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

Income Trusts
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wish to present an income trust broken promise petition on behalf of Mr. Joe Savino of Maple, Ontario.

The petitioners remind the Prime Minister that he had promised never to tax income trusts, but that he broke that promise by imposing a 31.5% punitive tax which permanently wiped out $25 billion of the hard-earned retirement savings of over two million Canadians, particularly seniors.

Therefore, the petitioners call upon the Conservative minority government first, to admit that the decision to tax income trusts was based on flawed methodology and incorrect assumptions, second, to apologize to those who are unfairly harmed by this broken promise, and finally, to repeal the punitive 31.5% tax on income trusts.

CN Locomotive Roundhouse
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Carol Skelton Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is indeed my honour to present a petition on behalf of the people of Biggar, Saskatchewan and people from right across Canada who are very interested in keeping our historical CN roundhouse in the town of Biggar. It is the duty of Parliament to protect our heritage buildings. I ask that the roundhouse be designated a heritage building in Canada.

Asbestos
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition from thousands of Canadians from right across Canada. They draw the attention of the House to the fact that asbestos is the greatest industrial killer the world has ever known and yet Canada continues to be one of the largest producers and exporters of asbestos in the world. Canada allows asbestos to be used in construction materials, textile products and even children's toys. Canada spends millions of dollars subsidizing the asbestos industry and blocking international efforts to curb its use.

Therefore, these Canadians are demanding that the Government of Canada ban asbestos in all its forms, end all government subsidies to asbestos both in Canada and abroad, and stop blocking international conventions designed to protect workers from asbestos, such as the Rotterdam convention.

Asbestos
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, as a former asbestos worker, I am very proud to rise in the House to present a petition signed by people from across Canada. They are asking that the Canadian government finally come to terms with the fact that asbestos is the biggest single industrial killer the world has known. Canada's reputation as a worldwide leader has been tarnished by our continuing attempt to sell this toxic gas into the third world where, as we well know, there are not the protections necessary. In light of the recent epidemiology studies done in Quebec, it is very clear that asbestos is killing people here in Canada as well. I am tabling this petition on behalf of people from across this country.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

November 13th, 2007 / 10:35 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The Dollar
Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The Chair has received notice of a request for an emergency debate from the hon. member for Parkdale—High Park. I will hear her now.

The Dollar
Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am asking that under Standing Order 52 this House hold an emergency debate on the economic effects of the surge in the Canadian dollar. We have seen an unprecedented rise in the Canadian dollar which has created a real state of emergency for many Canadians who are losing their jobs. Not only does it impact the manufacturing sector, but it impacts other sectors of our economy as well, for example, tourism, the cultural sector and those who export goods out of this country. Families are very concerned. People are losing their jobs. They are asking what their representatives in Parliament are doing to deal with this unprecedented crisis.

I would respectfully request an emergency debate on this issue.

The Dollar
Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I thank the hon. member for Parkdale—High Park for her submissions on this matter. I have considered the request, and in my view, it does not meet the exigencies of the Standing Order at this time and I will decline her request at this moment.

Opposition Motion—Manufacturing and Forestry
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Trois-Rivières, QC

moved:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should immediately establish a series of measures to help the manufacturing and forestry sectors hard hit by the rising dollar and increased competition from new players in the field of low-cost mass production, specifically including a program to support businesses that wish to update their production facilities, a series of investments and tax measures to support research and development in the industry, the re-establishment of an economic diversification program for forestry regions similar to the one that the Conservatives abolished, a review of the trade laws to better protect our companies against unfair competition, and better financial support of workers affected by the crisis in the manufacturing sector.

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Shefford.

The crisis affecting the forestry and manufacturing sectors is unprecedented. This is, without question, the worst crisis we have ever experienced. All industry stakeholders agree on this. What we need is action. Everyone agrees that the situation cannot go on like this—everyone except the Conservative government. It alone is happy with a laissez-faire approach. It is content to give tax breaks to the rich western oil and gas companies, while Quebec's manufacturing and forestry sectors are facing a crisis.

Here are some facts: since December 31, 2002, 135,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost in Quebec, which translates into one in five workers. Since the Conservatives came to power in 2006, 65,000 jobs have been lost. Approximately half of the 275,000 jobs lost in Canada during this period were jobs in Quebec. Every one cent increase in the value of the Canadian dollar against the American dollar threatens 19,000 manufacturing jobs.

