House of Commons Hansard #77 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was jobs.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Madam Speaker, the reason the member for Toronto Centre could not answer the question that was asked by the member for Vaudreuil-Soulanges is that the answer is “not a single time“. Over 13 years there were thousands of foreign takeovers and not a single time did the Liberal government say it was going to make sure that Canadians' public interest was protected, not a single time. The Liberal Party did not do it one single time. We have an example very clearly of why the Liberal Party sits where it does in the House, down in the corner.

I was very happy to hear portions of the speech. I think portions of the speech really come to repudiate what the Liberals have done over the last few years prior to the Conservatives getting into power. What we have seen is a decline in real income. What we have seen is a loss of manufacturing jobs. It started on the Liberal watch and has continued under the Conservatives.

Is this now, finally, a mea culpa from the Liberal Party about its bad economic--

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:30 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Order, please.

The hon. member for Toronto Centre.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I have always thought that the hon. member has given a new definition every time he stands to what race to the bottom really means. He creates a new standard for partisanship every time he speaks. When he spoke in debates on free trade, he accused his opponents of condoning mass murders in different countries. He accused us all of not understanding anything at all about life in a variety of countries.

I have to tell the hon. member and all the other members who speak in this House on issues of the economy that I see a real double standard. I do not hear a coherent picture from the New Democratic Party. I do not hear it from the New Democrats' leadership discussions. I do not hear it from him and the other critics with respect to really understanding the importance that yes, there is a necessary tension between creating a competitive economy and creating a fair economy. It is not about simply scoring cheap partisan points. If he wants to engage in that kind of debate, believe me, I can do that as well as anybody in the House. I just do not think it is worthy of us in this House at this point in time to be engaging in this.

This is a tough question. How do we ensure the survival of companies that are in economic difficulty? How do we say to workers that sometimes concessions have to be made? Sometimes they do have to be made to save jobs and sometimes they do have to be made to allow for competitive changes to take place.

What I am suggesting is that with respect to this particular situation in London, that is not the case. Any time the member wants to have a serious discussion about the economy, I welcome it. If he wants to engage in cheap shots for a living, fine, he can go ahead.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Madam Speaker, I want to congratulate our leader, the member for Toronto Centre, for his excellent speech. I would be anxious to hear perhaps after my speech when there is time for questions and comments, if members of the NDP can think of a foreign investment that has occurred in Canada that they would have approved. I do not get the sense that there has been a time when they have ever approved of any foreign investment. I wonder if they think that foreign investment in Canada has any value.

In most countries governments and people do want to see foreign investment and the creation of jobs that results from that. That capital flow into a country is important. I would be curious to hear what the NDP would do to encourage that kind of capital flow and investment in Canada, rather than just trying to scare off companies.

Having said that, I do commend the member for London—Fanshawe for bringing this issue before the House today.

I know the members of the Liberal caucus are convinced that our party must be committed to fighting for prosperity for everyone. This is a clear case of why we can never take our prosperity for granted.

Of course our hearts go out, as I am sure those of members on all sides do, to the workers who have lost their jobs, and their families, who have been left wondering about their future. What comes now for those who have worked for Electro-Motive Diesel in London, or for Papiers White Birch in Quebec City? This debate will clearly show that the Conservative government's priority is neither to create jobs, nor to protect the jobs of these hard-working Canadians.

Let us put this in the context of the overall economic management of the Conservative government. It is a government that came into power with a surplus of $13 billion and by April and May of 2008, before the recession began later that fall, it had already put Canada into a deficit. What horrendous fiscal mismanagement.

It is important to keep that in mind when we think about what the government has done in terms of economic management, and when we think about jobs and investment in Canada.

Instead of moving to amendments to strengthen the Investment Canada Act, what is the government doing? It is attacking seniors' pensions. That seems to be a good response. What are the priorities of its caucus members? They are raising issues like abortion and the death penalty. The ministers are sitting on their hands while significant job losses occur right under their noses. This gives an indication of the priorities of the Conservative Party. As we see in such a range of ways, they are ideological priorities. We look at the choices it makes, such as saying that the OAS and the GIS are not that important, that we do not have to worry about people in the future who are getting older. That is nonsense.

