House of Commons Hansard #15 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was industry.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Manufacturing and Forestry
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Bloc

Robert Vincent Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to denounce the inability of this government to run this country. It is a useless government, a laissez-faire government. During the next 10 minutes, I will have other terms to describe this Conservative government that is running the country. What good is it to the citizens of Quebec and Canada to have a government that takes a laissez-faire approach and does not actually do anything for them?

It is clear that it is easy for a government to run the country with a budgetary surplus of $20 billion. It is easy to take that money, to spread it around, here and there, to win political advantage. That is easy; anyone can do that.

However, when the time comes to deal with a situation like the one our industry is going through, to propose real solutions to save that industry or to save employees from the loss of their jobs, what does the government do? Absolutely nothing. What has it done lately and in the last few years? It has caused the loss of 135,000 jobs, including 65,000 in Quebec. That is what a Conservative government does: nothing

It reduced the GST by one percent. What does that mean? It means that they have reduced the price of all products, including those coming from China, all those exports that a third country is dumping on us, loading us down with all kinds of products that we cannot compete against. In fact, we cannot specify a price for those products, because the restrictions imposed make it impossible to determine a true price.

So, they reduced the price of products from China by one percent. Then, they found that was not enough; so, what did they do? They lowered the GST by another one percent. Every time they lower the GST by one percent, they lower the price of products. This benefits not consumers but producers. And those producers, in Quebec like elsewhere, produce even more Chinese products. We need to be careful.

What were the Conservatives thinking of when they decided to lower the GST? Of one thing only: consumers will be glad to have one percent more in their pockets. However, the Conservatives do not think any farther than the end of their noses. In fact the end result is just enough for everyone to buy a cup of coffee at the end of the month. I do not think that is the amount of money the Conservatives want to have in their pockets.

What is the second thing that the Conservatives did? They recognized that the industry was not doing well and they agreed to set up a committee that examined the manufacturing sector for almost a year. As my colleague mentioned earlier, 22 recommendations were made. I heard some members say that the Conservatives acted on one of these 22 recommendations. However, they forgot to mention that it was only a partial implementation, not a full one. Indeed, our committee had asked for an accelerated capital cost allowance over a five year period, but the government applied it over two years. It does not listen to anything or anyone. It asks for studies, but once these studies are completed, it simply throws them away, without even looking at them. The government relies on a piecemeal approach, but it does not even bother to take a look at the various aspects.

Sometimes, I wonder whether the Prime Minister has two brains: one that benefits Alberta and the other that takes into account the rest of Canada, including Quebec. Sometimes, I wonder if one of these brains has not gone astray, with the other one looking for it.

Moreover, the government is considering tax cuts for corporations. That is unbelievable. Who is this government trying to buy? Who is it trying to please? Obviously not the companies that are experiencing difficulties, because they do not pay taxes. So, who benefits from this measure? Once again, it is big oil companies and large corporations that are making money. Companies that are making profits do not need tax cuts, since they are already making money. If the government wants to help companies, it should target those that are experiencing difficulties. But the government still does not understand that. In fact, there is a lot that it does not understand.

From the time we started seeing the loss of jobs here and there each week, it seems to me that it should have understood. Recently, there has been an increase in the number of complaints from people in the territory of the former industry minister complaining about the government’s inertia. From one end of Canada to the other, we hear people wondering where these Conservative MPs are. They have plugged their ears. I cannot understand how they can do absolutely nothing.

Then, when they talk about tax cuts to help consumers, what do they try to do? They try to buy votes. That is what they are trying to do—buy votes with a $20 billion surplus. That is not the way to help the economy. They are not helping the economy. This tax cut has to show up not only in consumers’ pockets, but also in the Canadian, the Quebec, economy. That is where we need to see it.

Why do I say that? On the one hand, taxes are being lowered, sure. On the other, the Canadian dollar is fluctuating while the American dollar remains stable or decreases. We read in the newspapers that people who save money on their taxes will use it to go shopping in the United States.

