House of Commons Hansard #65 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was policy.

Topics

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #73

Foreign Affairs
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I declare the motion carried.

It being 6.25 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from February 14 consideration of the motion.

Canadian Content in Public Transportation Projects
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

The House will now resume debate on Motion No. 183. The member for Niagara West—Glanbrook has eight minutes left in his speech.

Canadian Content in Public Transportation Projects
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Allison Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to address the motion of the member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River that asks this House to direct the government to develop a policy to support Canadian content levels for public transit projects. I thank the member opposite for putting forward the motion.

At this time I would like to table the government amendment, in both official languages, which reads:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should develop a policy, which respects Canada's international and internal trade obligations where applicable and respects the provincial and territorial jurisdiction to support Canadian content levels in public transit projects by supporting domestic labour market and suppliers while ensuring that public funds are used to provide the best value to Canadians.

I think most members of this House support the intent of such a motion. First, it speaks to the need for increased investments in public transit, which this government is doing through its $33 billion Building Canada infrastructure plan, and $500 million just announced in budget 2008 for a transit trust fund.

Second, we all support Canadian manufacturers and seek to increase manufacturing jobs in Canada. Canada has some of the best equipped manufacturers, as well as engineering, financing and construction firms, that can, and do, compete with the best in the world in building public transit projects.

The government is firmly committed to supporting Canadian businesses in the manufacturing sector. We support Canadian businesses through tax reform and measures that give Canadian companies ready access to international markets.

As I have said--

Canadian Content in Public Transportation Projects
Private Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I understand that the government wants to move an amendment to the motion with the concurrence. I do not believe it has been formally moved, which it is necessary to do before the member goes into debate on it.

Canadian Content in Public Transportation Projects
Private Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

It would seem to me that the hon. member did not move the motion because he wants to continue debating it. I assume that at the end of his time he will move the motion that he has already described to the House.

Canadian Content in Public Transportation Projects
Private Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Allison Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is, indeed, the case.

As I have said, this government's commitment to public transit and building more public infrastructure is unprecedented.

We can support this motion because it reflects the government's commitment to accountability. The government is committed to ensuring that public investments made with federal government funding represent the best possible value for taxpayer dollars. Value for money, fairness, openness and transparency are key elements that drive federal procurement policy.

The government supports the intent of the motion from the hon. member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River, which is to encourage and to support more public transit and Canadian content in such projects.

Through Building Canada, I am proud to note that the government is working with other levels of government to ensure our $33 billion investment in public infrastructure produces results for Canadians.

In budget 2008, the government announced an additional $500 million in support of capital investments to improve public transit. The public transit capital trust will support investments in public transit, projects such as rapid transit, transit buses, and high occupancy vehicle and bicycle lanes.

This investment in public transit projects will clearly result in benefits for the environment, for the economy and for Canadians.

The government will continue to develop policies in support of Canadian businesses and manufacturing industries. We will, therefore, give due consideration to the hon. member's revised motion regarding Canadian content levels for public transit projects, a motion that includes key considerations for trade implications, provincial and municipal jurisdictional matters, value for taxpayer money and other practical considerations.

We look forward to moving forward together in support of a sustainable investment in public transit and strong support of domestic manufacturing.

I therefore move:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should develop a policy, which respects Canada's international and internal trade obligations where applicable and respects provincial and territorial jurisdictions to support Canadian content levels in public transit projects by supporting domestic labour market and suppliers while ensuring that public funds are used to provide the best value to Canadians.

Canadian Content in Public Transportation Projects
Private Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

It is my duty to inform hon. members that pursuant to Standing Order 93(3) no amendment may be proposed to a private member's motion or to the motion for second reading of a private member's bill unless the sponsor of the item indicates his or her consent.

Therefore, I ask the mover of the motion, the hon. member for Thunder Bay--Rainy River, if he consents to this amendment being moved.

Canadian Content in Public Transportation Projects
Private Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Boshcoff Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I certainly do.

Canadian Content in Public Transportation Projects
Private Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

As there is consent, the amendment moved by the hon. member for Niagara West—Glanbrook and seconded by the hon. member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River, is in order.

The hon. member for Sault Ste. Marie.

Canadian Content in Public Transportation Projects
Private Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

NDP

Tony Martin Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to put but a few words on the record regarding the initiative by the member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River.

It is certainly a good idea, an idea whose time has come. However, one has to ask why it took so long and why we do not have something of more substance, perhaps presented by the government. It sounds like the government will support this motion.

I am disappointed, however. The Liberals had 13 years in office before the Conservative government took over in 2006. Given the impact on Canada, particularly in Ontario, and given the downturn over a long period of time in the manufacturing sector in the industrial heartland, why did they not bring something like this before the House?