We know the residents of London, Ontario are deeply upset about the loss of 465 jobs after Caterpillar Inc. announced it intends to close EMD, Electro-Motive Diesel. The media have also pointed out that this plant closure is also very troubling for what it says about Ontario's ability to compete for manufacturing jobs. We have all watched in recent years as our dollar has climbed to parity and sometimes above parity with the U.S. dollar, and what that has meant in Ontario and Quebec for manufacturing jobs. It is a very difficult and troubling time. I heard it said years ago that with our dollar below 90¢ and certainly below 85¢, we can be extremely competitive and it is easy for us to sell our goods elsewhere, especially into the U.S., but when it is above 90¢, it gets a heck of a lot tougher.

Naturally, we know there are benefits to having the dollar at par. Having a high dollar allows Canadians to have cheaper access to goods that come from outside the country. It allows Canadian companies to buy equipment that can help them become more productive and competitive. There are benefits as well, but the impact we have seen from a variety of things, not only the dollar, but the developments globally in places like China and India and the movement around the world of manufacturing are things that we and the government have to come to grips with.

With respect to Caterpillar, an article in the National Post recently stated:

Caterpillar seems to have been a particularly unscrupulous employer, intent on closing down the plant, even while it dragged its employees through the charade of wage negotiations that were never going to bear fruit.

What happened in Quebec is also disturbing. People are very upset about the closure of White Birch Paper, which meant the loss of 600 jobs. The Prime Minister and members of his cabinet keep saying that the economy and jobs are their top priority, but Canadians now know that those promises are nothing more than empty rhetoric.

Earlier this week when the Minister of Industry was asked what measures he took to protect those jobs at Electro-Motive, he threw up his hands in defeat, acknowledging his utter failure. Here is exactly what he said:

[T]his issue falls entirely within the powers of the Ontario government and there was no ability for the federal government to intervene.

What a defeatist, unconfident approach. The workers at Electro-Motive deserve better from the government and the minister. He should have demanded a meeting, for starters, with Caterpillar instead of trying to pass the buck and avoiding any accountability. When there was a photo op in 2008, the Prime Minister was front and centre at Electro-Motive Diesel smiling for the cameras. When there was an opportunity to help the workers at EMD, the Conservative government left them to fend for themselves, which is generally the Conservatives' attitude toward most Canadians.

What does it say to the folks lined up for a double-double at the local Tim's when they see the priority of the Conservative government is to create jobs for an additional 30 MPs by adding 30 more seats to this House instead of protecting the jobs of those workers at the Electro-Motive or Papiers White Birch plants?

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:40 a.m.

An hon. member

Interesting priorities.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Interesting priorities indeed.

Many Canadians are wondering why the Prime Minister and his government did nothing to strengthen the Investment Canada Act after the attempted foreign takeover of PotashCorp or the TMX Group merger. Afterwards, they promised to hold a meeting, but we are still waiting.

Today's motion calls on the government to table, within 90 days, draft amendments to the Investment Canada Act to ensure that foreign buyers are held to public and enforceable commitments on the net benefit to Canada and on the protection of Canadian jobs. The Liberal Party will vote in favour of the underlying principle of this motion, that is, that the Investment Canada Act must be reviewed in order to provide greater transparency and accountability to Canadians.

The Investment Canada Act as it currently stands does not give Canadians confidence that their best interests will be served. Under the Investment Canada Act, there are no requirements for the federal government to disclose the rationale on the approval or disapproval of the sale, nor are there requirements for public disclosure of the commitments made by companies, such as jobs and investment.

The Liberal Party supports amending the Investment Canada Act to mandate public disclosure of commitments and to strengthen enforcement measures to ensure commitments are adhered to. Loan guarantees, like the previous Liberal government provided to forestry companies, could have helped companies avoid bankruptcy.

The Liberal Party believes that foreign investment is a good thing for Canada's economy. Rather than being a passive observer, the federal government should use its powers in an engaged, confidant and strategic manner, not to put up walls as my colleagues in the NDP always seem to want to do, but to maximize our advantages in the rapidly changing competitive global economy. That is what I talked about earlier. Let us look at what is happening in places like the BRIC countries, Brazil, Russia, India, and China, and how jobs are being created there. Jobs are moving around the world. It is a globally competitive economy, and we cannot ignore that fact.

The Investment Canada Act states in its purpose:

Recognizing that increased capital and technology benefits Canada, and recognizing the importance of protecting national security, the purposes of this act are to provide for the review of significant investments in Canada by non-Canadians in a manner that encourages investment, economic growth and employment opportunities in Canada and to provide for the review of investments in Canada by non-Canadians that could be injurious to national security.