What was this government thinking? I do not know. I do not understand, because the economy that should be encouraged should be our own. But now taxes are being cut to encourage the American economy. That does not make any sense. What is this government’s reasoning? I do not know. Where did it get this idea? I do not know that either, but it should switch advisers. No argument could convince me that this is one of the best things it has done to boost the economy. It is not boosting it; it is only making it worse. There is nothing good about it.

What is this government doing? Every time it does something, it is to win votes in the next election. This is not what they should be doing. Jobs are being lost and it is time to work on keeping them. But the government is still not doing anything. I look forward to the time when they wake up and decide to do something intelligent. But I do not think that will happen. I am discouraged. We have to take up a supply day to try and get through to the MPs of a government that claims to promote good governance. Let me think about that for a second. This government is promoting good governance but only for itself and its lobby.

What is more, as I said, industry is the one to profit from the tax reduction. If memory serves, the figure for the reduction for all Canadian oil companies is $40 million. Really now. Those companies have already been gifted with $250 million. Where will it end? When there are no industries left in Quebec? This is an important sector of the economy of Quebec, the one on which the livelihood of just about everyone in Quebec depends. And yet, what is being done about it? Not a thing.

From where I sit, this looks like an attempt to sell us out to the United States. If our money ends up in the States with cross-border shoppers, there will be no economy left over here. The government must stop thinking that this will sort itself out on its own, because it will not.

Another thing. Again, going by the figures given, I have heard at one point that the Conservative government had given $37 million to Canadian industry. That is $37 million out of $20 billion! Does the government think that is enough to save industry? The members of this government are totally oblivious. They see nothing. There is no future for them in politics. There is no future for industry. I do not know what is going to be done, but the government will have to get a grip, or jobs and industries will be lost in Quebec. If nothing is done to improve the industrial situation, things will keep on going in the same way. Nothing has been done to improve the industrial situation—absolutely nothing! I keep on saying this because I am convinced of it. What else could I say, Mr. Speaker?

We believe there are ways. We are not here just to complain.

We are here to present recommendations, to tell them what they need to do, since they are incapable of coming up with their own ideas.

There are recommendations for loans and loan guarantees to encourage investment, industrial modernization and updating of production facilities. This seems clear to me. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure that out. If they have not, we will know what conclusion to reach about them.

There have been program cuts. How many programs has the Conservative government cut back? Then they realize that the cuts were in the wrong place and the program needs to be reinstated. So they do so, under a new name. This is the kind of party that bankrupts itself and then starts up again under another name in order to look good. I for one have had enough of people who just do not think.

Opposition Motion—Manufacturing and Forestry
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my colleague's dissertation. The only point on which I would disagree with him is when he said that the government did not understand what it was doing. I would suggest that the government understands full well what it is doing.

The government is stripping the fiscal capacity of the federal government to ensure we have a balanced economy across the country. Certain regions will make the kinds of profits that have never even been imagined and other regions will be left to disappear. The upper class, the banks and the big oil companies will profit while the rest of us are left to disappear.

I would suggest that it is not just in Quebec. Across northern Ontario, mill after mill has disappear and the economy of complete towns has been wiped out like an economic neutron bomb.

The government members do nothing but snicker and make snide remarks because they know their plan, if fully implemented, will allow their base, which are the big banks and big oil, to make out of this period with unprecedented profits while the rest of us will be left behind.

I would like to hear my hon. colleague's comments on this perspective.

Opposition Motion—Manufacturing and Forestry
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:05 a.m.

Bloc

Robert Vincent Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, I agree with my colleague. In my opinion, he understands the situation that I wished to denounce today.

I hope that the Conservatives will come to the same realization as the other members of this House. I hope that they will sleep on it and bring something tangible to the table to save our industry. These industrial sectors are the economic engine of the country and of Quebec and are important.

Opposition Motion—Manufacturing and Forestry
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:10 a.m.

Oshawa
Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, listening to the hon. member's speech just proves to me evermore that the Bloc just does not do its homework.