I read the earlier speeches in the House by the member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River and my colleague, the member for Parkdale—High Park. Both were excellent in laying out and detailing the impact of just such a policy on a very important industrial sector in our economy, particularly in Ontario.

They spoke of the nations we trade with and the so-called free trade agreement we had with them and the fact that they had these provisions in place for a long period of time. If a government, whether it is state, national or provincial, invests heavily in infrastructure and equipment to provide services to its people, it could in put in place requirements that a percentage of the work be done in the country that makes those investment.

Given the knowledge and understanding that we in Canada consistently come up against that, as we have tried to give life to support and ensure our industries, particularly in this province, have a fair chance to compete and continue to provide work, and given the support that kind of activity provides to communities, I do not know why we have not done this sooner.

The Liberals and the member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River were in government. When they look at the impact of the downturn in manufacturing and the very difficult environment within which manufacturing operates now, particularly since the introduction of the free trade agreement, which they subsequently supported, I do not know why they did not put this in place to protect some of the industries, like the one he is obviously concerned about in his own backyard, Bombardier.

I was in Thunder Bay a few months ago to see Bombardier's excellent plant. I spoke with the workers. They have worked so hard to develop their skills to become qualified in their trades. They told me how happy they were to have those jobs, to make a half decent living and to contribute to the community of Thunder Bay. They pay taxes on their property, spend that money, which contributes to the economy of Thunder Bay. They also contribute to the community by way of their volunteer efforts after work in the various, and are proud and happy to do that. They want to continue to do those things.

It is interesting.

I visited that factory with Mr. Adam Giambrone, who was at that the chair of the Transit Commission of the greater city of Toronto. He and some of his New Democrat colleagues in Toronto took it upon themselves, without the support of and framework of a provincial and federal regime to encourage and to impose regulation on governments to purchase locally, to go ahead and sole source that contract any way. They understood that we had responsibility for each other in our country. One part of the country that struggles with its economy should be helped by another part of the country that makes investment so both parts can be healthy industrially and economically.

I think that is good. We should be doing more of this. We should be thinking about each other, thinking about how we might help each other's industry. At the end of the day, we are very interconnected and dependent on the taxes we pay, the work we do and the opportunity that we provide each other.

The visit to Thunder Bay with Mr. Giambrone reminded me of the efforts of the Ontario New Democratic Party when we were government between 1990 and 1995. We were living under a terrible worldwide recession at that time. I remember the impact that had on some very important and viable industrial sectors in northern Ontario. In my community of Sault Ste. Marie, a steel mill went into protection. Along with that, a paper mill and the ACR, our railroad, one of our major transportation infrastructure pieces were in difficulty.

As a government, we could have stood back, as the Conservative Party and Liberal opposition at that time at Queen's Park suggested we do, and let the market determine the future of those very important industries, but we did not. We brought leadership to those industries. We brought together the various parties and partners to the table, both labour and management, and financial institutions. We did everything we could to ensure that coming out from under protection, those industries and those businesses would have a business plan that would work.

In fact, I am proud to stand here today and say that because of the work in the early nineties by the NDP government, of which I was proud to be a part, those very important industries are still making steel and paper with railroads taking those products to market. Had it not been for the initiative of government at that time, not only in Sault Ste. Marie but in Thunder Bay, had we not worked with provincial papers and a number of forestry related industries in Thunder Bay and Kapuskasing and saw mill after saw mill in small communities across northern Ontario, had we not come in under the able guidance of the then minister of northern development, Shelley Martel, and my colleague from Algoma, Bud Wildman, none of those industries would have been protected and saved. Those communities and the investments that were made in those communities by those workers, their homes, small businesses, cottages and so on, the infrastructure that they paid for through their taxes, all of that would have been for naught and literally flushed down the river. However, that did not happen.

The government of the day came to the table, did the right thing, became engaged and got involved.

Out of that history of New Democrat involvement, out of that belief New Democrats have, the government has a role to play. The government should be interventionist in making sure that we are protecting our own interest, particularly where industry is concerned and our economy is concerned.

I stand as a New Democrat today, speaking with the member for Parkdale—High Park and on behalf of my colleagues, to say that we support this. We will do everything that we can to ensure that it moves forward even more aggressively to develop the regulation and the legislation we need to make it work.

Canadian Content in Public Transportation Projects
Private Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, as the manufacturing sector has been experiencing a serious crisis for several years, the Bloc Québécois is very happy that such a motion was introduced in the House. It is a first step in the right direction.

It is hard to believe that there is no “Buy Canadian” policy for federal government spending, since the government is the largest purchaser of goods and services.

