House of Commons Hansard #113 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was nations.

Topics

International Trade
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

5:50 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, no one, at least on this side of the House, said that we wanted to put up a great big wall and exclude China, or India, or Bangladesh, or anybody else. We never said that.

We said that we are going to enter into these trade agreements, which as the member said, opens up our markets to some of their products, but we have to do it in a way that is balanced and fair. We have to do it in a way that those workers in Bangladesh, Vietnam, India and China are not exploited. We have to do it in a way that those workers eventually get the same rights and benefits as the workers in this country do. It is called good standards, fair wages, fair competition, fair regulations, fair rules for all of us.

That member knows there is a tremendous imbalance happening. Anyone who has been to China has seen the mills, mines and sweatshops there. It is not conducive to fair and balanced trade practices. It is not right that the western world takes advantage of the extremely low salaries in those countries.

What can the member offer, not just to help and protect our own workers, but what if he had to stand at a shipyard or a textile plant and tell the workers that we are going to shut their jobs down? What would he do to encourage very quickly the upgrading of workers in the countries that he mentioned so that they have the same benefits that workers in this country have?

International Trade
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, if we wait until there is, as the member called it, a fair wage in China, India or Bangladesh, we will be waiting a long time.

Fair is a subjective matter. Perhaps the member was not listening when I spoke earlier of the author Jeffrey Sachs whose sole commitment is to lift poverty around the world. This very reasoned gentleman argues that even though we find it uncomfortable to see child labour or women in employment with horrible hours and horrible working conditions, he has actually been there and talked to some of them and they say that it is not great, but it is better than the alternative. The alternative would be no work at all and their children would be starving.

If we say we are going to wait for a so-called fair wage, with respect, all we are saying is that we are going to provide protection almost forever. Even if we start raising the wages and working conditions of the people in developing countries, our wages and our working conditions in the west are going to increase, and the gap will never be dealt with. To use Al Gore's expression, the inconvenient truth is that we will never get a fair wage in those countries based on the gap that exists today and where we are headed in the future.

International Trade
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

5:55 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am little perplexed because there were Liberal members on the Standing Committee on International Trade who said very clearly that they supported standing up for Canadian jobs. I am a little perplexed by the member's opinion which seems to be contrary to members of the committee. It was an NDP motion, but with the support of the Bloc and Liberal Party members, that motion was adopted and was brought here for concurrence today.

It was brought here for concurrence because those members around the committee table understood that losing 24,000 jobs in 36 months is something that the government has to deal with. The measures are here. We have the template for action that will help stop that hemorrhaging of jobs. Would the member not support stopping that hemorrhaging of jobs?

International Trade
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, we find in this House of Commons that there are times and occasions when we do not all agree. In fact, I am on a subcommittee dealing with the anti-terrorism legislation and I seem to be not totally in agreement with my colleagues, so these things happen. This is the real world. It is not a homogenous playing field.

As I said earlier, my colleagues on the international trade committee have looked at this in much more depth. How I will be guided in terms of a vote, I will consult with my colleague from Brampton and others and be more apprised of the situation.

My purpose in speaking here today was to relate some of the experience I have had with respect to China, with respect to bicycles, barbecues, textiles and apparel. When I was a member of the finance committee we had extensive and exhaustive meetings and discussions with our finance minister at the time to provide some relief for the textile and apparel industry.

We heard the example earlier on shipbuilding. The Department of Finance was essentially saying that textiles and apparels are sunset industries. Our government at the political level said no, we were not going to accept that. We said we would give them a chance to become more productive, to deal with the competition. That is what we did. The members who criticized the Liberal government should go back and read the record on what we actually did.

International Trade
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

February 19th, 2007 / 5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Peterson Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, Joseph Schumpeter referred to the world of a globalized economy as one of vast creative destruction.

I agree with the hon. members from the NDP that international competition is really rough. I agree with them that we have to do as much as we possibly can to help the workers who are being transitioned out to try to have the best possible jobs here in Canada. This is why we have to figure out how we are going to do it.