The hon. member said that nothing has been done but the truth is that the Bloc has done absolutely nothing. Bloc members voted against our economic update. In other words, there were $60 billion in tax cuts for businesses, manufacturing and families. They claim that they support manufacturing but they voted against the economic update.

The hon. member talked about the 22 recommendations of the Industry committee, on which he is a member. The Conservative government has moved on 21 of the 22 recommendations. He said that was nothing.

In other words, the $400 million for the Windsor-Detroit border, he calls that nothing. The $500 million for labour retraining, he calls that nothing. The creation of an older workers program, he calls that nothing. The accelerated capital cost allowance, he calls that nothing. Advancing science and technology and research and development, he calls that nothing. The review of the shared tax credit, he calls that nothing.

It is clear that the Bloc wants higher taxes. It wants to stall the economy. We have the lowest unemployment in 32 years.

The Bloc claims to support manufacturing but the radical Kyoto environmental policies that it supports are known to kill manufacturing. How does the member resolve these two opposing and hypocritical positions? I want to know that and Canadians want to know that.

Opposition Motion—Manufacturing and Forestry
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:10 a.m.

Bloc

Robert Vincent Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is evident that they understand absolutely nothing. We talked about one recommendation, but now there are 21. This political party is trying to mislead Canadians by saying anything that will make them look good.

I do not see the extraordinary accomplishments of these people. Can it help to be a member of the Conservative government? In one Conservative riding in Quebec, 60 employees of Prévost Car were laid off. Now the Canadian government has decided to order 30 buses from Germany. Can you tell me why? A Conservative member spoke to his Prime Minister but he was unable to obtain a contract for his riding because the contract was given to Germany. That is even worse.

Today, we also note that, in the riding of the former Minister of Industry, companies that have been around for 60 years are closing. Yet no one in this House has risen in their defence. His community has told this government that there is a serious problem. This member, who is also a member of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, should not forget that.

For one year, we said that the value of the dollar was too high. When the value is too low, that is all right, but when the value climbs and the cost of gasoline is too high, that is not good for industry. Has he forgotten?

On the weekend, I paid $1.12 per litre for gas. I do not think that paying $1.12 per litre for gas will help those in industry. It does not help when our dollar is worth $1.08 or $1.10 against the American dollar. That does not encourage industries to buy Canadian.

Opposition Motion—Manufacturing and Forestry
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Opposition Motion—Manufacturing and Forestry
Business of Supply
Government Orders

November 13th, 2007 / 11:10 a.m.

Portage—Lisgar
Manitoba

Conservative

Brian Pallister Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade and to the Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to respond to the question asked by the member for Trois-Rivières concerning the forest industry and what the government is doing to help that industry.

As stated in the recent Speech from the Throne, the government will stand up for Canada's traditional industries, including forestry, which are currently being challenged. Our government has taken action to support workers as these industries adjust to global conditions and will continue to do so.

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean.

The hon. member for Trois-Rivières is right to point out that the forest industry is facing numerous problems. That is a reality. Indeed, these problems include high fibre costs, falling U.S. demand, the rise in the value of the Canadian dollar, and increased energy and production costs.

I would like to remind my colleagues that in the 2006 budget the Government of Canada announced an investment of $400 million over two years to strengthen the long term competitiveness of the forestry sector, a key sector, and to promote worker adjustment among other things; hardly laissez-faire.

I would also like to take this opportunity to once again remind my colleagues of the wide ranging benefits of the 2006 softwood lumber agreement to the Quebec forestry sector, an agreement which was supported and continues to be supported by the provinces and by industry.

Thanks to the efforts of our government an agreement was concluded with the United States, an agreement that received the support of Quebec and of the other major softwood producing provinces in Canada. In addition, this agreement also enjoyed the support of a clear majority of the industry players.

During the negotiations with the United States we worked very hard and we worked cooperatively with the province of Quebec, as well as the other provinces and the forest industry to take their interests into account. It is in the spirit of this agreement that the agreement stands as a clear reflection of those collaborative efforts.

Second, it is important to note that the agreement returned duties collected by the United States and ended all litigation. On that point, it should be noted that Quebec has received over $1 billion of the $5 billion returned to the Canadian industry.

