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

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, in fact, I enjoy the opportunity to answer the question.

When the lockout first occurred, my office and I made telephone calls to the parties involved, including the mayor of London and the president of the Canadian Auto Workers, Ken Lewenza. I guess the first time we heard this really was going to end with the plant closing came from Ken Lewenza, in our open communications and dialogue with the unions. Indeed, I was with members of the CAW and the Oakville and District Labour Council on Friday morning when this announcement was made. We talked about it and the need to redouble our efforts to work together to improve the manufacturing environment for southwestern Ontario.

I have been in contact with the unions and I make sure that we have that open line of dialogue so that we can continue to work together, as we should.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, as a member representing the great area of London in southwestern Ontario and as a small businessperson, I am happy to take part in today's discussion.

First I want to say how disappointed I am with the decision by Progress Rail and its parent company, Caterpillar, to close the London facility, and I express my sympathy and empathy for the families involved at that workplace.

I am going to attempt to discuss a couple of areas today and would like to share some thoughts about my home and paint a picture of London and southern Ontario, a picture that is far different from the doom and gloom of my colleagues opposite. I would like to set some records straight also, because in this place and back home some stories have been told that do not reflect reality. I would also like to share a vision of positive actions that are taking place and the support for jobs that this government has brought to London and southern Ontario. Southern Ontario is my home. I grew up in London and my kids went to school there.

This motion, much like everything else the party opposite has done, is pretty negative. If we were to listen to the rhetoric coming from the other side of this House, we would think that London had a great big grey cloud over top of it and it rained all day long, every day in London. That is just not true. My Canada, my Ontario, my London, my area of southern Ontario is often full of sunshine. It is full of smiles and hard-working people and full of people who go to work every day and are happy to do so. Unlike the member for London—Fanshawe, I believe in thinking positively toward solutions. London smiles. Londoners are proud of the job they do. Yes, the global economic recession has had a significant impact on southern Ontario, including London and the area where I live. However, southern Ontario has been there before.

I was a small business owner in bad times in the early 1990s when an NDP government caused a provincial recession in Ontario. It made being an employer and a job creator very difficult, but we grew. We put an effort into economic growth and passed into one of the greatest times of prosperity my province has ever seen. We have done it before and we are doing it again. We have people who are well trained in our work force. We have great skills training for those who still need it. We have land and facilities for businesses to grow and new enterprises to locate, and many are doing just that. Kongsberg, a company from Norway, through its great relationship building, decided it would come to London. Dr. Oetker, a food processor from Germany, has decided to locate in London. It is not all doom and gloom; there is sunshine out there.

We have infrastructure, great roads and highways, water and energy. We have close access to the United States by land through both Windsor and Sarnia within an hour or two of London, with the Great Lakes surrounding us and rail services and air cargo facilities available. Thanks to a forward-thinking city and to the help of this government, the London airport has a new air cargo facility to facilitate new enterprises looking to locate in London.

I would like to move to some of the mistruths and misinformation that I suppose my opposition friends feel they must use, because if they stick to the facts they cannot make the same political points or grandstand.

This government has helped business in many ways during this world economic downturn. Just a few examples are its lowering of corporate taxes, creating retraining opportunities and effective work-share programs and trade. The Prime Minister is out of Canada right now, doing some great things on trade with another country. We are looking for new customers because our largest customer, the United States, is suffering too. When a customer who purchases about 80% of everything bought in southern Ontario is hurting, we hurt too. These are just a few examples of what we are attempting to do as a government.

This government has also invested in London's infrastructure. Why? Because it creates immediate jobs and gives our area lasting assets for our children and my children's future.

The member for London—Fanshawe was all too quick to grab a great big cheque and stand in front of a construction site and say, “Hey look at me, this is great, my city is getting great jobs”. In true hypocritical fashion, when the cameras were off, she came back to Ottawa and voted against all of those things for London. That is just not right. When looking through some old photos last night, I found a picture of that event and discovered people celebrating London's growth under the economic action plan. The member for London—Fanshawe was right in front, funnily enough with a Caterpillar loader in the background. Apparently it is okay to use Caterpillar when it is about her job.

Speaking about being hypocritical and misleading, we continue to hear stories from the party opposite about some phantom investment given to Electro-Motive Diesel. Again New Democrats just cannot make points on the facts. They just twist them until they work for them.