Unlike the NDP, I do not believe that we are ever going to succeed in repealing globalization and creating a totally level playing field in every country on earth. We know that is unrealistic. How are we going to help the workers best in the meantime?

Our government gave millions in support to our garment and textile workers to help the workers, to help the towns, to help the communities, to help the companies with transition. My goodness, there have been some that have been highly successful. For example, Peerless is producing men's suits here and exporting them all around North America.

How do we help our workers adapt to the new globalized economy? I will give two examples and we have to be good at it.

In the early 1990s everything we picked up said “made in Hong Kong”. In the middle of the 1990s the front cover of Fortune magazine said, “Hong Kong is dead”. Go there today. It is no longer a manufacturing economy. It is a service economy and it has never been richer and it is booming. It transposed and transformed itself.

Let me give an example of how a Canadian used China to his advantage. Phoenix Performance Products was making sporting goods here in Canada. Two years ago it had 52 employees. It found out that it could import one of the real staple products from China at one-sixth the cost. It had to in order to compete. Phoenix imported that product and kept its doors open because it was globally competitive. Did it lose jobs? No. What it did was transfer the people on that line to a higher value added custom product and a year later it had 93 employees.

That is how companies have to transpose themselves. This is why we as a government brought in CAN-Trade with $470 million over five years to work with small businesses to form the strategic alliances they need in these other economies around the world, to help them take advantage of globalization rather than be threatened by it.

What did the NDP do, it voted against it--

International Trade
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

Order. We have to give the member for Etobicoke North a chance to answer the questions, although I am not sure that any were asked.

International Trade
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6 p.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I bow to the wisdom and experience of my colleague from Willowdale. He said it all. He reinforced some of the messages that I was making. He gave a good example with Peerless shirts which is exporting globally. It has created a niche all around the world. It was not intimidated by the free trade agreement. It was not intimidated by globalization. Other examples abound. I will leave it at that.

International Trade
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think if anybody was listening, they would be a little confused. To hear the debate today one would think we were talking about globalization, good or bad, or Canada's role in globalization. We are nowhere near anything quite that lofty.

We are talking about a change in the World Trade Organization rules as a result of China joining. We are asking the government right now to avail itself of a clause that would allow it to take steps to protect Canadian jobs from now until the end of 2008. How does saving Canadian jobs become controversial in this place? How does saving Canadian jobs become something other than the unanimous position of the entire House?

I want to bring this debate to its proper level and talk about the people who are being affected. They are the reason we are asking this to be done. Let us keep in mind that the Conservatives took a position prior to the last election. In a news release their international trade critic said:

A Conservative government would stand up for Canadian workers and work proactively through international trade policies to ensure Canada competes on a level playing field.

The Conservative government should do it. Why the debate? The government has the power and the support of the House. Why do we have to get on bended knee and beg for Canadian jobs when there are clauses to lawfully protect them? It is outrageous.

People are scared. They do not understand why we are not using the same clause that the European Union used to save its jobs. The United States saved its jobs. Other jurisdictions around the world availed themselves of this clause and saved their jobs. The Conservative government is prepared to say bye-bye to Canadian jobs. For what? The Conservatives folded up before they even said there was a fight.

I want to read into the record from the meeting of the Standing Committee on International Trade in December of last year. Ms. Wynne Hartviksen from the National Office of UNITE HERE Canada, the union representing these workers, said:

My name is Wynne Hartviksen and I am the communications and political action director for UNITE HERE Canada. Our union represents 50,000 workers across Canada and a wide range of industries. Our members work in hotels and restaurants and social service agencies and in autoparts plants. For the past century, we have represented Canadian garment workers. It's those workers in that industry we want to talk to you about today.

At the beginning of 2002, tariffs began to be lifted on many categories of apparel and textile products from China.

