House of Commons Hansard #8 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was lanka.

Topics

Sri Lanka
Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

So there will be no requests for emergency debates, no dilatory motions, no requests for unanimous consent, and no quorum calls during the debate this evening. Have I listed everything? Is it agreed?

Sri Lanka
Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

When this bill was last before the House, the hon. member for Windsor West had the floor and he has 12 minutes remaining in the time allotted for his remarks.

I therefore call upon the hon. member for Windsor West.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise again to speak on this very important issue, namely Bill C-2, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the States of the European Free Trade Association, in particular Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

It is important to recognize that our trade relations are very key to how we develop our sector economies, how they affect Canadian employment, and how they affect even issues of national defence and strategies related to growth industries in terms of technology and so forth.

We believe in fair trade, and one of the principal components of fair trade is to ensure that when a country that we are trading with has had a strategic advantage or has a system in place that is providing a benefit, we actually deal with that and have a plan in place for our workers and our people in Canada.

In particular, there is a problem with this trade agreement, as it currently stands, which we find very difficult. There are some issues with regard to agriculture, but in particular the hardest one is the issue of shipbuilding.

Norway has had several years, in fact over a decade, to develop and implement a strategy regarding its shipbuilding industry. What will happen in this agreement is that over a series of years we will see the phase-out of a 25% tariff that partially helped protect the shipbuilding industry, which is still struggling over here in some respects. We would like to see this as an opportunity, in terms of what is happening right now with the laws of trade that are out there, to actually rebuild our shipping industry.

It is something that should be noted. It is done in other countries. It would not create an offensive front. It would not be seen as protectionism because quite frankly, the United States, for example, under the Jones act has a protection of its procurements. As well, under its defence policies, it actually has local and domestic procurement that it controls.

We do not begrudge the United States for that. We can certainly understand the fact that it would want to maintain some of its base industrial elements that protect its national interests and national defence. It is something that is important for the United States in terms of its sovereignty and how Americans view themselves in the world, but also in terms of the workers who have good skill sets.

Value added work is very important with regard to the notation of shipbuilding. It is not a case of simply sending natural resources out of the country. It is something that actually has value added components. It is also something that is actually changing right now, with new technology, so we get those advancements in technological development clustered around the shipbuilding industry. That also includes the elements that it connects to passive shipbuilding industry as well.

I am familiar with this as well in terms of the auto sector. It has that strategy and it is a strategy at which we have not stood up and raised our fists in anger. At the same time, on the Canadian side, we have done the very least of things to protect our industries and provide the same things.

It is interesting to note because this is a big difference, especially right now with the heightened discussion of what is happening in the United States with its buy American clause, with what Canada can do and cannot do, and what the United States can and cannot do. We do not even do the base minimum that the United States would respect.

One of the most egregious situations that has now come to the public discussion forum is the fact that the government has chosen to procure $250 million worth of trucks from Texas. That is unacceptable because our trade agreement right now allows us to have defence procurement and to purchase from our own country.

Ironically, we have a facility in Chatham, Ontario, that was actually going to close a few years ago and there was government support. The then Liberals said that they could not do it, that it was against NAFTA and against everything else, and there was no way they could save this plant. We hit the streets and we worked really hard. We saved the plant and it has actually been very successful until recently. It was well worth the investment it got from the government which it paid back to the coffers, not just from the company but also more particularly from workers who have paid taxes and have been able to raise their families with some dignity and integrity and also chase the Canadian dream of having a prosperous life in this country.

Sadly, what has happened now though is that the plant is in jeopardy. Ironically, the government has decided to abandon it. There is a $250 million of work going to Texas when retooling is estimated to cost $800,000 at the Navistar truck plant in Chatham.

Let us weigh this out. For $800,000 of retooling, done by Canadian workers and a with lot of Canadian content, it would facilitate the improvements that are necessary on the truck that would make it meet the obligations of the Canadian military. It would also allow for new innovation in the plant, which is a very good plant that has been known for its quality. Prior to much of its production being sent down to Mexico from Navistar, we used to get some of the Mexican produced vehicles into Canada to fix them. The men and women are very good, adept at their skills and solid workers. We know that the quality would be of the highest calibre and I am sure that the workers in Chatham would take a lot of pride in building vehicles for our military. They would get behind this 100% and produce the best vehicles possible.

Instead of putting that $800,000 into the retooling that would have had workers paying taxes again and going forward into the future, they have decided to ship it all down to Texas. When one compares the $800,000 with the $250 million of the defence procurement contract one has to wonder where the strategy is in this government. Why does it not believe that Canadian workers are just as capable of building vehicles for our soldiers and our military infrastructure?