The return of these funds marks a significant infusion of capital into the industry and was a benefit to workers and communities across Canada. It has helped industry weather these difficult times marked in particular by a sagging U.S. housing market.

In addition to the fact that the agreement allows Quebec to safeguard the management of its forests, it provides at least seven years of stability to the softwood lumber industry. In addition, as provided for in the agreement, border measures will not apply to softwood lumber exports from 32 countries which include all of the Quebec border mills.

The agreement also prohibits the United States from taking trade remedy action for the life of the agreement, thereby protecting our exporters from the unpredictable and crippling U.S. trade action which in the past saw duties rise to as high as 27%.

The government is not operating alone on this issue. The government has continued to consult very closely with industry and provincial officials. Federal officials continue to hold one on one and industry group meetings with forestry companies to understand their needs and their concerns. In addition, federal and provincial government officials meet regularly to discuss matters related to the implementation of the agreement and to the state of the industry.

The result of this close stakeholder collaboration on the softwood lumber agreement was and is the single best way forward for this industry and the hundreds of thousands of Canadians in communities that rely on it every day.

I can also reassure my colleague from Trois-Rivières that the Government of Canada has continued to work rigorously on this file, well beyond last year's coming into force of the agreement. The softwood lumber agreement establishes a formal institutional framework for the governments of Canada and the United States to manage the softwood lumber file and to address issues that arise over the life of the agreement.

The agreement provides for the establishment of a softwood lumber committee to supervise the implementation of the agreement, oversee its further elaboration, supervise the working groups established under the agreement and consider other matters that might affect its operation.

In exercising its functions, the committee is encouraged to establish and delegate responsibilities to working groups or expert groups, and to seek expert advice as is necessary. Indeed, at its 2007 inaugural meetings, the softwood lumber committee established five working groups to address both technical subjects, such as data and reconciliation, permits and customs issues and scope issues, and also longer term policy issues identified in the softwood lumber agreement such as regional policy exits and lumber made from logs harvested from private lands and log export restraints.

The committee has now met twice, most recently a couple of weeks ago in Ottawa, helping to ensure that implementation and administration of the agreement proceeds effectively, efficiently and smoothly, thereby providing benefits to industry.

Moreover, as the hon. member for Trois-Rivières is undoubtedly aware, the softwood lumber agreement also established mechanisms to assist the lumber industry reap the benefits of the highly integrated nature of the North American economy. An example of such mechanisms is the Binational Softwood Lumber Council, which is comprised of 12 industry representatives from both sides of the border and whose primary focus is increasing cooperation between the United States and the Canadian softwood lumber industry.

One of the key objectives of the Binational Softwood Lumber Council is to strengthen and expand the market for softwood lumber products in an effort to make North America's lumber industry more competitive over the longer term.

An equally important objective of the council is to build stronger cross-border partnerships and to create a climate of trust at all levels of the industry. We are not so much competing against one another as we are building things together in these two countries. These are essential elements for any industry striving to operate successfully in today's highly integrated global economy.

We understand that the forestry sector is undergoing difficult times. The reality is that North America has a highly interdependent lumber market. Its current weak condition has been caused by a decline in the U.S. housing market, around 30% year over year, which has reduced demand for wood products.

As I mentioned at the start, we are also, as we know, facing a rising Canadian dollar and stiffer competition from emerging markets that have lower fibre production costs. These factors have resulted in a far worse impact on the lumber industry and would have resulted in a far worse impact on the lumber industry in the absence of a softwood lumber agreement. The return of $5 billion has helped companies weather the current difficulties.

The government continues to listen to the concerns of our forestry communities. We are working together to develop solutions to the problems that they are facing.

As we have always maintained, both Canada and the United States have an interest in ensuring that the agreement operates smoothly and will continue to work closely with forestry stakeholders to achieve this goal. We should never forget that we are one another's most important commercial partners. The $1.7 billion worth of trade that flows across our border each and every day attests to that fact. In fact, that nearly all of this trade is able to move with very few disputes is an accomplishment in itself.