Let us now turn to the forestry sector. Between May 2002 and April 2005, a total of 10,000 jobs in the sawmills and paper plants were lost. The forestry sector represents nearly 100,000 jobs in 240 towns and villages in Quebec that are today threatened by decline. The urgent need for action is obvious. Every 1¢ increase represents $500 million in lost revenue for the forestry industry in Canada. The Forest Industry Council estimates the loss at $150 million for Quebec. I repeat: the situation is serious. It threatens the industrial base of our economy. That is why the Bloc Québécois is using this opposition day to remind the Conservative government that urgent action is needed.

We know there are problems. The Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology spent nearly a year studying various recommendations. It submitted a report in February 2007. After all those hearings, the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology made 22 recommendations. Of those 22 recommendations, the Conservative government agreed only to the accelerated capital cost allowance, which actually helps Alberta’s industries and damages Quebec’s economy. As a result, in proposing this motion, the Bloc wants measures to be taken immediately.

We have solutions. We have proposals. The first proposal for solving this crisis is to implement a program to support businesses that wish to update their production facilities. We have to implement a program of loans and loan guarantees to help businesses modernize. We know that these businesses are in bad financial shape. We know how hard they are finding it to borrow on the markets, which means they have to pay a risk premium, and so the interest they pay goes up. The government has to help these businesses. It must guarantee loans for such businesses, so they will be able to update their production facilities, to modernize, and so be able to get through the current crisis.

We are also proposing a series of investments and tax measures to support research and development. The government has to improve the fiscal support provided for research and development and for innovation in business. It has to expand the types of expenditures that are eligible, for example by including the cost of obtaining patents or the cost of training people to work on innovative projects. The government has to make the research and development tax credit a refundable credit. Certainly there is no point in giving tax cuts to businesses that are not making profits. Giving businesses that invest in research and development refundable tax credits, however, is a large part of the solution.

The federal government has to support research; it must cancel the cuts it has made to the Technology Partnerships Canada and instead increase its funding and reinvigorate all of the leading edge sectors that the Conservatives have abandoned. Leading edge sectors like pharmaceuticals, environmental technologies, new materials and new production technologies have been left to their own devices. Contrary to what the government claims, tax cuts are not the solution to every problem.

Another solution would be to bring back an economic diversification program for the forestry regions similar to the one that the Conservative government cut.

As a member from a resource region myself, I know very well what difficulties a region can face when its main source of economic activity disintegrates. The Bloc is going to pay particular attention, therefore, to the resource regions affected by the current crisis in the forest industry which desperately need to diversify their industrial base in order to deal with the situation.

We should bring back a support program to help diversify the regional economies that have been hit hard by the downturn in the forest industry. There should be tax breaks for companies that operate in resource regions. Among other things, we should encourage companies to help skilled workers find employment in the regions. There should be a program to support the production of energy and ethanol from the forest industry's waste.

The Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec cancelled the special program we used to have specifically for the regions affected by the crisis in the forest industry. That is the government’s laissez-faire policy. There was nothing on this in the Speech from the Throne or in the finance minister’s economic statement. There is an urgent need for action.

Our trade legislation also needs to be revised in order to protect our companies better against unfair competition. Canada’s anti-dumping legislation goes back to the days of the cold war and is completely out of touch with the new realities, especially the emerging economies and China. There is an urgent need to put Canadian trade law on the same footing as the trade law of the other industrialized countries, particularly the United States and the countries of the European Union. That is what the hon. member for Terrebonne—Blainville has proposed in Bill C-411, An Act to amend the Special Import Measures Act (domestic prices). We will return to that later.

The Conservatives have decided not to make use of the trade legislation that makes it possible to provide temporary protection for our companies and gives them time to adjust to the new realities and modernize. We can only dream of a government with some vision that would protect the jobs in our districts.

The final element is financial support for the workers affected by the crisis in manufacturing. Employment in this sector has been devastated. Some 135,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost in Quebec, or the equivalent of one worker in five since December 31, 2002. Quebec has been especially hard hit by the slump, and the arrival of the Conservative government has only made things worse. Since January 2006, about 65,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost.

Given the situation, the government must revisit its position on enhancing the employment insurance program. The Bloc has been proposing for years that real improvements be made to the employment insurance program and, in particular, that the benefit period be increased by five weeks for all regions, no matter what the rate of unemployment. Benefits must be increased from 55% to 60% with the calculation based on the 12 best weeks. The qualifying period should be eliminated and the minimum number of insurable hours needed to qualify should be reduced to 360 hours.

