has there been no announcement by the government to help older workers?

Textile Industry
Government Orders

6:40 p.m.

Liberal

Jacques Saada Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. If I may, I would like to put this into perspective, because the question contained a few things that are inaccurate and incorrect.

The CATIP program has been in existence since 2002, and it is almost 2005. I gave concrete examples of CATIP success stories. If you like, I will go through them once more. I had to be brief because I did not have enough time. But there were at least seven to ten success stories thanks to the CATIP program.

Textile Industry
Government Orders

6:40 p.m.

An hon. member

Oh, oh!

Textile Industry
Government Orders

6:40 p.m.

Liberal

Jacques Saada Brossard—La Prairie, QC

In the case of Huntingdon, I would like to finish my answer, if I may. In April 2004, we had meetings there with CED, Industry Canada and the minister of economic and regional development in Quebec. Together, we explored the possibility of using either CANtex, or another program in my department, IDEA-SME, to foster economic diversification.

We then put everything together and asked two local companies to tell us whether they were interested. Huntingdon Mills was interested, but it did not apply to the office in charge of this program for assistance. We never had any feedback from the other company.

I do not want people to start pointing fingers and saying who did what, and who should have done this or that. What I see now is people in trouble. I accept my colleague's question, but I wanted to set the record straight so that everybody is talking about real facts and not allegations.

Textile Industry
Government Orders

6:45 p.m.

Bloc

Alain Boire Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, some people say that programs like CANtex can help some businesses, but they have not done anything for the businesses in my riding and in Huntingdon.

The member says that meetings have been held with businesses in Huntingdon, but how is it that nothing happened? It is a failure. Nothing concrete was done. Things were said to the employer, but the unions were not allowed at the meeting, at the negotiation table. Other things were thus said to the union and the employees. It was only smoke and mirrors for the Huntingdon businesses.

According to the government, the CANtex program could help solve the problem. Unfortunately, these programs are no substitute for an appropriate policy implemented in the present context. When our industry, the textile industry, has no more opportunities, what good will these programs do?

These programs are nothing but empty shells. I would like the member opposite to give us an answer to these questions and to explain to us how it is that nothing has been done for the benefit of the Huntingdon industries.

Textile Industry
Government Orders

6:45 p.m.

Liberal

Jacques Saada Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Chair, the question raised by my colleagues touches on a very sensitive issue and I will do my best to explain it as clearly as possible. My department and the government can intervene as much as they want, provided that businesses make some effort to show an interest in proposing something. So, we are willing to support businesses.

My colleague points out to me the fact that unions were not involved. I am sure he is not telling me that the Government of Canada has a responsibility to go in and manage labour-management relations in those private companies. This does not make sense.

There was a program that was open to everybody. Not only that, but since I still have a few minutes left, if I may, I will go back to a few concrete examples. Regitex in Saint-Joseph-de-Beauce was a successful business. The Association des manufacturiers de mode enfantine in Montréal was a success. Chemise Empire Ltée in Louiseville was a success. Confections Alizée plein air inc. in Sainte-Aurélie was a success. The Canadian Apparel Federation, and their work, were a success. The Groupe CTT/SAGEOS in Saint-Hyacinthe was a success. The Groupe VR2 Inc. in Asbestos was a success.

All those businesses have this in common: they have decided to work to take advantage of the services offered by the programs we have set up. I am certainly not going to ask the heads of the businesses in Huntingdon “How come your unions are not present?” I do not want to suggest that they were not present because I was not present at the meeting, and I do not know who was. However, I know that we have taken the initiative and we have invited them. We have asked for plans to be submitted. We have said that the money was there. We have said that we were extremely flexible on the mode of application to help them.

What more can we do to help a business? There are eight, nine, ten, fifteen that have achieved something, and two whose failure has been revealed today. I am sorry, but if we have made it with 10 or 12 businesses, it may be because the program was not so bad. So we really have to see what the problem was.

Textile Industry
Government Orders

6:45 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Rivière-Du-Loup—Montmagny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased that we are having this debate tonight, at the request of the Bloc—an emergency debate on a tragic situation. The people of Huntingdon are living in a tragedy. More than 800 people will soon be out of work. That is the result of the federal government's inaction.

I repeat the quote that was read earlier to the hon. minister who preceded me.

This government appears to believe that the latest measures they have announced, CATIP and CANtex, are the solutions to the problems. Unfortunately, these programs are no substitute for appropriate and realistic policy for today's context. When our industry has no markets left, what good will these programs be?

Do you know who said that? The president of Denim Swift, which has had to terminate hundreds of jobs in Drummondville. The minister can slip away. I would naturally expect him to slip away while we are giving him a close-up view of this business's reality. In this file, the current government's action has come terribly late.