Through the assistance of the Trade Commissioner Service and our embassies abroad, the government is working with the Canadian forestry industry to find new trade opportunities in foreign markets. Every day our trade commissioners overseas find new buyers and communicate new trade deals to the Canadian forestry and wood products industry.

In addition, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade has provided funding support to the sector in its efforts to undertake various international business development initiatives through the program for export market development for trade associations.

As I just highlighted, mechanisms established by the agreement to assist the lumber industry exist through the work of the Binational Softwood Lumber Council. It is important that industry stakeholders on both sides of the border work together to look at new and innovative ways to confront the challenges that the industry is currently facing. The agreement and the work of the Binational Softwood Lumber Council is facilitating this dialogue, which can help create an environment within which the softwood lumber industry can prosper; an industry that is important for so many workers, communities and families across this great country.

The softwood lumber agreement is a good reminder of how Canada and the U.S. can work through our own domestic challenges, turn our focus to creating a more competitive North American lumber industry, and work together to find new outlets for North American lumber in world markets. The SLA has been, and continues to be, a positive factor for the Quebec forest industry and the communities that derive their livelihoods from it.

While recognizing the current challenges faced by the forestry sector, there is no doubt that this agreement has benefited the provinces and their forestry stakeholders by providing lumber producers with a return of duties, putting an end to longstanding litigation, and providing predictability and stability that has eluded the sector for far too long.

I will conclude by saying that this government will continue to keep an open dialogue with the forest industry and with provinces to ensure a prosperous and long-lasting agreement that is to the benefit of Quebeckers and all Canadians involved in the forestry sector.

Opposition Motion—Manufacturing and Forestry
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the member, who is a new member of the Standing Committee on International Trade.

What does he think of the current situation when he is being told that 130,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost in Quebec since December 31, 2002 and, of that number, 65,000 have been lost since the Conservatives came to power? He is telling us that his government has done everything possible to help the forestry and manufacturing sectors as a whole.

What concrete policies have been implemented since the Conservatives came to power? I repeat, of the 130,000 lost jobs, 65,000 have been lost since the Conservatives took office.

I would also like to draw to his attention Bill C-411, which was brought forward by my colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville. This bill sets out criteria to identify dumping by countries that send their products to us. It is aimed at helping us adjust to both American and European policies and limit dumping in Quebec and Canada.

I would like to know what the Secretary of State for International Trade intends to do in order to stop the loss of jobs in the manufacturing and forestry sectors.

Opposition Motion—Manufacturing and Forestry
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Brian Pallister Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, I sincerely look forward to working my colleague, the hon. member for Sherbrooke, in our mutual responsibilities at the international trade committee.

There are a number of important issues, and none more than this, but he understands full well the dynamic nature of the changes affecting all countries in their adjustments to the realities of global competition. He understands that it is an asymmetrical circumstance. He understands as well that each sector of our economy is affected differently as a consequence of the changes we are experiencing as a nation. We are not in isolation in experiencing those changes.

However, he asks specifically about measures that have been taken.

When the member cites unemployment figures in one sector of the economy, it is fair to acknowledge that unemployment levels in our country are at historic lows at this juncture. It is also fair to acknowledge that in la belle province the rate of unemployment currently is around 6% and that this rate is at its lowest level in perhaps 15 years. This is an indication of the ability of Quebeckers, the ability of Quebec enterprise, of small, medium and large business, to adapt and to transfer the capabilities and the skills held in those businesses in new and creative ways to create job opportunities. Quebeckers have the ability to do that, just as do the members of the small, medium and large business communities across our country. They have the ability to refocus and transition into ways that will allow them to grow, expand and prosper, and that is precisely what they are doing.

Highlighting employment figures in one sector is easily done and has a purpose to it, but the reality remains that the consequences of adaptation and of globalized marketplaces are very real and cannot be ignored.

I was surprised somewhat to hear—

Opposition Motion—Manufacturing and Forestry
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

Order, please. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member but I want to try to get at least two questions in the five minute period.

