I would like to thank the chair and the committee for the opportunity and the invitation to testify here on behalf of the men and women of the CAW marine workers, Local 1. It was short notice, so forgive me for any shortcomings; I just scratched some things down, to stay on point.
I myself am a third-generation shipyard worker. Over that time a lot has changed. I enjoy our job. It's a great job for me; it's like a continuation of childhood. You get to build something that Canada needs and you get to watch it sail out of the harbour. We take a lot of pride in that.
I grew up listening to the stories around the dinner table of my grandfather and father, talking about the shipyards and the good old days. They were colourful stories. There were well over 1,000 workers in the yard, working around the clock. You can imagine what some of those colourful stories were like.
Since then, the Canadian shipbuilding industry has rather moved away from subsidy and towards following the open market and deregulation and all of that. What it has done is leave the industry standing on far from level ground to compete with all these other countries.
The OECD and the WTO's efforts to ensure the level playing field have failed to eliminate or reduce the subsidies and all that face us. Canadian shipbuilders systematically encounter competition from production subsidies, generous financing, market protection, state ownership, and in Canada's biggest potential market—the United States—we are cut out completely, with the Jones Act.
Canada's policies do not support this industry to the level it needs in this world market. It leaves Canadian shipbuilders to compete largely for domestic work. In the work that we do, we support transportation, fisheries, oil and gas, and most importantly we support government procurement.
Unfortunately, in all those areas we haven't seen a whole lot of action in the last while. This leaves the shipbuilding industry to service and maintain the vessels that are already here. This makes it very difficult for the industry to improve its production methods, retain its skilled workers, and get investment in the industry.
Right now we have some pent-up domestic demand. I think we have a perfect opportunity to take some time, in this period of economic depression, to create some good skilled jobs—actually, to create thousands of skilled jobs building vessels that Canada needs today very much. Canada needs these vessels, and we'd love to build them for it. They include everything from joint support supply ships to coast guard vessels, arctic patrol vessels, ferries, and replacements for the Laker fleet.
Sadly, if we don't take action as a government to get involved, this could all slip away and our industry could continue to fall. What we need to do is put in policies that recognize shipbuilding as a strategically important industry to Canada's sovereignty.
It's pretty serious stuff, when you think about it. Before we go ahead with this deal, we have to take a step back and recognize that shipbuilding is very important to Canada. Our country features the longest coastline in the world, borders on three oceans, and includes a major inland seaway and the Great Lakes. The defence, transportation, and trade implications around that should be obvious to everybody.
The governments of leading marine shipbuilding countries, including the United States, Norway, Iceland, Japan, Korea, and more recently China, have long since acted to build and support their industry and create domestic shipbuilding powerhouses. They built these industries over many years, using all manner of procurement policies: subsidies, tax relief, loan guarantees, infrastructure development, and tariff protection. These actions have allowed them to secure large parts of the international market, unfairly. With these volumes of work, they have made continuous improvements to their production methods and have improved the overall health of their industries.
Understanding all of these factors, it is very disturbing to me to hear some Canadian politicians talk about our industry's not being able to compete, its not being competitive with Asian and European yards. These yards have benefited from government policies that are clearly outside the OECD rules and the WTO guidelines that Canada faithfully follows. I think it is one of the only countries that faithfully follows these rules, but I could be wrong.
Our shipbuilding industry and marine services industry have been sacrificed, I think, through not having the proper policies in place to support them, and also by not addressing key issues in deals we've signed in the past, i.e., the U.S.A. with the Jones Act and Chile under NAFTA. We've seen major losses to our industry because of those deals.
I know I'm a little brief, but just in closing, I'd like to urge this committee not to move ahead with this deal or to carve out shipbuilding in this deal or to take actions before they move ahead.
I would have liked to have gone into a little more formal presentation, I would have liked to have had Andrew here, maybe the economist from our union, and I would have liked to have had some more numbers for you and maybe thrown in some more details, but there is a lack of time. I thought it was important to be here and say a few words on behalf of everybody.
I would like to throw out some rough numbers I've put together. This is a mid-sized shipyard. It's been operating at about 40%, 50%, so these numbers are based on about 500 employees; an annual average payroll of about $24 million; $400,000 in property taxes; payroll taxes, CPP, and EI around $9 million; purchase of local goods and services in Nova Scotia with this mid-sized yard of about $35 million; and the capital investment since 1995 of around $30 million.
This is in a yard that is only operating at 40% capacity. There's lots of room for that yard to grow, and then you can multiply that quite a bit when you look at a yard like Davie's, which is much larger.
Just some recommendations around policies--we need some key things and I am going to touch on a few. There are already some programs out there, ACCA and SFF. I think if we could combine those two, that would go a long way for shipbuilding. I think supportive tax policies and maybe some extended financing....
We've got guys who can go out and finance a car over 10 years, 20 years. We're talking about a ship that has a life of 30, 40 years, and it can only be financed over 12. We need to extend that financing period and we need to continue the government...continue our “made in Canada“ policies.
If we take some action on that and continue the EDC that we did for Davie's...I thought that was a great step. We encouraged our shipyards to sell our products overseas. In this time, when we're talking about the first time we've seen a real trade deficit--we are not exporting more than we're taking in--I think it's because we rely a lot on resources, and that is going down. So we have to find things we can produce in Canada and send overseas, and ships are one of them.
Again, I think it is key that we realize what you can manufacture in Canada that's bigger than a ship and can employ more people, skilled jobs.
The last thing I'd like to say is that it's not a sunset industry. I've heard that said before. It's a very high-tech industry. It supports everything from the skilled trades workers right up to the top engineering, top design people. To maintain all that, we need consistent work.
I think it takes a lot of work by government, industry, and the people involved to get together and make this work. I think if we take these actions we can improve the overall health of the industry. We can increase investment. We can sustain industry growth and eventually we can eliminate the tariffs, but we need to take these actions first. We can't continue to sign trade deals and think we'll talk later about the policies. The policies have to be in place first. We need a chance to get up and running. We need to get on our feet and then we'll compete.
What you're asking us to do is to jump into the ring and fight a professional fighter, and we haven't had any fights. These guys have been up there. They've been competing against each other. They've had their bows, and we haven't been in the game.
Let's get in the game. We can compete in the international niche markets. We're not going to be world leaders in shipbuilding, but we can pick niche markets in international markets. We can control our domestic work and I think we can be successful.
On that note I'll close. I want to reiterate that time was short to get here and I'd like to have had more time to prepare something more formal for you and have some of my counterparts here.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.