I am delighted to have this opportunity to discuss the motion.
I appreciate this opportunity to respond to questions concerning the first report of the Standing Committee on Finance entitled “Duty Remission and the Zero-rating of Tariffs on Textile Inputs”.
My hon. colleagues are no doubt aware that the Standing Committee on Finance agreed on October 19 to reissue the fourth report from the 37th Parliament in the current session of Parliament and to present it in the House with a request for a global response from government.
The report raises some important questions of interest to the Canadian textile and apparel industry. I can assure the House that it is a priority of this government to proceed as expeditiously as possible with its consideration of the committee's recommendations.
The Canadian textile industry is one of Canada's oldest manufacturing industries. It has evolved through innovation and modernization to become a key player in the provision of specialized fibres and textiles in a highly competitive international market.
Established over 150 years ago in small communities that offered a stable labour supply and rivers ideally suited for water generated power and dye and finishing, the industry was initially based on the manufacture of yarns and fabrics for natural fibres.
Currently the industry is located mainly in Quebec and Ontario. It is heavily capital intensive and uses natural and man-made fibres and yarns. It supplies over 150 industrial and other customers in Canada and worldwide.
While this industry, as I mentioned, is currently mostly in Quebec and Ontario, it is not exclusively. Windsor Wear still operates in Windsor, Nova Scotia. We still have operations in Truro, Nova Scotia. Regrettably, we lost two operations that were in my riding, Dominion Textile which operated for over 150 years, and Britex, which I believe operated for 40 years. We have another one, Bonda, which still operates, but not at the level that it once did.
That these three examples from my riding, very old and very good companies, were able to disappear speaks to the fragility of this industry. It is important that we take all measures possible to protect this industry and give it the chance of success.
We have to seriously look at what the market is doing over time, what industry is doing over time and how we can make sure it is there through some short term or maybe punctual examples of assistance or aid that we can give, such as what is being proposed here.
I look forward to seeing the minister's response and what actions are taken. I was a member of the committee that supported these motions originally. If there are other actions that are just as good or better, it would be important to review them. However, I am looking forward to the response.
As noted by the Canadian Textiles Institute, Canada's textile manufacturing industry has transformed itself in the last 22 to 25 years through substantially sustained capital investments. The result is an industry that is modern, efficient and increasingly capital intensive. It is a major user of high technology and a provider of quality jobs for thousands of Canadians.
In doing so this sector has clearly illustrated the role that progressive federal economic policies have played over the course of the last decade in encouraging the innovation and investment necessary for Canadian industries to compete in the 21st century global economy. However, we must never forget what I previously said about those industries that did not make it and where we may have been able to implement other measures that would have assisted. We have to look at every way we can assist the ones that might find themselves in similar situations in the future.
The report by the standing committee reflects comments made by witnesses from the apparel industry regarding the status of current tariffs and duties. I remind the House that the six duty remission orders for textiles and apparel noted in the committee report were implemented in the late 1990s.
Those companies that are eligible under these orders can import certain textiles and apparel products without having to pay duties on them. The orders were designed as a transitional measure to help textile and apparel manufacturers adjust to an increasingly competitive trade environment. These six orders are set to expire on December 31 of this year.
The government recognizes that Canadian textile and apparel industries are facing a competitive international environment. Export competition from low wage developing countries, such as China, Bangladesh and India, will increase in 2005 when all countries remove their quotas on textiles and apparel. The agreement to eliminate these quotas was made in 1994 under the auspices of the World Trade Organization.
The standing committee report has recommended the immediate extension of these remission orders in order to compensate for greater competition from low wage developing countries. It also calls for the elimination of tariffs on textiles not made in Canada and for a study to be conducted on the benefits and costs of changing the current tariffs on imports of fabric.
I would like to assure all hon. members that the government will consider the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Finance. It will continue to do what it can to help these important industries.