Here is how the practices with the capital cost allowance work. First, in 2008 the entire industry committee, including the NDP member for Windsor West, unanimously recommended an increase in the capital cost allowance rate for rail equipment. This change was effective for new locomotives acquired on or after February 26, 2008, as well as for reconditioned locomotives and the refurbishment costs incurred. This benefit went to the customers of Electro-Motive, not to Electro-Motive. My office received no calls during that time demanding that we stop getting more customers for the plant.

Let me now move to another piece of truth that will just not make the story if told correctly. When I grew up on Fairmont Avenue in east London, I remember the GM diesel plant. I remember the big, brown buses it made for the City of London. GM Diesel from 1950 on was a very fine employer in London; it employed a lot of people. GM Diesel, just for those who are not catching on yet, is General Motors Diesel, a fine American company operating in London since 1950.

The myth involved here is maybe best explained by Andrew Coyne in the National Post. He stated:

It’s a compelling story—foreigners buy “our” plant, steal “our” technology, and all with our money! Except:

EMD is not a Canadian company, and never was. Caterpillar bought it from a pair of American private equity firms in 2010; they bought it from General Motors in 2005, who bought it from its Ohio-based founders in 1930. Since 1935 it has been headquartered in La Grange, Illinois. The London branch plant was opened in 1950.

Caterpillar didn’t buy the London plant. It bought the whole company, including its La Grange operations, which is where EMD does its design and engineering work, as well as making parts. It seems unlikely it would have stashed its most valuable intellectual property at a far-off final assembly plant. (Incidentally, as the economist Michael Moffatt points out, GM moved all final assembly work to London from La Grange shortly after the Free Trade Agreement went into effect. The jobs we’re worried about losing to the States are jobs we took from them.)

Even if it were a Canadian company, and even if it possessed a Valhallah of patents, it still wouldn’t belong to “us”. It would belong to them: its Canadian owners, who shelled out good money for it, presumably in anticipation of selling it one day. Caterpillar didn’t steal the company: it paid for it. If its proprietary technology had any value, its previous owners would be just as capable of realizing this—

In every labour dispute, the answer lies with two parties getting together for a solution. As I have said before, I feel that Progress Rail and its parent company did not play the role of good corporate citizens in this, but it appears that very little attempt was made to negotiate a solution to this and save the jobs and keep them in London.

I would love to go on to explain all of the things that our government has done and will continue to do to bring those new industries to London. We have made investments in London with many jobs, including the startup of FedDev Ontario, an organization that my party started to look at economic development in southern Ontario. We have been asked many times by the members opposite, and it seems like it is always a one-off, about what we are going to do about something or why can we not do this or that. The one thing this government has been able to prove over time is that it can multi-task: it can do all of those things. It can create trade when our trading partners go away. It can create new jobs and help retrain workers.

I again want to say there are smiling people in London and it is not all doom and gloom. There is sun shining.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I can confirm that there are a lot of smiling people in London. I visit it frequently as my sister lives there.

The Conservative Party of Canada promised, on a number of occasions, that it would look at the Investment Canada Act. I am wondering if my friend can remark on the kind of revisions that need to be made to the legislation requiring, for instance, that if companies invest in Canada that they keep their head office here, that they keep certain jobs here for a certain time, or that they forfeit any tax credits or SR&ED money they might have received if they do not keep those jobs here for a certain period of time.

The loss of Caterpillar is tragic but there is a much broader question that we need to tackle here. I wonder if my friend could comment on that.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, my friend and I have had great discussions about the great city of London and his relatives who live there.

The answer is that foreign investment is reviewed often. As a government, we are always open to any suggestions that members may have, if members have suggestions as to what we might be able to look at the next time.

I have real difficulty trying to handcuff corporations, which might want to come to my area to locate and create jobs, with regulations before the fact as to what they might do to come here to create those jobs. As I stated, as a very young boy I drove with my dad in front of the GM diesel plant and some 80 years later these events are taking place. Are we suggesting that 80 years worth of good jobs somehow must be limited or that we should make them stay another 20 years? I understand what the member is trying to do in creating a regulation. It is like trying to rope a horse and it is not very easy.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Francine Raynault Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, we know that Electro-Motive asked employees to make concessions that did not really make sense, especially since this company makes huge profits.

All of us here have discussed at great length how people can put money aside to prepare for their retirement. What does the government advise these people to do now that they have lost their jobs? What will they have to do today to have a decent retirement?

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member is right. Planning for retirement is a very important issue.

However, as I mentioned more than once in my speech, I am not standing here defending Caterpillar as being a great corporate citizen in this either. However, being a business person and being out there in the workplace, I recognize that negotiation is key. We talked about it this morning at committee that working together is better than working apart. As long as we are still talking, we have a chance to accomplish.