It would also guarantee, and this is a key element in the trade agreement that worries me, a key element of our industrial complex that is still necessary for the world that we live in. We need to have a manufacturing capacity that is going to protect our national interests. The trucks would be used for a whole series of operations. We know that if we have control over that, we could actually continue to produce those vehicles for future contracts. If other countries have an interest in the vehicle, they could come to us. Perhaps we could have a continued expansion of the facility or a continuation of the work, which would go on for nearly a couple of years.

It is really disappointing when we pull away from that opportunity, especially at a time when down in my region unemployment in the Windsor-Essex County area is at 10%. Chatham is up there as well. That those individuals would not be the men and women who would be assembling the vehicles for our country is very frustrating. We lack the visionary elements from this government to see that forward. It comes forward with plans in this budget to help Canadians put sod on their lawns, but it will not help Canadians maintain the industrial complexes that are necessary for our national security and that will benefit the overall economy. On top of that, it is going to be the cutting edge of the new development of the actual manufactured vehicles. They will be the newest and latest in the field.

This is a problem with regard to our concerns on the shipbuilding aspect. There is going to be a loss of opportunity there. It is not just us who are calling for this. I want to read a quote that shows that the New Democrats are not alone on this. A number of different shipping associations have commented on this and made objections. The president of the Shipyard General Workers' Federation of British Columbia George MacPherson states:

The Canadian shipbuilding industry is already operating at about one-third of its capacity. Canadian demand for ships over the next 15 years is estimated to be worth $9 billion in Canadian jobs. Under the FTAs with Norway, Iceland, and now planned with Korea and then Japan, these Canadian shipbuilding jobs are in serious jeopardy. In these terms, this government's plan is sheer folly and an outrage.

He gets it right because he understands that it is not just about the current capacity we have and need to protect right now. It is about making sure that we are going to continue to be able to reap the rewards of the investment that we have done before.

When I was part of the industry committee, we had over 20 recommendations regarding the manufacturing sector. One of the things that has been moderately positive with regards to the budget is that we came forward with a policy on the issue of a capital cost reduction allowance for machinery and tools. It was supposed to be a five-year policy. First, the government had a position of doing it for a two year period. Now, it is proposing to do it for a three year period, so it has the accumulation of the five years. Unfortunately, not having it done properly through a one five year period undermines the planning necessary for the capital cost reductions on some of the more expensive and thought-out equipment changes that will be necessary in the future.

It is a modest step forward, and it is something that we certainly support. At the same time, it also provides some of the elements that are necessary for the actual procurement of additional capacity that could be important for our shipbuilding industry. We should not simply be relying on the hope of having our yards filled right now. We would like to see expansion.

In this economic downturn it is easy to use elements like this as a way to have procurement, especially when we look at some of the defence contracting that needs to be done. The budget notes that there is going to be $175 million allocated for a number of different craft. Small craft are going to be built and we hope that they will be done in our own shipyards. The proper policy is needed to do that. That is what worries me. It is why the example of Navistar with regard to the trucks being built in Texas instead of Chatham, Ontario is disturbing. That $175 million contract could be awarded in several different ways for procurement in South Korea, Norway or the United States, all of those things. As we go through trade agreements like this we have to be very careful of the details.

One element I would like to touch on is that the past Liberal government thought it had it right when it brought in the free trade agreement and other trade agreements after signing the auto pact. The auto pact made us one of the strongest auto manufacturers in the world, but when we brought in the other trade agreements the auto pact was killed, despite the government of the day arguing that we would stand up and would be able to have it. Since that time our auto industry has crumbled around us as others have decided to move forward.

I hope that is a lesson we keep in mind. We should vote this down and vote for Canadian action instead.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-55 not only affects shipbuilding bit it also affects many other areas in Canada.

Destructive legacies, such as the softwood lumber sellout have eroded our confidence in the ability of the government to defend the best interests of Canada through trade agreements.

There is a lot of agriculture in Nickel Belt, especially in the Verner area. The NFU is concerned about this agreement because the provisions within the agreement concerning agriculture defer to the World Trade Organization dispute settlement mechanism which will have a very negative impact on supply management by weakening Canada's position.

What could the government do to improve this bill as it relates to agriculture?

