Mr. Speaker, I want to indicate to you at the outset that I will be splitting my time with my most esteemed colleague from the constituency of Windsor West.
I am very pleased to take part in this debate on such an important question for the Canadian society. This is a very important policy for my riding, but also for Canadian workers in general.
Let me begin by telling the members that I appreciate the work the Bloc Québécois is doing in the House. By and large, I agree with the resolution. It is a simple and straight-forward motion that gives a precise orientation to the government. It asks the House to acknowledge the inadequacy of the assistance plan for the clothing and textile industries which was announced by the federal government following the closure of six plants in Huntingdon.
It is quite simple. The assistance announced by the minister on behalf of the Liberals on December 14 is not sufficient to solve the problem that exists in Canada now.
There is something else being proposed in this motion. It is that the government further elaborates with regard to the following elements: the use of safeguards provided for in trade agreements, the implementation of measures to encourage the use of Quebec and Canadian made textiles and the creation of a program to assist older workers. It is very simple.
The one thing that I did not appreciate however is the distinction that was made between the Canadian and the Quebec textile industry workers. As far as we are concerned, we are all Canadians. Therefore, this is a Canadian problem. So, except for this reservation, we agree with the resolution and we will support the motion.
In the few minutes remaining to me I want to express my frustration with the process and the strategy as outlined by the government with respect to this issue today. This is a matter that has been before the House for a good long time. It goes back many years. We heard today about the government's announced plan of February 2004 and how we must be patient and wait for this strategy to unfold before we can actually take further action.
First, we have heard that so often from the Liberals that it is hard to stomach. We heard that initially with respect to the made in China lapel pins, the flag pins. The first response from the Minister of Public Works was to say that this was all about the trade deals and that we had to look at who can give us the best deal and all the rest. With a little political pressure and embarrassment in the media, the government was able to change its tune in the space of 24 hours and suddenly find it within the realm of possibility to have these Canadian flag lapel pins made in Canada.
I would think that when it comes to something as important as the textile industry in this country, the government could act a bit more swiftly and with more courage. What it is going to take is for the government to stand up for an industrial strategy for a made in Canada textile industry that is vital to the future of our communities.
I know that in Winnipeg there are some 40 to 50 apparel outfits in my community that are very dependent upon what kind of actions we take in this place and through the government. We are talking about thousands and thousands of jobs, jobs that are very meaningful in terms of people being able to contribute their skills, make a decent living and support their families.
In the case of Winnipeg North and certainly in the case of my neighbouring constituency, that of Winnipeg Centre, many of these industries got their start because many workers came from places like the Philippines and settled in Canada in those communities and worked from the ground up in the garment industry. We owe them a debt of gratitude. At this point in the history of our country, we should not be taking away jobs, pulling the rug out from under them and leaving them without any hope of being able to access security in their old age or to provide for their families down the road. This is a vital industry that needs some action.
The other point I want to make is that the finance committee, of which I am a proud member, has worked long and hard on this issue and presented a report to the House last March. Of course, no action was taken, which is true to form for the government. When the new Parliament was reconvened after the election we submitted another report to Parliament with the full blessing of the finance committee. That report is now gathering dust.
We made some very reasoned decisions that if in fact they had formed the basis for government action we might not be in the predicament we are today. I would refer specifically to the recommendation for the federal government to immediately extend for a further seven years the duty remission orders covering the apparel sector that were set to expire on December 31, 2004.
If only the government had acted more expeditiously we would not have seen the turmoil in the industry and the frenzied action for the government to step in and provide some assistance.
Finally, in December we saw very limited response by the government with a small amount of money to assist the industry. By all accounts, it was insufficient and is certainly being questioned by representatives and the workers of the industry from one end of the country to the other.
Today we are before the House asking for more prompt and meaningful action on the part of the federal government that we think is reasonable and vital to the future of the country and jobs for the future.