Employment insurance is a right, not a privilege. Workers and companies pay for employment insurance. Together, they establish measures to meet needs in the event of difficult times. We are now in difficult times, but the employment insurance program is nowhere in sight. Furthermore, what are we to make of the lack of a program for older workers who have been the victims of massive layoffs? My colleagues will tackle this later. This is a very important element.

The Bloc Québécois is well rooted in its communities. The Bloc Québécois supports Quebeckers, who are seeking solutions and a resolution to this major crisis for Quebec. Therefore, with this opposition day, we must convince the government that there is an urgent need for action. The future of our communities is at stake.

It is very urgent that action be taken and I urge all my colleagues in this House to vote in favour of this motion.

Opposition Motion—Manufacturing and Forestry
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member for a very good speech, which raised some issues.

One of the terms she used was that this was a laissez-faire Conservative minority government. Others have called it a fend-for-yourself government.

The facts say that the government is actually hurting by not doing anything. It is costing jobs and our economy. We are now becoming more vulnerable. The industry committee made 22 recommendations on exactly these points. The government has acted on only one and even then it was a watered down version.

The member knows very well that the softwood deal was a very bad deal for Canada. The South Korean deal on trade with the automobile sector is another and there are after market parts. Our auto caucus met with the CAW and with the Automobile Manufacturers' Association. They told us that if we were to enter a free trade agreement with South Korea, as it is written now, it would cost Canada another 33,000 jobs and another $8 billion of lost revenue.

This is the kind of thing that happened. It is not laissez-faire nor is it just fend for yourself. The government is damaging our manufacturing sector. Maybe the member has more examples.

Opposition Motion—Manufacturing and Forestry
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I certainly agree with my colleague. It is clear that laissez-faire does not cut it as an industrial policy.

As members of this House, we are responsible for taking action and asking our government to show some vision, to look ahead to what will happen with our economy over the next 10 years, and to try to identify development factors so that it can come up with a real industrial policy.

The work has already been done. As our colleague pointed out, the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology has addressed the issue. Recommendations have been made. We are making recommendations today, and we are building on that work. The government simply cannot get involved in more free trade agreements. Apparently, the government is contemplating twenty or so agreements without having thoroughly analyzed the consequences.

We certainly cannot add insult to injury by giving in to a laissez-faire policy and thereby exacerbating the situation. I do not think that workers, including those in Quebec, would ever forgive us for that.

Opposition Motion—Manufacturing and Forestry
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Trois-Rivières on her speech and thank her for introducing this motion, which is particularly appropriate under the circumstances. In Quebec, 240 towns and 100,000 jobs depend on forestry. Between 2001 and 2005, 10,000 jobs were lost. Since then, 25,000 more jobs have been lost, many of those during the Conservatives' time in power.

Right now, I can see the member for Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, who was recently elected because, in his campaign, he took a stand with people in the forestry industry. He promised to fix the problem by persuading his government to adopt measures that would provide jobs to alleviate the crisis in the forestry sector.

I would like to ask my colleague about the Conservative Party's stance on the situation she just described and its refusal to give a royal recommendation to the employment insurance bill.

What should people think of the Conservative policy, which is contrary to the interests of Quebeckers? What should they think of it, given the approach we are adopting this morning?

Opposition Motion—Manufacturing and Forestry
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, the people from Quebec are rightfully very critical of the Conservative Party's positions. Let us remember that, a few years ago, the goal of the Government of Quebec was to create 100 000 jobs. It now seems that some people have no problem with the loss of thousands of them. It is really a tragedy.

People judge a government through its actions. But in this case, inaction is the rule. We should remember that the employment insurance fund does not belong to the government. The government does not contribute to it. It is unthinkable that a person can work all life long, pay employment insurance premiums and then, when the plant shuts down — often as the only employer in town —, this person ends up living on really insufficient income support measures. If you are lucky, you will survive by using up your capital, in other words by selling your house and everything else you have, because the help which was supposed to be available through EI is not there when you need it.

The government does not feel any sympathy and has no will to end this. It does not want to help older workers by setting up a program which would allow them to end with dignity a life of hard work and which would give laid-off workers between 55 and 64 years of age the benefits they need to bridge the gap until they start receiving retirement benefits from the Régie des rentes.

This situation is unacceptable. Workers are being denied their right. The government will certainly be punished for its inaction.