I would like the minister to let me speak.
The people of Huntingdon were expecting one thing today, that they would get some help with employment insurance and that they could count on the existence of a program to help older workers. To add insult to injury, today, two undoubtedly very relevant pilot projects were announced in Laval and Ahuntsic. However, the 800 layoffs announced yesterday are in Huntingdon. The town's mayor came here to the House of Commons to hold a press conference asking the federal government to intervene. Not a word is being said about Huntingdon. That is the proof that the federal government was not ready to participate and not ready to do its share toward revitalizing the textile and clothing industry. And yet it has known for 10 years that the quotas would disappear. Moreover, it has known since April about the three proposals the Standing Committee on Finance made in its unanimous report aimed at correcting the situation. Despite all this, it did not offer any of them.
Attempts were made to make partial announcements after the House of Commons recessed. Yesterday's sad news concerning Huntingdon was given new impetus here today, with the Bloc Québécois putting the issue on the table. We had been demonstrating for a while already that the federal government's action on this issue was inefficient. Unfortunately, we have had tragic proof of that. This kind of tragedy is bound to keep happening if the federal government does not improve on the measures it is currently putting forward.
What was announced today was a few increases for programs such as CANtex, which the minister referred to. But that particular program did not achieve the expected results, as evidenced by the jobs that continue to be lost. Much broader measures are required.
There are things missing in today's announcements. The Bloc Québécois and the industry would have liked a quota on Chinese imports to be maintained. That is allowed under the WTO access protocol for China. This measure could have provided adequate protection for the industry, while it starts implementing adjustment measures. This could be done, but was not acted on.
Moreover, no measure for a stricter enforcement of rules was announced. This will ensure that only the least developed countries will benefit from the elimination of tariffs.
Not a word either about the issue of the bilateral agreements between the United States and Caribbean countries. The Americans have understood that it is necessary to allow clothing manufacturing activities to be finalized in southern countries. In return, for the manufactured clothes to re-enter the U.S. market, these countries will have to have used American textiles. In this respect, the federal government should have taken the initiative, but failed to do so. That is why we are going to have to stay on their case even if the House adjourns this evening, as scheduled. Fear not, we will still be there to assist in ensuring that a real program or action plan is implemented to correct the situation.
In the same vein, the federal government failed to implement foreign manufacturing programs. Yet these would have been very beneficial to the textile industry. Pilot projects were suggested by industry stakeholders. For example, when textile is manufactured in Canada, we should have the possibility of having clothes made out of it abroad and, upon its return, it should be appropriately tax free. That is not exactly what the federal government is proposing.
It is sad that we do not have an comprehensive action plan. There is however a new program called Technological Partnerships Canada as well as projects to buy new equipment. We will be able to invest up to $3 million, fully refundable. That is something the Bloc asked for in committee as early as September so that we could get more than the mere $50,000 or $60,000 subsidies from CANtex. We need to develop new sectors such as geotextile or the use of textile in areas like health care and the aircraft industry.
A great number of new sectors can be developed. In order to do so, we will need help in research and development to buy new machinery and things like that. The government has made an interesting announcement on this issue.
The tragedy is that the government tried to set aside all the initiatives that could have helped the industry to better position itself and to deal with the elimination of the quotas. It is as if the federal government had decided to forget about the apparel and textile industry and to target other markets in this global economy in order to capture parts of the marketplace, and that it was too bad for the communities that would end up in trouble and could disappear but they would have to deal with all that change without any additional assistance.
In fact, no assistance for older workers has been announced. There is nothing to permit the diversification of the regional economy of affected regions. The softwood lumber package could have been used as a model and additional measures proposed, but this was not done. That is why today, the federal government must clearly understand that it has not done its homework properly. People are not applauding the result of proposals made. If the programs had been effective for x number of years, the situation we are seeing today would not have occurred or there would have been only isolated examples. These are not isolated examples.
In my riding, there are a number of businesses in all sectors. I could name a few, for example, Consultex, Bermatex, Confections Lamartine, GMP, Industrie Troie, which unfortunately has closed. We are talking about 300 jobs in the ready-to-wear industry. All these industries and workers are very concerned by the message the federal government is sending them on the night before quotas are to disappear. It is going to put a few things on the table because, today, there was greater pressure given the dramatic situation in Huntingdon and because the Bloc Québécois asked to hold this debate in the House, but no comprehensive action plan has appeared yet.
Why is the federal government never able to propose complete economic policies and adequate strategies? The same delays are happening with regard to the aerospace industry. Now, it is the textile and clothing industry. Again last week, in committee, the main representatives of the two sectors appeared to tell us they were waiting for a clear policy from the federal government. There is none.
The minister himself came to tell us that there had been a meeting yesterday between someone from the Prime Minister's Office and representatives of the textile industry to discuss the situation and to see if measures could be proposed. I am convinced that, had the closure in Huntingdon not been announced yesterday, nothing would have been announced today and absolutely nothing would have been put on the table. They would have used the parliamentary break to try to sweep it under the rug, between now and Christmas or January.
I want to tell the government that we will not give up, we will keep a close watch as long as it does not do justice to these workers. We will not give up because justice must be done for these workers.