The hon. member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques.

Opposition Motion—Manufacturing and Forestry
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

Independent

Louise Thibault Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, there is only one thing on which I agree with what the member said, that is that Quebeckers obviously have the ability to adapt.

However, I do not understand why, in his speech, he spoke more about the past than about the present and the future. Here and now, in many regions of Quebec and elsewhere in the country, people have lost their job. There are small and medium businesses, as well as large companies in the forest industry, among others, that have no future.

What people want to know from their minority Conservative government is what it will do now. In the past, it refused, for example, to provide loan guarantees. It bragged that it left $1 billion to the Americans under the agreement. It still pats itself on the back. It tells us about the $400 million. But what did it do with the $14 billion that it applied against the debt? What concrete action will it take for people who legitimately want to work in the forest industry in Quebec and elsewhere and who are going through a crisis?

Opposition Motion—Manufacturing and Forestry
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Brian Pallister Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member raises the question of measures that have been undertaken by this government, and I could list a few. Certainly the $70 million older worker adjustment program, of which the province of Quebec has benefited to the tune of approximately $30 million, has assisted in a real way in bridging older workers either to retirement or other options they may choose to pursue.

Unemployment levels in the province of Quebec, as I mentioned earlier, are at a record low level, so that speaks rather well to the ability of Quebeckers to respond to challenges.

The member asked me to comment on future initiatives. The trade department is providing funding for the forestry sector specifically. For the international business development, trade commissioners' offices are working very diligently to provide that kind of advice, the lead generation, the opportunities that the industry looks forward to benefiting from in the future.

The return of the $5 billion, much of that going back to the province of Quebec, has provided the transition. I would also mention that the exemption of the Quebec border mills is something that will assure this part of the industry, at the very least, the total absence of duties on an ongoing basis.

As well, the binational softwood lumber council and the very real—

Opposition Motion—Manufacturing and Forestry
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:30 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

Order please. I am sorry, but the time for questions and comments has expired.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean.

Opposition Motion—Manufacturing and Forestry
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Denis Lebel Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege for me to speak today about what the government has done and is continuing to do to support the Canadian forest products sector.

The forest products sector is a dynamic contributor to the Canadian economy, generating some $80 billion annually. It also accounts for 3% of gross domestic product. Canada is the largest exporter of forest products in the world, and the most efficient. This sector is also one of the largest employers in Canada. It provides close to 900,000 direct and indirect jobs in 300 small localities and rural communities from Newfoundland and Labrador to Vancouver Island. These are well-paid jobs, characterized by high technology and strong productivity.

However, members on both sides of the House know that this sector is facing some serious problems. The world forest products market is fluctuating along with demand. The sector is prey to considerable pressures due to the rising value of the Canadian dollar, high energy costs, the mountain pine beetle infestation in western Canada, and competition from low-wage producers in Asia and South America.

The sector and the government have to work together to ensure that Canadian producers remain competitive. For its part, the sector has embraced new technologies, sped up productivity growth, adopted environmentally friendly practices at the international level, opened new markets and created new products. It knows that to remain a leader it must be at least as effective as all of its competitors worldwide in adopting new ideas and technologies.

In promoting competition, innovation and success, the government is now creating a healthy commercial environment for all industries, including that of forest products.

We are doing this within the framework of Advantage Canada, our strategic economic plan directly based on the challenges facing all industrial sectors. In continuing to reduce taxes and red tape, in building modern infrastructure and in encouraging a more qualified and educated work force, we are laying the foundations for economic growth, more market opportunities and more choices, for individuals as well as businesses.

Complementing Advantage Canada, our government has recently launched consultations on ways of making the tax incentive program for scientific research and experimental development more effective for Canadian companies, and of allowing it to play an even more important role in promoting a more competitive and prosperous economy.

We are streamlining the review of major natural resource development projects and reducing red tape and regulatory burden for businesses. We are investing in human resources, skills and training so that manufacturers can have access to the most educated, skilled and flexible manpower in the world. We are investing in our infrastructure so that manufacturers can take advantage of economic opportunities in Canada and abroad.