What happened here was that the two sides were not talking, and that is truly the answer of what needs to happen. As I said, I am not pleased with the employer's behaviour in this either. We had jobs we could have saved if we had just talked to each other.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, what a great thing it is to be able to sit in the House and listen to a member speak so passionately and proudly about his home community. That is tremendous. Perhaps more members of Parliament could take a lesson from the member on talking positively about what is going on in this country and about the great investments that we are seeing.

Perhaps the member could take a moment to tell us more about some of the positive investments he has seen in southwestern Ontario, particularly in the London community, that are benefiting his constituents?

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, I must first correct the record. I mentioned driving by a plant that was 80 years old. No one came forward to tell me I was not 80. I am not. Some 50 years ago I may have driven by that plant with my dad.

Through the whole economic action plan and all we were able to do from an infrastructure and recreational point of view in London, those things were all accomplished and we were happy to have them all; through FedDev's investments, whether it is with the university or junior diabetes programs with London hospitals or even the YMCA.

My friend from London North Centre mentioned a number of projects in London. It is incredible what has happened there. We will go forward. We are doing okay.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Nanaimo—Cowichan. This is a debate. What do we want here? The motion proposes to amend 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.

What is the Investment Canada Act? This act is the main mechanism for reviewing foreign investment proposals and for approving or rejecting them. The legislation came into force in 1985. Its main purpose was to ensure that foreign acquisitions represented a net benefit to Canada. Since its coming into force, more than 1,500 foreign acquisitions have been approved under this legislation and only two acquisition applications have been rejected. More than 12,000 other acquisitions were not reviewed under this legislation because they did not meet the threshold for application of the act.

The NDP's 2011 electoral platform contained a number of proposals with regard to the Investment Canada Act, namely: reducing the threshold for investments subject to review; providing explicit, transparent criteria for the “net benefit to Canada” test; requiring public hearings; and ensuring public disclosure of important information. Our detailed proposals were included in that section.

As far as the closure of the Electro-Motive plant in 2012 is concerned, as we know, the employer, Electro-Motive Canada, had been acquired in 2010 by Progress Rail Services, a wholly owned subsidiary of Caterpillar. In accordance with our Investment Canada Act, a notice regarding the acquisition of Electro-Motive was submitted to the Minister of Industry and approved. A receipt was issued in September 2010 declaring that this investment did not require further review.

This plant is located in London, Ontario. It produced diesel locomotives. The 465 plant workers were represented by Canadian Auto Workers union Local 25. During the collective bargaining process, the employer sought concessions, the result of which would have cut the salaries of a number of employees in half, eliminated the defined benefit pension plan and reduced a number of other benefits. Naturally, the workers refused to accept those terms.

I want to add here that the community, the chambers of commerce and all those involved in London should have taken a stand as soon as they knew the employer wanted to cut employees' salaries in half. They should have asked: what does that mean for the economy? What does that mean for small businesses? What does that mean for their families?

On January 1, 2012, the plant's workers were locked out. Picket lines were set up in front of the plant. Then, on February 3, Caterpillar announced it was closing the London plant. The union thinks that Caterpillar wanted to move the plant's operations to a non-unionized plant in Muncie, Indiana. As hon. members are probably aware, just a few days before that, Indiana passed a law recognizing the “right to work”, which means that workers do not have to pay mandatory union dues in order to be employed. Most of the states that have this kind of legislation are in the southern United States. Unions are much less common there and salaries are lower.

As we know, there is a movement in the United States whereby unions are no longer required by law in several domains, including the public sector.

Because this labour dispute came under provincial jurisdiction, it was not examined by the Minister of Labour. However, Caterpillar's acquisition of Electro-Motive in 2010 was subject to a federal decision under the Investment Canada Act. It is important to note that Caterpillar recently announced record profits for 2011—nearly $5 billion. Reuters reported that these revenues far exceeded Wall Street's expectations. The profits represented an 83% increase over 2010. The forecast for 2012 is just as positive. Caterpillar's CEO had an income of over $10 million in 2010.

So people are wondering what is going on here. We have a multinational corporation earning record profits, yet it wants to close the plant. We have no doubt that offering workers 50% of their salaries was just an excuse to close the plant and move its operations south to the United States.

