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 investment.

Topics

Foreign Affairs
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Madam Speaker, the second petition is calling for the early release of Dr. Wang Bingzhang.

As we know, he is a father of the Chinese democracy movement. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. He was arrested and has been serving time in prison. There are reports that he has been tortured. He has been held incommunicado. There are very clear indications of ill health, as well. Many people believe that his life is in great danger.

These petitioners, and there are hundreds of them, from the Lower Mainland of British Columbia are calling upon the Canadian government to publicly express its concern regarding Dr. Wang's situation and to request the early release of Dr. Wang so that he can attend his mother's funeral and have his medical problems attended to.

Poverty of Seniors
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

Madam Speaker, I have two petitions to present today. The first petition is from Londoners who seek to end poverty for seniors.

The petitioners note that my motion, which was passed unanimously in this House, called upon the government to take action against the rising poverty levels for Canadians and to take immediate steps in order to lift all seniors out of poverty.

Unfortunately, despite the unanimous passage of my motion, no action has been taken.

The petitioners ask, respectfully, that the Parliament of Canada make the promised investments in the guaranteed income supplement in order to lift all seniors out of poverty.

Labour
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

Madam Speaker, the second petition is from the community of London and the workers of Electro-Motive Diesel.

The petitioners want the Parliament of Canada to know that Caterpillar illegally removed production equipment from the EMD plant in London against the collective agreement, that it forced a lockout on December 30, 2011 and demanded that the workers take a 50% reduction in wages, slashed benefits and insecure pension, despite the fact that these workers had made this a very profitable company. In fact, profits are up billions of dollars over last year.

The petitioners want the Parliament of Canada to investigate the conditions of sale of Electro-Motive Diesel to Caterpillar and to immediately enforce any and all appropriate penalties should there be violations under the Investment Canada Act.

I might add that, in light of today's debate and discussions, the petitioners would like to see improvements to the Investment Canada Act so that this travesty that happened to the EMD workers does not happen to others.

Asbestos
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I am proud to present a petition signed by thousands of Canadians.

The petitioners call upon the House of Commons to take note that asbestos is the greatest industrial killer the world has ever known and yet Canada remains one of the largest producers and exporters of asbestos in the world. They also point out that more Canadians now die from asbestos than all other industrial or institutional causes combined. They also criticize the government for spending millions of dollars subsidizing the asbestos industry and blocking international efforts to curb its use.

Therefore, the petitioners call upon the Government of Canada to ban asbestos in all its forms and to institute a just transition program for asbestos workers in the communities in which they live. They call on the government to end all government subsidies in Canada and abroad of the asbestos cartel, and also to stop blocking international health and safety conventions designed to protect workers from asbestos, such as the Rotterdam convention.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

February 9th, 2012 / 10:20 a.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

moved:

That this House condemn the decision of Caterpillar Inc. to close its Electro-Motive Diesel plant in London, Ontario, with a loss of 450 jobs, and that of Papiers White Birch to close its Quebec City plant, with a loss of 600 jobs, and call 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.

Madam Speaker, it is truly my privilege to introduce this motion on behalf of Electro-Motive Diesel workers of London, Ontario. This motion seeks to highlight the recent plant closures in my community of London and in a second community, that of my colleague, the MP for Beauport—Limoilou, with whom I will be sharing this speaking spot.

The motion also seeks to offer some remedy to workers across the country by calling on the House to draft amendments to the Investment Canada Act, amendments which most desperately are needed to ensure there are good paying jobs in Canada so that our families, communities and country can thrive. We need to protect Canadian jobs now. We can no longer allow the government to simply watch while good jobs disappear across our borders.

Many of the members across the aisle on the government benches have shrugged off any suggestion that this country is in the midst of a manufacturing sector crisis, but the figures from Statistics Canada do not lie. Canada has lost nearly 400,000 manufacturing jobs since the government took office in 2006. We have lost 40,000 manufacturing jobs in the last year alone. We are currently at a historic low in terms of manufacturing jobs going back to when these statistics were first gathered in 1976. I would like to note that this low is quite significant because both our labour force and our population have grown significantly over the same period. In other words, there are fewer manufacturing jobs in Canada now than there were in 1976.

Of particular note, the textile and clothing sector, which according to Statistics Canada has long been one of the largest manufacturing employers in the country, was the hardest hit among the manufacturing industries. From 2004 to 2008, clothing manufacturers and textile and textile product mills saw almost half of their jobs disappear. Manufacturing jobs are declining at a rapid rate in this country and most of these jobs are landing in China.

A Statistics Canada report found that China has become the world centre of manufacturing employment. In fact, the number of workers in manufacturing in China was estimated to be at 109 million in 2002, which represents more than double the combined total of 53 million in all the G8 member countries. The same report paints a dismal picture for the Canadian automotive industry, which is concentrated mainly in Ontario. In fact, my communities are still reeling from the effects of the closure of the Ford plant in Talbotville.