I see that my time for debate is at an end. I encourage colleagues to vote in favour of this motion.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Brian Storseth Westlock—St. Paul, AB

Madam Speaker, I was pleased to hear my hon. colleague from Halifax speak to this issue. I know my hon. colleague was a cabinet minister in the previous the Liberal government. This is clearly something that he feels very strongly about. He must have had briefings on this when he was in cabinet. Why was it that a Liberal government never undertook this then?

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Madam Speaker, I have set out what we are proposing should be the policy. My hon. colleague and the Conservatives generally do not want to accept the fact but, now that they have been in government for six years and even though they talk about this majority stable government, they do not want to accept responsibility for the fact that they are in the government now and that it is time for them to answer for their record and their lack of action.

When there were purchases under the Liberal government, conditions were imposed. What we do not see from the Conservative government is holding companies to account for the kinds of conditions that were imposed.

However, it is time to look forward to say whatever the rules have been, whatever the law has said. Is that not always what this Parliament has a responsibility to do? Is it not the responsibility of any Parliament to not only look ahead and to examine the past, because it is educational for all of us, but also to look at how we use what we have learned from this and go forward and make improvements?

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Madam Speaker, I asked the same question that I am going to ask the member for Halifax West, of the member for Toronto Centre a few minutes ago who responded with a barrage of personal insults rather than actually dealing with the question, which is really unfortunate. This is a serious subject and I was surprised that the leader of the Liberal Party responded that way.

However, I do respect the member for Halifax West. I know that he responds in the House in a gentlemanly way. However, it does bear on the Liberal Party to explain its position in the 13 years it was in government. Why, over those 13 years, did the Liberals at no point put in place any sort of safeguards or protections for workers, in the case of the Investment Canada Act, the net benefit to Canada?

I have been here since 2004. This was a huge issue when the Liberal Party was in government. There was no oversight and no protection of the public interest. Now—

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:45 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Order, please. I would like to give the hon. member for Halifax West the opportunity to respond.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Madam Speaker, it really is the same question I heard from the previous speaker from the Conservative side. It seems kind of odd that we would have identical questions and identical approaches in this case from the Conservatives and the NDP.

I appreciate my hon. colleague's kind comments about me personally but for him to say that this is a serious subject and then to pose a question that is founded in partisanship, that is not an indication of taking this debate in a serious way. It is not an indication of approaching this in the kind of non-partisan way that the NDP has wanted to portray itself in the last year or so.

Yes, there were investments in Canada during the time the Liberal government was in office, and before and since. With the improvements in our economy under the Liberal government and the fact that Statistics Canada found that over that period there was a tremendous decrease in poverty because of the steps that were taken, they helped to lead to the economy improving, to jobs being created and to people benefiting in a range of ways. When the government was able to do so, it started to make lots of investments, increasing the important measures that were helping Canadians across the country, as my hon. colleague should know.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Madam Speaker, the member for Halifax West mentioned how the Prime Minister loved to be around the plant when it suited his political purposes but that when things go wrong the Tories scatter.

I would like to read a quote from an article by Lawrence Martin earlier this week. It reads, “I was talking to a plugged in guy at the finance department the other day and asked him what the Tories have done that is so wonderful. 'The PR', he said”. I would like the member to respond to that.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Madam Speaker, my hon. colleague is right. We do know that the Conservatives have succeeded extremely well at PR, and particularly in increasing the number of PR staff the Prime Minister has, both in the Prime Minister's Office and in his department, the Privy Council Office. They have 1,500 people in total. This is incredible. This is message control, writ large. It is a whole new level of message control. At a time when we are talking about cutting jobs and saving money, it certainly is not the way to do it.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to engage in the debate for a few moments this morning. First I will thank my colleagues, the mover of this important motion, the member for London—Fanshawe, and the seconder, the member for Beauport—Limoilou. They did a wonderful job introducing this issue in debate today and I thank them very much for their concern. I know their constituents are very thankful that they were elected to this House.

This is a very troubling trend that we have seen in our country. It has been going on now since 2006, for far too many years. Since 2006, we have lost over 400,000 manufacturing jobs in the country. The impact that it has on our economy generally and the effect that is has on the communities in which these jobs were lost is extraordinary.