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

The hon. member for Nickel Belt is absolutely correct. It is important to note that Terry Pugh, executive secretary of the National Farmers Union, has identified the concerns that if we actually had to bring the agriculture component forward in the bill potentially under the WTO we could get a challenge with regard to supply management.

Even though agriculture and auto do not often meet up together, they are a good example here. I referred to what happened with regard to the auto pact and I think the concerns are there. It was the WTO on a challenge from Japan which eventually killed our auto pact.

Our auto industry was fourth in the world in assembly and it has gone down to ninth and is falling even further back. Despite the challenges we are facing, it is important to recognize that other things are developing in the industry. General Motors, for example, is bringing out the first plug-in electric vehicle in Detroit, Michigan. It has just bought South Korean technology to bring its battery system on line for that vehicle. That is because the U.S. has set aside a $25 billion investment strategy of low interest loans.

Despite the challenges for the auto sector, and we have seen plants go down here in Canada, the United States is actually increasing plant production on certain measures. That is a good example of the environment being connected.

It is really important. The government today does not worry too much about that. At the time, trade minister Pierre Pettigrew downplayed the WTO decision originally with regard to the auto pact. That is traditionally what governments of the day do. They downplay decisions as they work themselves through the court system and at the same time it undermines our ability to control our own destiny.

It is a warning sign. It is something that is very important. It is also one that sets a good example for the concerns expressed in the agriculture sector about this bill.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, in listening to the member's presentation, I thought about my home riding of Halifax where shipbuilding is a huge issue.

Canada has no strategy for shipbuilding and it sounds as though there is no strategy for the auto industry in Canada and no strategy for getting trucks built in our country. I think the problem is beyond the EFTA. Our country lacks a comprehensive industrial strategy. The EFTA is just another example of a piecemeal approach to trade deals. There is no coherent fair trade vision or policy. There is no industrial strategy.

What are the member's thoughts about the bigger issue of Canada's lack of an industrial policy as it relates to the EFTA?

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have had the opportunity to tour the Halifax shipyards and talk to the workers and management there. There is a strong confidence element involved there in that the people there feel that they could be part of something bigger. They feel that they could be a part of the future of procurement for Canada, whether it be for the military or the coast guard. That is what they would like to do. It is not only about having a job. It is about having pride in a country that can produce the goods necessary for us to defend ourselves and also serve our citizens. There is a natural connection that needs to be recognized. It instills a nation's sentiments.

It is sad that we do not have that policy in Canada. It is sad that we do not have the necessary overall sectoral strategies.

Other countries are doing it. There is an interest to get into Canada. Other countries know that we could be vulnerable to competition because they have had so much support in the past. Norway is the example. Norway implemented a plan and developed significant shipbuilding facilities and capacity. The important thing is that Norway had a head start. It is difficult in a 100 yard dash to catch up with one's competitor who is already 50 yards ahead. That is what we are talking about. We want to see a fair race in many respects.

It is important for Canada to recognize that there are other stimuli packages out there. We are not talking about adding other layers of protectionism. We are talking about using the tools that we have available in this country. European countries, the United States and Japan use the models of their economy within their trade agreements to expand their services and capabilities.

It is an exciting time right now with the greening of many of the different types of technologies. Even though we face deep challenges, our opportunities are great. We can see a lot cleaner, a lot leaner, and more important, a stronger connection between the lifestyles that we lead and the environmental footprint that we leave behind.

This is a great opportunity to build on sectoral strategies. That is why I would like to see the government take this opportunity to heart and move forward. Sadly, we are still moving backward. We cannot be a nation that just supplies raw resources to the rest of the world.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like the member for Windsor West to address the impact of the Navistar truck contract on his community and surrounding area, because not all those folks actually live in Chatham. When a situation of that magnitude impacts a city, a county and a community, it is a shame that we did not rectify it when we had the opportunity. As the hon. member said, a $250 million contract for trucks for our armed forces being built in Texas rather than Ontario just does not seem to work out well.

The member's riding is in Windsor, which is in close proximity geographically to Chatham. I would like him to comment on what happens to a community when it loses hundreds of well-paying jobs. What happens to United Way organizations in those communities? What happens to the non-profit organizations in those communities? What happens to the kids who want to play hockey or ringette or gymnastics whose parents no longer have the ability to fund those activities?

Perhaps my hon. colleague could comment on that.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is important to make that correlation because there is a spiralling effect that really brings down other elements of the economy, everything from the person who operates a small business and provides food services to those who want to invest in the area and look to clustering around a major manufacturing facility. It also hurts the social infrastructure, be it the United Way or other charitable groups. The CAW and other types of philanthropy is taking place because of that economic activity.