I would like to quote from the Statistics Canada report:

Automotive parts manufacturing lost more than one-quarter of its employees from 2004 to 2008, while motor vehicle manufacturing lost one-fifth. Parts manufacturers saw their jobs go from 139,300 to 98,700, which completely cancelled the strong growth from 1998 to 2004. For their part, motor vehicle manufacturers lost 15,900 jobs between 2004 and 2008, following a rather modest job growth of 5.0% from 1998 to 2004.

Just a quick reminder that most of these job losses have occurred under the watch of a Conservative government led by the Prime Minister. It is very clear that tax breaks to big businesses do not keep or create manufacturing jobs in Canada. We need a new strategy. We need an intelligent strategy.

The first step of the NDP strategy would be to make changes to the Investment Canada Act. We want to reduce the threshold for investments subject to a review to $100 million. We want to provide explicit and transparent criteria for the net benefit to Canada test. We want an emphasis on the impact of foreign investment on communities, jobs, pensions and new capital investment. We want there to be a required public hearing that allows for communities to have input into decisions on both the assessment of net benefit and conditions to apply to the investment. Last, we want to ensure public disclosure and enforcement of all commitments undertaken by potential investors. We also need to investigate and close the loophole in the Investment Canada process, whereby a takeover of a foreign company operating in Canada may not be subject to the act.

These changes would be the first step in the right direction for our manufacturing sector. A plant such as White Birch in Quebec City, when it was sold off to Black Diamond Capital, would have benefited from a requirement in the sale to provide a net benefit to Canada.

My own community of London has been particularly hard hit. The city's manufacturing sector has been shrinking at a rapid rate, and the auto sector jobs have all but disappeared.

Electro-Motive Diesel was one of those few plants offering good jobs that was still in operation. They were good paying jobs, jobs that helped support a family, jobs that helped support an entire community.

I have heard from the families of the workers who lost their jobs, from people such as Michele, who wrote:

My husband is one of the workers and he is devastated by the closure....How would people go about trying to attract a company like GE to come to Canada. It wouldn't be hard to line up a work force for them. How do you get government to offer incentives that protect the jobs of Canadians. There must be something that can be done for these workers....I hope the government does something about Cat doing business in Canada and makes them give back the money that the company received or provide good compensation packages to these workers.

The London community has been very supportive. I have heard from many people who have offered encouraging words to workers and their families, supporters such as Gary, who wrote:

First of all I give them credit for standing up to Caterpillar the way they did & for keeping a peaceful demonstration.

They deserve any penny they earned while working to build the best locomotive plant throughout the world & yet Caterpillar didn't appreciate all that these workers have done for them to build an excellent product & give Caterpillar fantastic profits, which would have continued if the workers had only been treated with respect.

Another London resident, Carl Campbell, headed out to the picket line and handed out 1,000 dollars' worth of $50 bills to locked out workers.

The loss of the Electro-Motive plant will impact our entire community. I heard from the local United Way just this week. The workers at EMD were very generous. They had raised over $100,000 in donations and payroll deductions for the United Way during its most recent fundraising drive. Sadly, the majority of this money will not be donated. Those jobs have been lost. The EMD families can no longer afford to support our United Way.

Canadians are recognizing what is happening to our communities. It is a crisis not just in my community but in many others. They have written to me and pointed to the obvious.

For example, Beth from Stratford, Ontario wrote to the Government of Canada to say:

The situation in London, Ontario with Electro-Motive and similar incidents in many communities across the land is destroying our country.

I urge you to review the June 2010 purchase of Electro-Motive by Caterpillar, under the Investment Canada Act. If it does not adequately protect Canadian jobs and workers then an overhaul of the act itself must be made and applied directly and immediately!

The EMD closure has been a hard lesson. What we have learned with the depletion of our manufacturing sector is that tax cuts to corporations are not a job creation strategy, nor do they keep good paying jobs here in Canada.

We have also learned that there are serious flaws in the Investment Canada Act that need to be addressed if we are to protect the remaining manufacturing jobs in Canada. We need to take action now. Communities across our country are begging the government to keep our jobs here. The families hurt by the loss of Electro-Motive Diesel do not wish that any other family suffer in the way that they as well as all of our community have suffered in London, Ontario.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Newmarket—Aurora
Ontario

Conservative

Lois Brown Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation

Madam Speaker, I listened very carefully to the comments of my colleague across the way. I would first ask her if she has ever run a business, because businesses have decisions they have to make every day.