That said, I would be remiss not to mention the progress the government has already made working with the apparel and textile industry in Canada. We have already committed to continue to work toward an integrated North American market for Canadian apparel and textile products and to consider any proposals made jointly by the apparel and textile industries for new market developments through an outward processing initiative. We have committed to continue to protect against illegal transshipment of imported apparel and textile products and to use existing tools as appropriate to respond to industry complaints regarding injurious import surges.
I was listening to the member of the New Democratic Party. It would seem reasonable to me to assume that the NDP would agree with the motions that have been made on the actions taken to assist developing countries and the people most at risk. We must make sure that these are not contravened, that people do not get around what we want to do for assistance, to hurt our industry. That requires vigilance. We have to see if we are doing enough in that area.
We have committed to work through the employment insurance program to continue to meet the needs of workers adjusting to changes in the industry and to ensure, through ongoing support for human resource sector councils, that employees obtain the skills they need to respond to the challenges of a rapidly changing labour market.
The Canadian apparel and textile industries program was created on June 27, 2002 to increase the international competitiveness of the apparel and textile industry in Canada. It does so by supporting the application of new technology, better marketing strategies, identifying niche markets and diversifying products.
Many of the Canadian apparel and textile companies already compete successfully in international markets. By identifying and promoting the strategies and best practices of these companies, the Canadian apparel and textile industries program will help other companies acquire the tools they need to build and sustain a competitive advantage.
Britex which was in my riding was an example of such a company: niche market, high technology, very good workforce, but a large capital investment that it had to sustain. We will come to that later. We should use the example of Britex so that no other companies and no other communities suffer what that community has suffered. People who had worked nowhere else and who depended on that business to provide for their families have seen it disappear. Hopefully, initiatives will mean that there will be a reprise or a takeover of some of those assets to continue operations within those communities.
Another point is we have committed to making the remaining $6.5 million in funding from the company component of the Canadian apparel and textile industries program more readily available to companies when they take initiatives in advance of the removal of the apparel and textile quotas by January 1, 2005, if that is to happen. We ask the minister to consider that carefully and to consider carefully the recommendations of the report.
We have committed to identify and reduce tariffs on imported textile inputs used by the Canadian apparel industry so as to improve the industry's cost competitiveness. This initiative will amount to an approximate value of $26.7 million to the apparel industry over the next three years. These tariff reductions will generate an ongoing reduction in duties paid beyond the first three years.
We have committed to improve the competitiveness of Canadian textile companies through a new three year $26.7 million textiles production efficiency initiative. This program is currently being implemented by Industry Canada.
A further point is to continue to work through the national initiatives component of the Canadian apparel and textile industries program to address the technology support, branding, trade development and e-commerce needs of the apparel and textile industries.
All of these together respond to what was raised by the member of the Bloc Québécois on what we should be doing to modernize our industry and to ensure its competitiveness as well as that of our workforce and its security.
These initiatives and investments are still key to the future success of these industries in the global trading environment and their continuing contribution to the health of the Canadian economy. Therefore, it is also important to mention some of the steps the government has taken that have contributed to the dramatic rebirth of these sectors as competitive high tech innovators.
A competitive tax system is critical to fostering business investment in Canada. Investment supports economic growth and job creation. The Canadian textile and apparel industry has demonstrated clearly that with more and better equipment embodying the latest technology workers are more productive. Increased investment and higher labour productivity in turn leads to increased employment, higher wages and a higher standard of living.
The importance of improving the competitiveness of the tax system has been underscored in recent years by reductions in corporate tax rates in many of our major trading partners. The Government of Canada is presently taking measures to strengthen the Canadian tax advantage for entrepreneurs and businesses. These measures build on the five year tax reduction plan introduced in 2000, the largest tax cut in the country's history aimed at promoting investment and entrepreneurship within the country.
Supporting our businesses through tax reductions and other measures remains paramount to establishing a world-class marketplace. The Government of Canada actively promotes entrepreneurship through its competitive tax system aimed at supporting businesses of all kinds, small, medium and of large.
Budget 2004 identified small businesses as a key source of innovation and job creation and announced measures to help support this essential sector of our economy. The new capital loss carry forward period has been extended to 10 years, making it easier to weather the first and most difficult years of business. The government is also working with business, under an government electronic tendering system, to improve and reduce the costs of applying for government procurement opportunities.