This really hurts on a psychological level in the sense that what the government has said to the workers of Chatham and Kent area is that it wants to have our trucks for our military built in Texas. It seems they are not good enough in Chatham and area for the $800,000 retooling. That is all that is necessary, a small pittance. It is all the jobs too that would be done by the people of our own country, many of whom are laid off right now. The government has said to those people that they are not going to be the ones to build the trucks for our men and women who are serving this nation. That really hurts them. I have talked to them and that is how they feel. It is sad because it could be different.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to this bill. I have concerns about this bill for a specific reason, as I will explain.

A number of my colleagues on the Liberal side, in particular my friend the hon. member for Halifax West, have worked very hard on this as well. We are prepared to support the movement of this bill to committee, where it can be examined and studied and where we hope some positive work might come out as a result.

I support freer trade, in general, and I suspect many industries and suppliers would benefit from this bill, perhaps some even in my own region. However, the issue for me is clear, and it has been talked about before. It is the issue of the shipbuilding industry.

I come from Nova Scotia, a province with a proud tradition of shipbuilding. We are a world leader, in fact. Today we still have a shipbuilding industry. It is a proud one and an effective one, but one that has not been supported as it should have been, and not in the way that some other countries have done, in particular Norway, which is one of the four countries in the EFTA deal. This deal is with those four countries: Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Iceland and Norway.

Norway is the tricky one. I want to be very clear. Norway is a great friend of Canada and Norway is a great friend to the world. Norway is a successful nation that takes care of its citizens. It is also a world leader in assisting others. In fact, I admire Norway. It is wholly admirable as a world leader. From 2001 to 2006, it was number one in the human development index. In 2007, it was actually chosen as the most peaceful nation on earth.

In fact, in terms of overseas development assistance, Norway contributes about the same level of total dollars to overseas development assistance as Canada, the difference being that Norway has a population of less than five million people and Canada has more than thirty million.

In terms of hitting millennium development goals, Norway is far ahead of us. Its ODA contribution, its percentage of GNI, is 0.95%, while ours is 0.29% and has dropped.

Norway is a nation with which we should do business. I admire the principles on which it governs its citizens and governs itself in the world.

Canada and Norway are long-time friends. In fact, in my own constituency, one of my favourite events commemorates this friendship between Canada and Norway. The event is the Convoy Cup. It is the brainchild of one of our most remarkable citizens, Steiner Engeset, Norwegian consul to Nova Scotia.

The Convoy Cup honours those who served in World War II escorting merchant ships and naval vessels from North America to war-torn Europe. This critical function played a major role in the eventual outcome of World War II.

Following the invasion of Norway by Nazi Germany in 1940, members of the Royal Norwegian Army and Royal Norwegian Navy maintained training and repair bases in Nova Scotia. The Convoy Cup commemorates this close relationship between the two countries. I am proud that the Dartmouth Yacht Club in my own riding is the club of record for the Convoy Cup. I know other members from this House--the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore, the member for Halifax West, perhaps the new member for Halifax, and certainly her predecessor--would share my enjoyment of the Convoy Cup and would share my admiration and that of many others, including my late father, of Steiner Engeset.

My concern with this bill is not primarily because I am opposed to Norway's subsidization and management of its shipbuilding industry; it is because we have not done enough to support our own. We have a shipbuilding caucus in Parliament, to which I proudly belong. We have heard at that caucus from just about everybody in the shipbuilding industry, and they have also appeared before various parliamentary committees.

What is remarkable about this industry is that both management and labour are very much aligned as to the solutions for a way forward for shipbuilding. This is not an industry in which management is saying one thing and labour is saying something entirely different. That is why I and other members from this House, including the member for Halifax , the member for Halifax West and the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore, welcomed the announcement in December by the Minister of Defence, when he said shipbuilding should be part of a stimulus plan. However, we were perplexed when he also suggested that shipbuilders and trade unions should set aside their differences. In fact, I have been in numerous meetings at which shipbuilders and trade union representatives have come together, presented together and identified strategies for the industry together.

The minister indicated the government had done its homework by examining how other shipbuilding nations had found success. He even cited Norway as an example. We are not Norway; we have not protected our industry or promoted it as Norway has or as other nations have.

We know about the Jones act and the Merchant Marine Act of the 1920s in the United States, in which the United States actually carves out shipbuilding and treats it specifically in trade agreements.

It is a tricky bill. It is a very tricky bill for my colleague, the member for Halifax West, for these reasons.