The manufacturing jobs that have been lost in Canada have been replaced with high tech jobs and good paying jobs. Over 600,000 net new jobs have come into Canada since the worst of the recession that we saw in 2009.

I go to schools all the time in my riding and I speak to the young people, often the grade 12 classes. When I ask them about their aspirations, 100% of those young people tell me they aspire to go to university, that they want post-secondary education, that they are looking for high paying quality jobs in the high tech industry, which is what Canada is attracting.

Which students in the member's riding does she want to assign to assembly line jobs when other high tech jobs are coming here?

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

Madam Speaker, I am quite distressed that the member opposite would insult the people of Electro-Motive Diesel in the way that she has.

The government is a half a million jobs short in terms of its predictions. That affects communities across Canada.

In terms of high tech jobs, they were at Electro-Motive Diesel. These were the most skilled workers in North America in electromotive and locomotive building.

We do indeed want our children to go to college and university so that they can make a contribution to this community and to our country. However, the children of workers at Electro-Motive Diesel are not going to university or college because the government did nothing to protect the jobs of the workers who would have been delighted to send them there, if they had work.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Madam Speaker, I commend the member for London—Fanshawe for bringing this issue before the House today. The motion is a good one. The principle behind it is well founded.

The Liberal Party is concerned about what has happened at Electro-Motive Diesel. This, as well as what has happened at Papier White Birch in Quebec City, has certainly been mentioned in question period in recent weeks.

When we think about the rules we should have in place on foreign ownership, it is incumbent upon us to think about what we might see in response from other countries as well as the value and importance of investment by Canadian companies overseas.

As the government wants to change the pension system in very negative ways, it seems that more and more it expects Canadians to rely on investments in private markets for their retirement income. In view of that, and of the fact that many Canadians do have investments, whether it be bonds or stocks in Canadian companies that invest elsewhere, how does the member see the importance of that kind of foreign investment from Canada?

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from the Liberal Party for his concern about Electro-Motive Diesel. I would encourage him to please urge his provincial counterparts in the Government of Ontario to stand behind these workers and make sure that labour laws and protections are fully supported by the Liberal government of Mr. McGuinty.

The member is quite right, we have to have balance in this country. Investment is an important part of that. When these investors come here, they benefit from the fact that we have a universal health care system, significant infrastructure and well-educated workers. They benefit from the roads, clean water and all of that. Therefore, they have an obligation when they come here because their investment is secured by what Canadian taxpayers have provided. They have an absolute obligation to provide assurances regarding the safety of that investment, of the jobs, and that they will be participating in the community for generations to come and not running away like Caterpillar did.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Madam Speaker, this morning I am honoured to speak to this motion and defend the interests of thousands of workers across Canada. We are not talking about just the workers at Electro-Motive in London and White Birch Paper in Quebec City. We are talking about the large number of workers and retirees who have been directly or indirectly affected by the government's wholesale, reprehensible desertion of their cause.

I would like to sincerely thank my colleague from London—Fanshawe for having moved this motion and for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts about it on this opposition day.

I will concentrate on the situation in Quebec City, beginning with some background information. It is important to understand all of the ins and outs. What happened at the Stadacona plant in Quebec City had nothing to do with market forces, constraint, profitability issues or anything like that, and everything to do with a manoeuvre that, unfortunately, within the existing legal framework, enabled outright theft, and I am choosing my words carefully. For months, I have been talking to the workers, the union and retirees to gain an understanding of the situation. I have had access to privileged information, and what happened in Quebec City is a real scandal.

Not long ago, on January 11 in Quebec City, White Birch Paper management sent employees a final offer, an ultimatum actually, which a staggering 91% of the employees rejected. We must not forget that, in December, around the holidays, these offers were preceded by a separate offer sent to the Rivière-du-Loup and Masson-Angers plants, which 99% of the workers rejected. From the start, White Birch Paper management has been trying to divide and conquer so that it can exploit Canadian families, families in Quebec City and elsewhere in the province.

On January 12, following what appears to have been an unfounded lockout ordered on December 9, 2011, White Birch Paper announced the permanent closure of the Quebec City plant without giving any reasons for the closure. Management talked about profitability and the impossibility of continuing operations. Unfortunately, White Birch Paper is a privately owned corporation, so it is not transparent and does not disclose information about production, profitability and what was really going on in its three plants. White Birch Paper also has a plant in the United States, where it is facing legal action because of manoeuvres that are considered fraudulent under U.S. law.

In response to the permanent closure, the union prepared a plan, a list of offers to reopen negotiations with management. In the end, management agreed, albeit half-heartedly, and negotiations are currently under way. Although I do not want to assume anything, I think I can guess the outcome. Unfortunately, there is a good chance the workers will be cheated once again, but we must give the negotiations a chance. We have always defended this principle. We defended it last spring during the Canada Post dispute, which was an unjust lockout. Thus, we must give the negotiations a chance.