Rumours abound in the media suggesting that Caterpillar bought the plant simply to get its hands on the technology and patents. The union claims that the company had no intention of keeping the plant open. The Canadian Labour Congress says that Caterpillar should be forced to find a Canadian buyer. The Canadian Auto Workers' Union, the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, the United Steelworkers and the Canadian Labour Congress have asked the government for stricter criteria for the approval of foreign takeovers so that workers' jobs, salaries and benefits are protected.

It is interesting to see that the members across the way are sympathetic to the workers' plight, but that is not enough. People have lost their jobs because of a policy that lets businesses do as they please. As the people's representatives here in the House of Commons, it is up to us to try to help these people. Sympathetic words are not enough. These workers need policy that protects them. These people belong to a community and contribute to the economy. With their good salaries, they buy cars, go to restaurants and contribute to the vitality of the community. We see that across Canada. Sympathy is not enough. The government must act. I urge the government to do something so that these people can get their jobs back in London, Ontario.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

2 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The time provided for government orders has expired, and we will move on to statements by members.

Mont-Joli Regional Airport
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-François Fortin Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Mont-Joli regional airport is of vital importance to the economic development of the Lower St. Lawrence and the Gaspé. When the federal government handed over authority for the airport to the regional county municipality in 2005, the airport's main runway was shortened by 1,000 feet by the federal government, thus preventing several types of aircraft from landing there. This situation could be corrected with the assistance and, above all, the good will of the federal government.

In order to adequately fulfill its role, the Mont-Joli regional airport must also continue, in future, to have the support of the federal government, particularly through the airports capital assistance program, or ACAP, which is a key program for a large number of Quebec's regional airports.

For that reason, a few weeks before the next federal budget, I would like to remind the government of the importance of modern and adequate airport infrastructure for Quebec's regions. In doing so, I am reiterating the Bloc Québécois's call for financial support through the creation of a program to support small airports not eligible for ACAP.

Waterloo
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Braid Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, last evening the City of Waterloo received an award from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities for an infrastructure project in my riding, the Davenport Road multi-use corridor.

The Sustainable Communities Award recognizes the City of Waterloo's leadership in transportation planning.

Waterloo has an outstanding record of integrating the needs of the community with long-term sustainability. As befits the most innovative city in Canada, Waterloo strives to implement the latest environmental design and technology and to incorporate new ideas that better serve our residents and improve their quality of life.

I am proud to represent a municipality that takes such a forward-looking approach to community development. I congratulate Mayor Brenda Halloran, her council and staff on this well-deserved award. Felicitations.

Ocean Ranger
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, 30 years ago on February 15, tragedy struck off the shores of Newfoundland with the sinking of the oil rig, Ocean Ranger, which took the 84 person crew down with it. It was the worst sea disaster in Canada since the Second World War.

Susan Dodd's brother, Jim, was one of the men lost that day. Today Susan is marking this sombre occasion with the release of her new book, The Ocean Ranger, Remaking the Promise of Oil. It is an important and timely piece of work. It touches on resources extraction, search and rescue, as well as government oversight and regulations.

This book reminds us that we must learn from the mistakes of the past, and we must remain vigilant as industry and government continue to push for more high-risk energy extraction.

I congratulate Susan for having the strength and courage to tackle such a personal story. I thank her on behalf of members of the House and all Canadians for her contribution to our collective memory and education.

Hockey
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is my great pleasure to rise today to congratulate Brendan Nickerson, a young man and a rising hockey star from my riding of South Shore—St. Margaret's.

Brendan is a 15-year-old Cape Sable Island resident, who is the only Nova Scotian hockey player selected to play for Team Canada at the youth Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria.

Team Canada beat the United States 7-5 on January 21 and brought home the bronze medal.

In 2011 Brendan also played for Team Nova Scotia in the Canada Games in Halifax. There he won an under-16 gold medal, an even greater achievement since he was the youngest player on the team.

Brendan has also played defence for the Canadian Tire South Shore Mustangs for the past two years.

I congratulate Brendan on his exciting hockey victories. I wish all the best and good luck to him and his family.

National Sweater Day
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, National Sweater Day is back. This popular initiative from the World Wildlife Federation in partnership with Loblaws calls on Canadians to turn down their thermostats and wear sweaters to save energy, highlighting an important part of fighting climate change.

One-third of climate change emissions could be eradicated by energy conservation and efficiency. If every Canadian turned down his or her thermostat by just 2° each winter, 2.2 megatonnes of carbon dioxide could be saved every year, the equivalent of taking 350,000 cars off the road.

The campaign is a fun, easy way to get involved in energy conservation dialogue and action. Wearing a sweater is a symbolic gesture to show support for energy conservation in Canada.