Motion M-183, which the member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River agreed to amend in order to obtain the support of the Bloc Québécois, respects Quebec's areas of jurisdiction. This is why my colleagues and I will fully support this motion.

However, I must remind members that public transit projects do not fall under federal jurisdiction; it is up to the Quebec nation to define these types of projects on its territory. Nevertheless, the motion as amended respects the areas of jurisdiction of the Government of Quebec.

We support this motion because it will encourage the purchase of public transportation equipment from local suppliers, while still respecting Quebec's areas of jurisdiction and trade agreements.

It is difficult for Canadians or Quebeckers to imagine that their own government has no legislation or measures that provide incentives for purchasing locally. It is true that globalization gives the purchaser more options and choices when it comes to price and quality.

But for every purchase the federal government makes it should consider one key concept and add the opportunity cost. For example, the federal government's decision to buy its currency paper from a German supplier costs us more. In the price it pays for those goods, the government should assess the possible economic spinoffs that could come from spending that money within its own borders. If the federal government had awarded that contract or made that purchase at a local company, it would have created jobs. Those workers would have paid taxes and contributed to their region's economy. Other jobs would have been created and so forth. It makes the wheel go round. In fact, I want to show that by buying locally, wealth is created here, for our citizens, while when we buy abroad, wealth is created elsewhere.

In the purchase price of a good or service, the government has to calculate what percentage more it is prepared to pay to use a local supplier. Buying locally will allow the government to get some of its money back through taxes, the wealth created and all the positive external factors that stem from buying locally. It is simple. The federal government's purchases it pays for with money from Canadian and Quebec taxpayers must benefit those taxpayers whenever possible.

In closing, the Bloc Québécois supports the motion of the hon. member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River without reservation because, first, it responds to the will of the Bloc Québécois to promote local economies. It will favour local suppliers whenever local agreements allow. This is nonetheless a first step; no legislation requires the federal government to give preference to local suppliers. Second, the amendment accepted by the hon. member requires the federal government to respect the jurisdictions of the Government of Quebec and the nation of Quebec. Third, the Bloc Québécois tabled a similar bill in November 2005: Bill C-440. Motion M-183 reiterates the same idea.

Motion M-183, on purchases for public transportation projects that respect the jurisdictions of the Government of Quebec, is a first step in the right direction. The Bloc Québécois gives its unconditional support to the initiative of the hon. member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River.

Canadian Content in Public Transportation Projects
Private Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to join briefly in the debate to lend my support to this noble idea, this worthy initiative to revisit the made in Canada procurement policies generally.

In this case, the motion is specific to municipalities and their purchase of transit buses and transit systems, but we need to take this opportunity to contemplate our appalling made in Canada procurement system, which fails us in so many ways. I rise just briefly to interject, because something happened in the province of Manitoba in my home city of Winnipeg and, Mr. Speaker, in your home riding, just this last year, something of which everybody in the House should take note.

If we want to talk about a made in Canada procurement policy collapsing, falling down and failing to protect Canadian jobs and workers, there is the example of Motor Coach Industries. I believe we make the best buses in the world here in Canada, but when our army, our military, wanted to buy troop carrier buses, they ended up buying German ones.

Motor Coach Industries, in the heart of Winnipeg and the heart of your riding, Mr. Speaker--and this should frost your socks too--put in a bid that was $2,000 per unit more expensive than the German price. On buses worth $500,000 each, and there were 34 of these buses, the difference in price was $2,000 each and the Canadian military bought the German bus instead. That difference is less than the cost of a set of tires for those buses.

Our tax dollars are now creating jobs for that bus company in Germany. Perhaps the worst thing of all, and the reason that we should reconsider all of this made in Canada procurement, is that our NATO allies see Canadian troops getting ferried around in German buses, so the Canadians might as well say that if anyone wants a good troop carrier bus they should buy the German one.

That is what we did, even though in our own backyard and your own riding, Mr. Speaker, we make the best buses in the world, I would argue. Frankly, the Canadian military mostly runs MCI buses. The military now has to bring in new mechanics, new training, a new parts inventory and new warehousing just to accommodate this little cluster of foreign made buses instead of buying Canadian.

I am heartened and encouraged when the House of Commons is seized of an issue like a made in Canada procurement policy, but I had to reinforce the need for my colleague's bill by this graphic example in the heart of the city of Winnipeg and the heart of your riding, Mr. Speaker.

I hope that my colleague's motion will have a ripple effect and that we will revisit our made in Canada procurement policy generally for all of our government procurement.

Canadian Content in Public Transportation Projects
Private Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

Resuming debate. In the absence of other members rising, I now recognize the hon. member for Thunder Bay--Rainy River to wrap up the debate with the final five minutes.