Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak to motion M-183, which I will reread:
That, in the opinion of the House, the government should implement a policy, which is consistent with North American Free Trade Agreement and World Trade Organization policies and guidelines, to mandate Canadian content levels for public transportation projects, and to ensure that public funds are used to provide the best value to Canadians by supporting domestic supplier and labour markets.
The Bloc Québécois agrees with the underlying principle of this motion. But it is important that our colleagues in this House understand that purchases of public transportation equipment do not come under federal jurisdiction. There are no purchases of federal public transportation equipment. Public transportation is a provincial responsibility. When this motion is before the committee, we will try to reach an agreement with the sponsor of this motion on wording it so that the principle of the bill and provincial jurisdiction are respected. It is the provinces that purchase equipment through their transit companies, and they have to be able to achieve the objective of the bill.
That objective is to support domestic suppliers, a goal that the Bloc Québécois has always defended. Even though there is a small problem with the motion, we will do everything we can to reach an agreement so that this objective is attained. There are very significant investments in all sorts of areas related to transportation, including public transportation. The government supports many purchases.
I would like to say by the way that it is not just transit-related procurement. In its areas of jurisdiction, the federal government purchases about $40 to $50 billion worth of goods and is not obliged at all under the agreements to have Canadian content. That is just not something that the Government of Canada decided to do. It would be important to us, though, because if half the federal government’s procurement in its areas of jurisdiction had been in Canada, more than 21,000 jobs a year would have been created across the country. Instead, they were created abroad. For example, in the fall of 2003, the Bank of Canada decided to procure its currency paper from a German supplier rather than from Spexel in Beauharnois. Spexel closed its doors in April 2004, throwing 100 people out of work. That was the result of the procurement of non-Canadian content.
In another example, the government withdrew its Canadian-content requirement for army boots this year. That was bad news for Tannerie des Ruisseaux in Saint-Pascal-de-Kamouraska. The change in the attribution rules for this $7 million contract cost 50 jobs. The Bloc Québécois already tabled a bill about this back in November 2005 through my colleague from Rivière-du-Nord. Clearly, we will support this motion.
As for public transit, it is very important, in Quebec to Nova Bus, a company in Saint-Eustache, and Bombardier Transport in La Pocatière, which are in the rail and monorail business, as well as to companies all over Quebec and Canada that supply parts and equipment because a number of trade agreements have been signed. However, foreign countries favour their own companies.
The United States, for example, has passed laws favouring American suppliers. The Buy American Act covers federal government procurement. It asks the government to favour American suppliers if the price differential in comparison with foreign suppliers is less than 6%. The same Buy American Act also covers federal transfers to the states and local governments. It flatly requires that some of the procurement must be American. In the case of rolling stock, 100% of the final assembly must be done in the United States and 60% of the components by cost must be sourced in the United States.
In the case of non-rolling transit equipment, the final assembly must be done in the United States and all the components must be made there.
In short, if companies want to penetrate the U.S. market they must have plants in the United States. This legislation explains why Quebec companies like Bombardier Transport—which manufactures railway cars in La Pocatière and Saint-Bruno—and Multina—which produces interior and exterior finishings for trains and buses in Drummondville—have plants in Plattsburgh, New York. Our corporations are forced, therefore, to have foreign branch plants in order to comply with the Buy American Act. Once again, there is nothing like that here in Canada.
The European Union requires its member states to favour European suppliers. In sectors not covered by trade agreements, the EU asks its members to reject outright bids from outside its borders unless they have 50% European content or the price differential is more than 3%.
The European countries buy locally. Since 2000, 98% of the subway cars ordered in Germany have been built in Germany. All the subway cars ordered by France were made in France, including some made by Bombardier, which has a plant there. All the subway cars ordered in the United Kingdom were made there, including three-quarters of those cars that were made in a Bombardier plant. More than 91% of Belgian subway cars were made in Belgium.
Nearly all other countries do the same. Japan closes its markets to foreign companies; only Kawasaki has access there. Mexico confers a 10% price advantage to local manufacturers. It is not surprising, therefore, that Bombardier has built a plant in Mexico. China demands that 70% of the value of public transit equipment be made in China and foreign-owned companies must sign a technology transfer agreement.
In Canada, obviously, it depends. At the federal level, there is no law that requires the government to favour Canadian suppliers in its purchases. In an effort to overcome that failing, in November 2005, my Bloc Québécois colleague from Rivière-du-Nord introduced Bill C-440. If it had not died on the order paper, it would have required the government, whenever trade agreements permit, to favour Canadian suppliers. It introduced a 7.5% price preference. The federal government would have been obliged to select a domestic supplier if that supplier’s price was not more than 7.5% higher than a foreign competitor. In certain cases, it also provided for the clear exclusion of foreign suppliers. That was Bill C-440, tabled by my colleague from Rivière-du-Nord in 2005.
In terms of the provinces and local governments, once again, it depends. In Quebec, the government already asks local governments and transit commissions to buy Quebec products. Montreal's Agence métropolitaine de transport called for a minimum of 30% local content in its most recent contract for suburban trains and awarded additional points to bidders with a higher local content.
In Ontario, it is a little less systematic and things are done on a case-by-case approach. Most large purchases are made in Canada, including those from the plant in Thunder Bay, in the riding of the sponsor of Motion M-183.
In British Columbia, it varies. In the case of the new line linking the airport in Richmond to downtown Vancouver for the 2010 Olympics, the contract was awarded—following a call for tenders with no requirement for Canadian content—to Rotam, a Korean company. The same conditions apply to the light rail system planned for Vancouver in 2011.
In Alberta, the Calgary and Edmonton commuter train cars will be built in California. The government did not worry about where the trains would be built.
We know that municipalities, provinces and the federal government are investing a lot of money to maintain, improve and replace infrastructure. Given that major infrastructure investments will be made, Motion M-183 must go through, with the sponsor's consent, of course.
I hope that we will come to an agreement on Motion M-183 with a small amendment that takes into account the fact that this matter falls under provincial jurisdiction.
The Bloc Québécois will support it so that the proposed funds, billions of dollars to be invested in the coming years by all levels of government—municipal, provincial and federal—can benefit Canadian and Quebec companies as much as possible. We have to do this because every other country in the world does it. All industrialized countries have this kind of policy.
It is high time we offered some encouragement to our own companies, which create jobs and are having a very hard time in the manufacturing sector these days. It is time we supported them.
That is why, with a few small amendments, we will support Motion M-183.