We heard the member for London--Fanshawe talk about some of her constituents who work at the Caterpillar plant and the impact that it was having. She cited some personal examples of families that were directly affected. She also talked about the United Way organization in her community and how the workers at that facility had raised over $100,000 in support of the United Way, an organization that supports communities and families to keep the wolves away, in large part. They will not now be able to donate the money they were able to raise. That is the kind of impact that these kinds of job losses have on these communities.

Madam Speaker, I was remiss in not saying that I will be sharing my time with the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam. Undoubtedly, he will be able to tell us stories about the kind of impact this is having on his community. I look forward to listening to that.

When the member from London—Fanshawe talked about the impact the shut down and loss of so many hundreds of jobs was having on the constituents in her communities, she also presented legislative solutions to the House that could in fact go some distance to prevent this kind of occurrence in the future. That, frankly, is the difference between us in the official opposition and the government, and, for that matter, the third party. We are engaging in debate here on this issue and on trade issues. We are trying to say to the government and other members of the House that when it comes to negotiating trade, that we need to ensure that in our negotiations we do not sell away important jobs in our communities. If we are going to negotiate a trade deal, we are saying that we must ensure that it is to the benefit of our communities and the workers of the companies and organizations from one end of our country to the other. We must not get carried away with putting pen to paper, signing a deal with whomever simply for the sake of saying that we signed another trade deal with x country, and then see tens of thousands, literally hundreds of thousands, of good jobs lost as a result of those kinds of decisions.

When the Minister of Industry stood in his place today and engaged in this debate, he said that this was a tragedy and that he felt bad for the workers and their families. However, did he offer any concrete solutions? Did he say that his government would introduce changes to the legislation to ensure this does not happen again? Did he say that his government would work with its provincial counterparts to ensure this kind of thing does not happen again? Not once did he offer those kinds of changes.

That is why the constituents in my riding of Dartmouth--Cole Harbour and Canadians from one end of the country to the other are asking whose side the government is on.

Caterpillar, a company that has been making extraordinary profits and has taken tax dollars in this country, has moved its operations to the United States. It made a record profit for 2011 of nearly $5 billion, an 83% increase over its 2010 profit. Caterpillar's CEO earned more than $10 million in 2010. We on this side of the House have been saying that, when it comes down to choices, the government chooses the CEOs who are making $10 million. It chooses the corporations that are making billions of dollars in profits.

That is why the government has continued to lower the corporate income tax rate in this country. It is down now to 15%, which is one of the lowest in the G20. This is resulting in billions of dollars being stashed away in the bank account of very profitable corporations. Are these corporations creating jobs? No. It just the opposite.

Caterpillar is an example of a company that took generous tax breaks and it greased the skids as it was moving the equipment and the jobs away from this country. That is wrong.

The minister said another thing that I find quite troubling. He stood up in this place and accused the member for London—Fanshawe and other members of this caucus of playing cheap politics with this issue when we talk about what a devastating impact this decision is having on working people. He calls that cheap politics. When we stand and offer solutions or when we urge the government to use caution when making decisions, the minister calls that cheap politics.

We have seen the colour photo of the Prime Minister four short years ago hanging out of the window of one of the locomotives at that plant pulling down on the air horn with a big smile on his face. He was talking about how, as a result of the tax breaks that his government was affording that company, he was ensuring there would be secure jobs in this country. We know who was playing cheap politics. The cheapness, the bitterness and the meanness of those politics have resulted in the fact that those jobs are now gone.

In the intervention by the leader of the third party earlier, he castigated the members of the NDP by saying that they were against this and against that. However, what he could not do was answer for the record of the Liberal Party when it was in government for 13 years and allowed this very event to happen time and time again. Foreign companies were coming in and not only taking over our Canadian companies and then laying people off but they were taking our intellectual property, taking patents out of this country and moving them somewhere else to the benefit of another country. The Liberals did not do a thing about it.

What we are doing in this debate is saying that what is happening to working people is wrong. It is wrong that we are losing these important manufacturing jobs in this country. It is affecting our economy and we are proposing solutions. We are prepared, as the official opposition, to work with members of the House and, after 2015 as government, to make the kind of changes that will protect and encourage the development of manufacturing jobs in this country.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

Noon

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I may be incorrect but I am wondering if the House currently has quorum.