Another important deadline is February 17, when the parties are scheduled to go back to court, and we know that the company has been under CCAA protection for the past two years. Justice Robert Mongeon will decide what happens next. Justice Mongeon has been very patient and very conciliatory, I might add. He has granted several extensions to allow White Birch Paper to come up with a solution and reach an agreement with its workers. The management of White Birch Paper has therefore had plenty of opportunities to address the challenges presented by the company's so-called difficult situation.

From the information I have gleaned and the conversations I have had with various stakeholders, the reality is that the current owner, Peter Brant, is a social misfit, an enemy of society in general, especially in Canada. Those are the facts.

The first company on the list of creditors is Black Diamond Capital Management, which happens to be the company that would buy back White Birch Paper's assets. White Birch owes Black Diamond Capital Management $157 million. Peter Brant, the current owner of White Birch Paper, is also involved in Black Diamond Capital Management, so this whole affair is quite dubious. I have a serious problem with that.

I do not want to name all of the creditors on that list, but there are several all over the world, particularly in the United States, including Credit Suisse—which is owed $32 million—GE Capital, Merrill Lynch and Dune Capital. White Birch Paper owes tens of millions of dollars to a slew of creditors and investment funds.

What really happened? The hon. member for London—Fanshawe provided an accurate summary of the situation. Unfortunately, under the existing legislative framework, money can be stolen outright, and it is Canadian families who have to pay the price. We are talking about 600 families of workers and as many, if not more, families of pensioners, not to mention a number of company closures. This has an enormous impact. Hundreds of other indirect jobs will also be lost as a result of the closure of the plant in Quebec City alone, not to mention the two other plants in Rivière-du-Loup and Masson-Angers.

Looking at the existing situation, we wonder why the current government is acting as an accomplice in outright theft—theft that, unfortunately, is legal because the laws are not adequate. I will not mention our private member's bill on the Investment Canada Act since the hon. member for London—Fanshawe has already given a clear and brilliant speech on that. I spoke with representatives of the Regroupement des employés retraités White Birch-Stadacona. They were shocked and gave their unconditional support for our bill on the protection of pension plan funds in the case of bankruptcy. The lawyer for the pensioners' association said it best when he stated that this is the law Canada needs to solve the problem.

Our two bills—we are focusing on just these two—are important in order to maintain a balance in industrial labour relations and labour relations in general. At the same time, the government must take responsibility for its people and protect Canada's interests, which it is not doing. We have a legal framework, but it is not necessarily enforced. There are no constraints, as the Investment Canada Act currently demonstrates. The government can close its eyes and say that it is sorry, that it cannot help what is happening, and that it believes the rich and ultra-rich who are basically vulgar social misfits and behave like common criminals by stealing from the people around them.

This government is basically an enemy of workers, pensioners and all Canadian families. A good example of this is the private member's bill that the hon. member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale is trying to introduce, which directly attacks the ability of workers to associate in order to negotiate in good faith, as equals, with their employers.

The government is handing Canadian families over, with their hands tied, to a few national, but mostly foreign, interests. It is scaring away jobs, billions of dollars in capital and an industrial potential of which we were rightly proud and which we are going to lose because this government has given up and refuses to face reality.

I will end on that point. I do not want to get involved in a chorus of insults. I am being upfront about what is particularly important to me.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, I stand because the former Conservative member who asked the question made reference to manufacturing jobs as if they were not important jobs. We in the Liberal party recognize that both manufacturing jobs and high-tech jobs are critically important to Canada's economy. Ontario has been brutally hit over the last number of years as it has lost hundreds, if not thousands and thousands, of jobs in the manufacturing industry.

What is happening at Caterpillar is shameful, and we do want to be able to see the government respond. There are many different ways in which the government can respond, but what is important here is that we send a very clear message to this government. I hope the Prime Minister's thinking is not the same as the backbencher on this particular issue. Rather, all jobs are important jobs to the Canadian economy and the manufacturing industry has a strong role to play, not only today as it has proven in the past but also a very strong role well into the future in the development of our great nation.

Does the member believe the Conservative party was off base when it tried to give the impression that manufacturing jobs were not good jobs?

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his question because I agree with him.

Let us ask the question clearly: why do good jobs that pay $35 an hour have to be wiped out at all costs under false pretences—whether those jobs are in the private sector or the public sector? What does that do for society? How is it bad for society, people, our constituents if those well-paying jobs that provide an annual income of $80,000 or $100,000 are maintained? Those employees provide significant spinoffs in the places where they live.

Thousands of businesses in Canada, thousands of small businesses end up suffering the consequences of outright abandonment and widespread impoverishment. It is scandalous.