Mr. Chair, I would like to put some comments on the record this evening because I have found it very disheartening on how the minority government is working.
As some of the members on this side of the House have said previously, the present government knew for 10 years that this industry was in jeopardy and in trouble. It knew that on December 31, 2004, tariffs would disappear.
During that decade we had immigrants come to Canada. Many of them went into these textile factories. They have entry level jobs. They build their families. They learn to communicate. A lot of these immigrants learn how to speak English. They socialize and learn what it is like to be in this great country.
However, in this great country we had an incompetent government that knew for 10 years that this industry was going to be in trouble. The government knew for 10 years that something had to be done.
Today, on December 14, we suddenly get a news release, an announcement. Suddenly in question period we have a heads up that maybe later on in the afternoon we would hear something that would be of some use to the textile industry. It was a very disappointing announcement, too little too late.
On the up side of this debate, the pressure from the opposition has caused the government to take some action. Members from our side of the House recommended that the current duty remission orders be extended to benefit textile and apparel manufacturers, to be extended so that we could arrive at solutions. We also said that we had to do more than that. We had to problem solve. We had to come up with solutions for the textile industry. No long term solutions have been proposed by the government.
The sad part is that the government is so terribly disconnected from ordinary people. A lot of these workers do not have the money to fly down to a nice, warm climate to spend the Christmas break. They have other things to worry about. They have to worry about buying the groceries, buying the Christmas presents, and having a life where they can pay the mortgage.
The government has deliberately turned its back on the common people in this nation. It has happened in a most dismal manner. This is irresponsible governance. When a government knows that an industry in Canada is in trouble for a whole decade, it should have the resources and the wherewithal to do something about it.
This is December 14 and Christmas is coming on the 25th. How does the government think the families feel? I am sure that a lot of the families are not even aware that there has been this great announcement. Many businesses prepare at least six to eight months ahead of time for employment opportunities and for buying the raw materials that they need to make the garments.
What makes the government think that this is any kind of a solution at the ninth hour? There has been no pre-planning. There has been no business plan. There has been no action to cause the textile industry to grow. We have the raw materials. We have the people to work. Unfortunately, we have an industry in trouble. It is because of the poor planning of the current government.
Members from this side of the House have pressured the government on a regular basis to do something about this, not in December. As soon as this session started we rose and said that the time is up on December 31, 2004. We said that we will have real troubles. Members opposite turned their backs. They made no reply. Suddenly, December 31 is coming very close and the House is about to recess.
The government had to do something. Some 800 jobs were lost in Huntingdon. All of this is too little, too late. There is no problem solving. There is no vision. There is no business plan. The cost to human lives has been phenomenal.
For many families who are recipients of this news release, it is too little, too late. Businesses are closing down and plans have not been made. As we celebrate Christmas this year, government members opposite must understand that the ordinary people have lives too. They have children too. They have hopes and dreams too. We are the ordinary people and we are supposed to be representing the country in which we live.
Ten long years have gone by before anything was done and it was done at the ninth hour. When we look at the announcement and recommendations, we know that the finance committee unanimously voted that the government immediately extend, for a further seven years, the duty remission orders covering the apparel sector that are set to expire on December 31. That was unanimous. Why did it take so long to take action? It is plainly because of the dithering.
The current Prime Minister has a reputation for dithering and that trickles down to all the ministerial portfolios. In this instance no decision was made until it was too little, too late. The announcement said there would an elimination of tariffs on fibre and yarn imports worth up to $50 million per year and on imports of textiles used by the apparel industry worth up to $75 million effective January 1. That is no surprise. This has been talked about for months in the House.
Why could this announcement not have been made months ago? If it had been made months ago, families would have sighed with relief, bought a little bit of time, and would have been able to do something more with their textile jobs.
The announcement today said that the current duty remission orders would be extended benefiting the textile and apparel manufacturers for five years. Is this a surprise? This is no surprise. Members on this side of the House have been advocating this for months. How long does it take to whip up a press release? I am certain that members on this side of the House would have been very happy to give the government a little help to get this press release out. Unfortunately, on December 14, 2004, a lot of families will feel the impact of this dithering late announcement.