Budget 2006 gave an economic boost to manufacturers and to all Canadians. Budget 2007 continues on this path. We eliminated the federal capital tax, we reduced the small business tax rate and we enhanced the capital cost allowance, with a two-year deductible for tools and equipment, in order to stimulate cash flow and investment. We did not stop there. This government just provided its support to Canadian manufacturers and processors with a tax relief of $2.6 billion in the economic statement.

Through our new tax reduction initiative, Canada will have the lowest general tax rate on new business investments by 2011 and the lowest statutory tax rate by 2012 among G-7 countries. This will increase productivity, stimulate employment and improve prosperity.

The government is clearly working on creating a favourable environment for all industries. We are doing the same thing for the forest product industry. We have taken measures that are aimed specifically at supporting that industry.

During the fall of 2006, Canada and the United States eliminated one of the biggest obstacles this industry had ever faced, namely the softwood lumber dispute. Less than nine months after coming to power, the government kept its promise and resolved this longstanding dispute.

The softwood lumber agreement finally put an end to years of costly litigation and brought economic certainty to businesses, communities and workers in Canada. It allowed our softwood lumber producers to recover over $5 billion Canadian in deposits, which represents a considerable injection of capital for the industry.

The resolution of the softwood lumber dispute clearly shows our government's commitment to this industry.

Canadians asked our government to negotiate a settlement that would provide stability to the industry and that would protect the livelihoods of workers, communities and families in Quebec and Canada.

In addition to the resolution of this dispute that went on for several decades, the government announced, in the 2006 budget, a $400 million investment to support the long term competitiveness of the forestry sector, to address the pine beetle infestation in western Canada and to facilitate worker adjustment.

We are also honouring the following commitments. Last fall, that is in October 2006, the government announced a new shared-cost program with the provinces and territories: the targeted initiative for older workers. This two-year program is aimed at helping up to 10,000 older workers who have lost their jobs in communities where the local economy is plagued by chronic unemployment or where industries, such as forestry, are affected by downsizing and closures.

This year, our government announced measures aimed at reducing the pine beetle infestation and its impact on forests and communities in British Columbia. Developed in collaboration with the Government of British Columbia, the global strategy against this infestation includes measures to prevent it from spreading east and to help affected communities in developing new forest products, markets, sectors and services, in order to insure their long-term economic well-being.

We have also announced $127.5 million in funding to help the forestry sector increase its productivity in the long term. The initiatives—promoting forest innovation and investment, expanding market opportunities, establishing a new national pest strategy and creating a Human Resource Forest Sector Council—will help build the environment we need for our forestry sector to compete internationally.

Our government has supported and will continue to support the forestry sector in Canada. The Speech from the Throne highlighted the continuous commitment of our government toward supporting the main traditional industries in Canada, including the forest industry as well as manufacturing, fishing and tourism.

As I said, we have helped workers in these industries from the beginning of our mandate and we will continue to do so, as evidenced by the measures we have taken so far and those which we will be implementing in the future. It is clear for Canadians and it should be clear for the members opposite as well. Actions speak louder than just words.

Opposition Motion—Manufacturing and Forestry
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Robert Vincent Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, I understand there are many industries linked to the forestry sector in the riding of the hon. member for Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean. I would like to know if the tax cuts granted by his government will apply to those people. Personally, I doubt it, since they have no income to tax.

He said nothing in his speech about how to improve the industry's economy. There was no mention of this in the words he spouted here today. He simply told us what the government has already done. We do not want to know what it has already done. We want to know what it will do today and in the future. We know what has already been done, that is, 65,000 jobs have been lost.

The other Conservative member said we have the lowest unemployment rate in Canada. I would like to point out to the member that the workers in the manufacturing sector who lost their jobs are now forced to work in the service industry, which pays less. This is causing economic losses in all the regions.

What does his government intend to do, beginning immediately, to stop businesses from closing because the dollar is too strong? The government does not yet seem to understand that Americans will not buy our goods, because our dollar is stronger than theirs.