I meet regularly, as does he and as do other members, with marine workers such as Les Holloway, Karl Risser, Gerard Bradbury and others in Nova Scotia. I trust and value their views and I consistently agree with them.

I also meet with shipbuilding companies and executives who know how to build a shipbuilding strategy, and I have spoken to MPs, to ministers and to bureaucrats on a number of occasions.

I recognize the frustration of those who are concerned that we are not as vigilant as other countries in promoting our industry. This is not about ability or competitive spirit; our industry has those things.

A few weeks ago local Halifax-area MPs issued a release in which we called on the minister to follow through on his pledge to make shipbuilding part of the stimulus package.

In that release I said the following:

Shipbuilding is still an important industry in Canada, an industry in which labour and management have worked together to provide options for action in these uncertain times. We call upon the government to come to the table and make shipbuilding part of the stimulus package as they have previously said they would.

In December Karl Risser himself spoke to the historic role of shipbuilding in Nova Scotia, the quality of our work, the great tradition of the industry and our potential for the future when he said:

We have the people, technology, the will and the skill to see it continue.

There are many aspects to this trade deal. Many could be positive for the country and could be positive for our region, but there is work that must be done.

Our critic, the member for Kings—Hants, is aware of these concerns. He spoke to this bill on Monday in the House when he said:

We need a comprehensive shipbuilding policy in this country, one that actually helps build a world-class shipbuilding industry that can compete and succeed. We can do a number of things in terms of our industrial strategy and policy to make this happen. As the government deals with the EFTA, I think it also has to ensure that some of these industrial policy issues are addressed, and we as the official opposition will hold the government to account on that.

I am proud to be a member of Parliament for a shipbuilding region and certainly will not abandon the cause. I am also in support of fair trade and, in most cases, free trade.

I will support sending this bill to committee and at committee I look forward to hearing from those who know this industry best. Hopefully we will work to create a national shipbuilding strategy that will rival those with whom we compete and those with whom we trade.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Nova Scotia for his words and in particular for talking about our historical relationship with Norway and the Convoy Cup. As a member of the Scandinavian Society back home, I know it is a really exciting event for us.

I was hoping that the member could actually comment on the decline of the shipbuilding industry in Canada, and in particular the impact it has had on his riding of Dartmouth--Cole Harbour, which is a neighbour to my riding of Halifax.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I know that my colleague's commitment is for the shipbuilding industry. It is a big part of our shared community. It is a big issue for me in my community. I do not think we have done enough to protect shipbuilding.

There have been some ministers in the past who met regularly with industry and with labour, ministers who had a vision for shipbuilding in Canada. I am thinking of the Hon. Brian Tobin.

This EFTA bill came up some years ago. It is not brand new to the House. A lot of people, including a lot of people from our party, have expressed concern about whether this specific bill should go forward without a comprehensive shipbuilding strategy as part of it.

What can we do? There are a number of things we can do. First of all, we need to accept that there needs to be a national shipbuilding strategy that includes things like buying Canadian. The industry has indicated there may be a direct allocation component to our shipbuilding strategy, which would provide for more stability in the labour force and also in business. The structured facility financing with the accelerated capital cost allowance being simultaneously applied is another piece.

We have a lot of work to do. It bothers me when people suggest that this is a dying industry. We cannot say that in a place like Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia was a world leader in building ships. It is part of our tradition and part of our heritage.

We have the technology. This is a modern industry. We have everything we need to make this a viable part of our national industrial strategy. We just need to accept that we need a specific shipbuilding strategy for the country.

There are answers. As I said before, the people who run the companies and the people who work in the companies share a common view as to how we go forward. They have talked about it before. We do not need anything new. We have the answers. We just need to be serious and not make promises about being part of stimulus or about what it might be. We just need to actually have some action and movement forward.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his speech. It was a thoughtful speech and one that offers a way out of somewhat of a dilemma.

It seems to me that many in the House are in favour of free trade. They speak in favour of free trade and then they say that this and that industry have to be exempted, so free trade becomes something less than free trade, and after a while we have no trade at all.

That position seemed to be admirably advocated by the leader of the NDP in the last couple of days, when he was complaining about the attitude of the U.S. Congress and its “buy American” policy, while at the same time advocating the “buy Canadian” policy on infrastructure.

The hon. member made reference to an industrial strategy that would make the shipbuilding industry a competitive and viable industry. Is this a free trade exception, or is this free trade in which we can have both free trade and a viable industry?