Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Ahuntsic.
I would like to thank the House for the chance to add to today's debate on federal assistance for the clothing and textile industry. It allows me to speak out strongly against the implication in the opposition's motion that our government has been lackadaisical in its support of this sector.
Last December the federal finance and Industry ministers introduced substantial new measures to help the textile and apparel industry to better compete in fast changing world markets. Members on this side, members like the member for Ahuntsic, Beauce, Brome—Missisquoi, Etobicoke—Lakeshore, Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, St. Boniface and many others, worked with the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Industry to ensure that we put out a helping hand.
What I want to add is some important perspective--focusing on the fact that these new initiatives build upon an established record of federal partnership with, and support for, these industries.
Our government has long understood that the Canadian textile and apparel industries face evolving challenges in today's fiercely competitive international environment. They have had to transform themselves over the past decade through focusing on higher value-added activity, on innovative and attractive new products, and through identifying and winning niche markets for their products. And the federal government has been part of that transformation.
To assist these cousin industries with their preparations for the future, the Government of Canada established a joint government-industry working group on textiles and apparel. The industry and labour members of the working group were comprised of representatives from the Canadian Apparel Federation; the Canadian Textiles Institute; the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees; Industry Canada; Finance; International Trade; Statistics Canada; Human Resources Canada; Skills Development Canada; and the Canada Border Services Agency.
The industries submitted recommendations for government action to address the issues related to the long term competitiveness of the apparel and textile industries. In response to these recommendations, the Government of Canada has committed to the following: first, continuing 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 development through an outward processing initiative; second, continuing to protect against illegal trans-shipment of imported apparel and textile products and to use existing tools, as appropriate, to respond to industry complaints regarding injurious import surges; third, working 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; fourth, identifying and reducing tariffs on imported textile inputs used by the Canadian apparel industry so as to improve the industry's cost competitiveness; and, fifth, continuing 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.
Let me outline some of the specific initiatives the government has undertaken to assist the Canadian apparel and textile industries to compete globally.
Even before the additional assistance package announced last December, the government had announced nearly $100 million worth of support. In June 2002 a $33 million program was announced to help them improve their competitiveness. At the same time, $11 million was provided to the Canada Border Services Agency to counter illegal trans-shipments of textile and apparel products.
Then just a year ago, in February 2004 the government announced additional assistance: $26.7 million would be directed toward the textile industry and another $26.7 million in the form of duty reductions on textile inputs. The measures were part of CANtex, the textiles production efficiency initiative. CANtex itself is building on the success of the earlier Canadian apparel and textile industries program, which has funded 394 projects to assist apparel and textile companies enhance their productivity, lower costs, improve efficiency and find new markets for their products.
I think that hon. members should be reminded of some of the success stories for this program.
Canada's apparel and textile industries, their products and the people who created them have a long and proven history of innovation, creativity and business success. In fact, Canadian companies are recognized around the world for the quality of their products, their leading-edge manufacturing capabilities and, most importantly, their high standards of service.
Canadian companies manufacture a broad range of apparel and textiles, including innovative geo-textiles. Established brand names, such as Roots, Far West and French Dressing, together with niche providers such as Régitex, Barrday and Peerless, are proving that Canada's apparel and textile industries are alive and well, and globally competitive.
To face the challenges of the 21st century, Canada's apparel and textile industries are actively transforming themselves. As trade barriers disappear, global competition is forcing companies to think outside the box, explore new ways of doing business and market themselves and their products more effectively.
Through Industry Canada, the Canadian apparel and textile industries program works in partnership with apparel and textile companies and associations to maintain and improve the strength and vitality of these industries in Canada. With financial assistance from the Canadian apparel and textile industries program, many Canadian apparel and textile companies have acquired the leading edge tools that they need to build and sustain competitive advantage, helping them to become more innovative and able to pursue new market opportunities around the world.
Now, with the further support of CANtex, companies can extend their capabilities even further in a host of ways in eligible projects.
Let me step back for a second and make another important point. Since our government balanced its budget in 1997-98, the first time in 27 years, it has pursued a vigorous effort to fund research and innovation.
In fact, in February 2002, the federal government launched its 10-year innovation strategy which aimed to move Canada to the front ranks of the world's most innovative countries.
In its quest to achieve excellence, the Government of Canada is moving to build on the investments already made in research and innovation, to make essential research and technological expertise available to firms of all sizes, and to facilitate access to venture capital financing.
The Canadian textiles industry is leading the way in such innovation. Indeed, this industry has become one of the most innovative industries in Canada. Allow me to explain.
To begin, the industry invests over $300 million annually in state of the art textile equipment and facilities, $3.1 billion in total in the 10 year period from 1990 to 1999. These capital expenditures contributed to an increase in labour productivity in this sector in the 1990s.
While Canada is not a textile machinery manufacturing country, textile machinery embodying the latest technological improvements produced worldwide is readily available to domestic manufacturers, who must continuously reinvest to remain internationally competitive.
Hon. members can certainly appreciate that critical to the successful adoption of these advanced technologies is a continuous upgrading of the industry's workforce, knowledge and skills.
That is why with initial support from HRDC, a textiles human resources council was established in 1994. Guided by a union management board of directors, it has been cited as a model for other sectors and is dedicated to ensuring that employees of the textiles industry attain and maintain world class skills.
The textiles human resources council is providing a growing mix of innovative education and training programs, such as, on-the-job, hands-on and distance learning, ranging from CD-ROMs to fully interactive computer courses. Total intramural research and development expenditures in the textile industries have exhibited a steady increase throughout the 1990s, increasing from $41 million in 1990 to $67 million in 2000. This ranks the textile sector as 16th out of the 27 industries comprising the manufacturing sector. In fact, innovations proliferate at every phase of the textile supply chain, from upstream fibre production to final products.
Industry Canada, along with the Textiles Human Resources Council and the Canadian Textiles Institute, through the Canadian Apparel and Textile Industries Program, is leading the Canadian Delegation to Material World.
Let me conclude by asserting with real confidence that our government is very aware of the challenging situation facing the textile and apparel industries in Canada and we are responding.