Finally, the government is teaching businesses how to reduce the paper burden and get it right the first time to avoid duplication. For larger businesses with incomes in excess of the small business deduction limit, the five year tax plan reduces the 28% general corporate income tax rate down to 21% in 2004.
I would like to remind the House that Canadian businesses have a federal-provincial corporate tax rate more than two percentage points lower than the average U.S. state federal rate. Canadian businesses can look forward to the elimination of the federal tax completely by 2008. Compared to the U.S. equivalent, Canada also provides small businesses with significantly lower corporate tax rates than the U.S. on income above $50,000 U.S. or approximately $60,000 Canadian.
One area where the tax system has an important impact on new investment, particularly in capital intensive sectors like the textile industry, is the treatment of capital assets. Businesses use capital assets over a number of years. The capital cost allowance system determines how much of the cost of a capital asset a business may deduct in a particular year. CCA deductions are generally determined by assigning a rate of class of assets, and then applying the rate to the non-depreciated balance in the class to determine the allowable deduction for that year.
As a general principle, capital cost allowance rates should reflect the useful life of assets and thus provide adequate recognition of capital cost over time. The alignment of CCA rates with the useful life of assets can enhance productivity and standards of living through a more efficient allocation of investments across classes of assets.
In need of a segue perhaps, in the 2004 budget the government announced two changes to CCA rates, which have improved the environment for investment in Canada. First, we have made it easier for businesses to purchase computer equipment by increasing the CCA rate for computer equipment to 45% from 30%. Second, we have raised the rate for broadband, Internet and other data network infrastructure to 30% from the previous 20%.
As we know, using improved technology, increases productivity and competitiveness. This translates into greater demand for goods and services and for more new jobs, in other words, greater competitive advantage. These changes will allow firms to write off these investments more quickly, thereby ensuring that the tax system provides an appropriate environment for investment. The attractive environment for business investment in Canada has resulted in the Canadian textile industry investing over $300 million annually in state of the art textile equipment and facilities. Over the last decade, that represents $3.1 billion in investments in our country.
These capital expenditures contributed to an increase in labour productivity in this sector in the 1990s. While Canada is not a textile machine manufacturing country, textile machinery embodying the latest technological improvements produced worldwide is readily available to domestic manufacturers that must continuously reinvest to remain internationally competitive.
The hon. members may be assured that the concerns of the textile and apparel industries are very much on the government's agenda right now. In fact, the Minister of Finance recently met with a number of representatives from the apparel industry. Our government recognizes that increased competition from abroad represents a serious challenge for Canadian textile and apparel industries. For this reason, we are working closely with these industries to assist them in adjusting to the globalization of the textile and apparel markets.
The government's commitment is to support entrepreneurship and businesses through the pursuit of a competitive tax system alongside clear strategies for gaining the competitive advantages evidenced by the priority placed upon the apparel and textile industries in Canada. Our response to the finance committee report will no doubt reinforce our efforts to ensure that these industries remain world leaders.
I spoke of the energies that we spent in the programs that we have developed to work hand in hand with the industry to ensure its competitiveness in the future. We must also remember where it has not worked. We must remember where there has been a loss of industry. I remember when Domtex, Dominion Textile, went out of business in Yarmouth. It was an incredible loss to the community of some 500 jobs. We must ensure that we reduce the possibility of that ever happening in other places.
Britex developed its competitiveness, its high technology product and delivered worldwide to other manufacturers. People who had invested their whole lives in that industry lost their jobs. It was devastating to those communities. Bonda Textiles has found its competitiveness reduced compared to imports internationally.
No government program can guarantee the success of any industry or business. However, we must ensure that we bring them as close as possible or give them the potential to survive. Therefore, I think the minister will look seriously at the recommendations of the committee, and I will encourage him to do that. I was part and parcel in the drafting of those recommendations. I would encourage him to implement those or something that would be even better for the industry.