Mr. Chair, I am pleased that the House is having this debate, and my first words will be for the people in Huntingdon who are experiencing today the anxiety of knowing that they will lose their jobs. My heart goes out to them not as a politician, but only as the father of a family, and I am wondering how it is possible to live through such hardships just before Christmas.
If I may, I will do tonight something I seldom do, that is being totally apolitical. I would like to deal briefly with the challenges ahead. What can we do to prevent the reoccurrence of similar events, and what can we do to help people affected by this?
Globalization is not just communications and knowledge but also includes trade. Globalization cannot be avoided, and it has consequences. To rise to the challenges of the 21st century, the Canadian textile and clothing industries are trying to adjust. Trade barriers are coming down, and international competition requires companies to broaden their horizons and explore new ways to do business, and to promote themselves and their products more effectively.
All industries are subject to this new dynamic. Of course, textiles and clothing are no exception. In this context, there are two key words: innovation and creativity.
We believe that the role of a responsible government, which in my opinion we are, is to support such innovation and creativity. I want to tell the House about various measures implemented over the past months. This matter is not new to us. We have been working on it for a long time already.
For example, on February 27, 2004, almost one year ago already, after having heard the recommendations of a joint industry-government task force, the former industry minister, now Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, announced new measures to help Canadian textile and clothing manufacturers become more competitive abroad.
These measures, set at approximately $53.4 million, include the allocation of $26.7 million to CANtex, a three-year Canadian initiative to assist companies to enhance their productivity and improve efficiency, as well as reduce tariffs on imported fabrics used by clothing manufacturers.
If I mention CANtex, it is because, in Quebec, Economic Development Canada, my department, is responsible for implementing this program. It targets textile manufacturers that want to refocus their activities, lower production costs and increase productivity.
I just said so, but I will repeat that we all recognize the importance of fostering innovation and competitiveness in an increasingly competitive world market. CANtex has been in operation since last October 13 and comes with a budget of $14.6 million over three years for Quebec alone.
One project was approved in Quebec; 11 applications were received under the CANtex program; five information sessions were held to provide businesses with details on CANtex; sessions were organized in partnership with regional organizations. I am referring to those sessions held in Sainte-Marie-de-Beauce, Drummondville, Sherbrooke, Bromont, Montreal.
These measures designed to enhance the competitiveness of Canadian businesses build on the success of the Canadian Apparel and Textile Industries Program, or CATIP. This program is the result of the hard work of several parliamentarians. I would like, if I may, to name at least three, for obvious reasons that, everyone will agree, transcend political differences. They are, first, the hon. member for Ahuntsic, second, the hon. member for Beauce and, third, the hon. member for Brome—Missisquoi. Other members, from both sides of the House, have shown concern for these issues.
The CATIP led to the completion of 159 projects in Quebec. The Government of Canada contributed nearly $9.5 million under that program, which generated $28 million in investment and led to the maintenance of 12,000 jobs and the creation of a further 436 jobs.
To give a few examples of successes, first of all there is Régitex. Five years ago, Régitex Inc.in Saint-Joseph-de-Beauce was a small operation with a handful of employees producing leading-edge yarns for industrial, apparel and home furnishing purposes. Today, it has a staff of 140. One of the keys to that change was financial assistance provided by the program I have referred to, which enabled it to introduce new business practices. This has enabled Régitex to better promote its products to furniture manufacturers in the United States.
A second example of success, the Children's Apparel Manufacturers' Association on-line credit bureau, which was established in this way, provides credit checks and enables members to assess the risk of a specific sale.
Empire Shirt Ltd. of Louiseville, Quebec, is a thoroughly modern company with a century-old tradition of excellence. It specializes in designing and manufacturing top-quality uniforms for police forces, schools and dozens of other organizations across Canada.With financial assistance from the Canadian Apparel and Textile Industries Program, the company hired a consultant to conduct a comprehensive analysis of its operations. Each workstation was scrutinized and every process reviewed.The analysis led Empire Shirt to implement a series of new procedures. As a result, operations are much more efficient, delivery times are shorter and production costs are down.
Confections Alizée plein air of Sainte-Aurélie, has combined a love of the outdoors and a talent for design to establish a thriving business. With the program's help, the company doubled the floor space of the existing facility to accommodate a staff of 27 and introduced a computerized pattern-grading system, which has led to significant improvements in productivity.
I could not do justice in the few minutes available to all those who have benefited from this program to move their companies forward, develop a competitive edge and finally beat, even dominate the competition.
I could tell you about the Canadian Apparel Federation, which hopes to address the marketing gap through an industry portal and e-business infrastructure.
Or of the industry association CTT Group/SAGEOS of Saint-Hyacinthe, dedicated to improving the productivity of Canada's geotextile industry. With financial assistance from the Canadian Apparel and Textile Industries Program, the association has initiated the Geotextile Awareness Project, which aims to improve market share and production levels of geotextiles in Canada, and to increase knowledge and understanding of the product's many uses.
I could tell you about Groupe VR2, in Asbestos. This business, which used to focus only on clothes manufacturing, now acts as a contract manufacturer for a range of international clients and, on occasion, it imports and exports finished products. Once again, CATIP, the Canada Economic Development program, was present, was helpful, useful and effective, and served a purpose.
Of course, we all know what the situation is in Huntingdon. Let me just say two or three very brief things on this subject.
In fact, we must give credit where credit is due. For over a year now, following representations by Quebec MP Serge Marcil, the regional office in Montérégie has been working closely with parties concerned, including people responsible for the Haut-Saint-Laurent RCM, which Huntingdon is part of, to develop and implement a regional strategy of intervention for Suroît, to diversify the regional economy and enhance key natural sectors. This issue is a priority.
Yesterday, my colleague from Brome—Missisquoi organized a meeting with industry representatives and concerned parties and departments. Despite all these efforts and many others, Huntingdon Mills and Cleyn & Tinker are closing.
Whole families are experiencing pain, uncertainty, an unknown future and fear. My department is willing to examine any project that is submitted to it to diversify the local economy.
I do not know if, in five or six seconds, I can say how, for me, before being an economic question, what the people of Huntingdon are going through is a human problem. I do not know if this is enough, of course it is not, but I would like to tell them how I feel for them and how I want to find solutions with them and for them.