This resulted, of course, from China joining the WTO. She continued:

On January 1, 2005, all WTO-sanctioned quotas on apparel imports from China were also removed. Since that time, there has been a severe market disruption in the Canadian apparel industry, with imports from China rising in some product categories by a shocking 200%. Following the elimination of the decades-old apparel-quota system, many countries, most notably the United States and the European Union, moved to impose time-limited restrictions on the growth of specific apparel imports into their domestic markets, as allowed for under article 242 of China's WTO accession agreement.

That means when it agreed to join the WTO. She went on to say:

These restrictions, which are known as safeguards, allow countries to cap the growth of imports from China in specific apparel categories to 7.5% each year, from the past year until the end of the calendar year 2008.

This combination of events--the lifting of the quotas in 2005, and the fact that the U.S. and the EU both moved to implement safeguards--has left the Canadian domestic apparel market even more vulnerable to surging imports from China, the global leader in apparel production. As the EU and the U.S. safeguard measures reduced the flow of Chinese exports to the world's two largest markets, ours has been accessed more readily to fill the void.

With all these facts, we've been left to wonder why. Why is the new Canadian government not acting to stand up for Canadian jobs? Why has the government not moved to utilize the same WTO-sanctioned safeguard measures as the U.S., the EU, Brazil, Turkey, and--just in September of this year--South Africa have all used to protect their domestic industry and their local jobs? Why is one of the bedrock manufacturing industries in this country not allowed the same chances as its counterparts in most of the developed world?

Workers in this industry like Radika are the ones paying the price for this competitive disadvantage and simply want their government to utilize the same measures—safeguards—as many of our major trading partners have already used.

Why will the government not do it?

Are we so frightened of the Chinese that we are prepared to allow ourselves to be beaten up to prove to them that we want to be their buddy? This is ridiculous.

Here is someone from my riding of Hamilton who was at that committee meeting and said:

My name is Radika Quansoon, and I live in Hamilton, Ontario. I've worked for Coppley Apparel Group for about 22 years. We manufacture men's clothing. There are about 400 people who work for Coppley, and we make high-end suits, some of which some of you guys may be wearing here.

About 90% of the Coppley staff in Hamilton are women and immigrants. Over 75% of the women there can't even read or speak English.

We have jobs that allow us to support our families. We are skilled workers who take pride in our high-end, quality products. The problem is that our industry is under serious pressure. We wonder if our jobs will be there five years from now.

Levi's closed down in Hamilton, and most of the people there came to our company, but we could only take so many.

We work at good-quality, union-wage manufacturing jobs to support our families. What I'm trying to say is that we just need to save our jobs.

If these people cannot count on their own government to stand up and save their jobs when there is a legal framework to do it, then what hope do they have? This is outrageous.

These are some of the issues that other members have talked about in terms of globalization. They are all valid arguments. Let us have that debate. We need it in this nation in a bad way. Certainly, NAFTA is not serving our needs.

When we are faced with an issue where we are given a legal process by which we can mitigate the job losses until the end of 2008, I defy anyone to stand up in this place and say why we would not do that, particularly when our major trading partners, the European Union and the United States as the best examples, have taken advantage of it for their workers.

Why are we not doing this for Canadian jobs? They are just as important as anyone else. My friends, their children are going to be just as hungry as anybody else's children when there is no money for food.

This is a matter of decency, not legislation. We owe it collectively, and the government specifically, to begin the process that mitigates the damage that will be done until the end of 2008 and that Canadian workers are entitled to.

International Trade
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:05 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

It is my duty to interrupt the proceedings at this time and put forthwith the question on the motion now before the House.

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

International Trade
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

International Trade
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:05 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

International Trade
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

International Trade
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:05 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

All those opposed will please say nay.

International Trade
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

International Trade
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:05 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

In my opinion, the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

The vote stands deferred until tomorrow at the end of government orders.

The House will now resume with the remaining business under routine proceedings.