House of Commons Hansard #106 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was industries.


Department of Human Resources and Skills Development ActGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the motion carried.

(Bill read the third time and passed)

It being 6:16 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Textile and Clothing IndustriesPrivate Members' Business

June 1st, 2005 / 6:15 p.m.


Paul Crête Bloc Rivière-Du-Loup—Montmagny, QC


That, in the opinion of the House, the government should establish, in compliance with international agreements, a policy of assistance to the textile and clothing industries in order to enable the industries to compete throughout the world, particularly by broadening the Technology Partnerships Canada program to include these two sectors.

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to be able to put my motion before the House today for debate. Incidentally, it should be improved through an amendment that will be put forward shortly.

We know that, after the plants closed in Huntingdon in December, the federal government introduced—at the eleventh hour—an assistance plan for the textile industry. But this was an incomplete plan containing a few measures which have failed to produce the desired results, as evidenced by the 4,000 jobs lost in that industry in Canada since January 2005. Had the federal government taken appropriate action, we could go back on the offensive, go ahead and allow the textile and clothing industries to achieve interesting results. These two industries have an interesting future ahead of them, if they are looked after properly.

When I presented this motion this afternoon to a press conference, I was pleased to have the support of the likes of Ms. Aristéo, the director of the Québec council of the Unis-Unite Here union and vice-president of the FTQ, Atim Leon-Germain, a project officer at the Centre international de solidarité ouvrière, and, through a press release, Émilie Guindi, the director of the Quebec Clothing Contractors' Association, not to mention the representatives of the Canadian Textiles Institute who attended the conference. They did not necessarily support the motion in its entirety, but they wanted certain elements of the motion to be implemented as soon as possible.

The first thing that has to be pointed out is that Canada's textile and clothing industries are two industries that primarily need a reliable market. Their market completely changed after the international agreements ensuring some degree of protectionism within each country expired. Since January 2005, we have been operating in a context of almost complete international free trade. We must face the new reality: Chinese imports flooding our market, competition from other countries, and a closed American market for the past few years.

We must be able to implement measures that will allow us to improve market access. The first measure that our integrated plan proposes is to allow clothing made abroad with Canadian textiles to enter duty free. Unbelievable as it is, currently, when clothing is made abroad with Canadian textiles and re-enters the country, manufacturers must pay duties on this product. Yet we know that these products are made with Canadian textiles. This duty should no longer be applied. This would make it possible to create jobs in the textile industry without cutting jobs in the clothing industry, since the clothing is being made abroad. This is the first measure to revive the textile market.

Second, our plan proposes to impose stricter rules of origin on least developed countries. Let us remember that, a few years ago, we said we wanted to facilitate economic development in least developed countries by allowing them to enter our markets without paying duties. However, we opened the door very wide. Consequently, today, not only products from very poor countries that only do a small part of the work on the clothing imported to Canada, but also products from all the other countries where another part of the clothing was made are duty free. Today, it is often the case that clothing goes through three or four processes in as many different countries. The least economically developed countries are being used as a gateway to the Canadian market. In doing so, we create unfair competition for domestic products. This is the second way of opening the market.

As a third measure, as allowed under China's WTO accession protocol, we want to impose quotas on Chinese imports. This is not a protectionist measure in the long term, but a measure that is provided for in the agreement under which China acceded to the WTO. The Chinese were very firm in negotiating this agreement. They gained a number of advantages, but so did we, particularly with regard to access to their markets. Certain measures have been put in place to ensure protection in case of a large increase in Chinese imports. Since January, Chinese imports into Canada have increased by 29%.

It is a real phenomenon which must be contained. We must find a way of managing this situation to minimize its negative effects on our industry.

Indeed, of the 4,000 jobs that have disappeared since January, a certain number were lost because of these imports. The message for the coming months and the coming years is that there are currently no government regulations to minimize the impact of these Chinese imports. We need time to adjust. There is a means of doing that, which the Europeans and the Americans have considered using. In Canada, we have not heard about any plans to use it, at least not for now. Again, it is a way to secure a market.

The textile and clothing industries are not a thing of the past. They are today's and tomorrow's industries and deserve our help in securing markets.

The stakeholders in these industries have been asking us regularly for the opportunity to gain access to markets and saying that they will have the competitiveness, the originality and the creativity needed to penetrate these markets. That is the purpose behind the measures included in the comprehensive plan that I am submitting to the House of Commons for adoption.

Last December, the Liberal government announced three measures. However, they fall far short of systematically reviving the two sectors and, more importantly, assuring them the kind of future we want them to have.

Another measure was then proposed by the Centre international de solidarité ouvrière. It involves requiring detailed labelling that would allow consumers to identify the source of the product they are buying. Consumers end up voting when they made a purchase. They can decide to promote the economy of Quebec or Canada over that of somewhere else. To do so, they need to know what they have before them and where and from what it was made.

When consumers buy wine, they know just about exactly where it comes from: from France, the region, the department and so on. This information is not available for clothing. I have even heard the following explanation. At the moment, the labelling on a suit such as I am wearing includes the words “Made in Canada” but, while the suit is made in Canada, there is no way of knowing where the material comes from. Was Canadian material used in fact? This type of information does not force consumers to buy that item of clothing, but it does indicate that by doing so they will be helping the Quebec or Canadian economy.

This, then, is one of the measures we consider important in the plan we are proposing.

The other type of measure is aimed at continued modernization of the textile and clothing sectors, which could stimulate research and development as well as design. I know there have been pilot projects in this sector, but they should be expanded and more help should be provided.

They say Montreal is a special place because both design and manufacture take place there. This advantage should be enhanced, move forward and provide additional benefits. The federal government has invested heavily in the new economy in the past 10 or 15 years. Now, with the new rules of international trade, traditional sectors deserve the same sort of assistance. We have seen it in the automobile and aeronautics industries in the Montreal area. We would like to see this kind of help in these sectors too.

We would also like to negotiate Canada's accession to the agreements reached between the United States and Central American and Caribbean countries. To me, that is perhaps the most important stipulation to expanding markets. From the time free trade was passed in 2000, there was amazing growth in the textile sector as a result of having access to the U.S. market.

Around 2000, the Americans passed laws and reached agreements with Caribbean countries. Now, American textiles, which are used to make clothing in the Caribbean, can re-enter the U.S. market, which is not the case if the product does not contain any American fabrics.

This immediately closed a major part of the market to Canada's textiles, which practically goes against the free trade agreement. This may not be done according to the letter, but in practice a market that was once open is now closed, to the benefit of businesses in the U.S. and the Caribbean.

We want the federal government to take action. Now there has been a meeting between the three leaders, the Prime Minister of Canada and the presidents of the United States and Mexico, there needs to be follow-up to ensure that all three countries have access to this type of program.

That way, if we manufacture Canadian textiles that might ultimately be turned into products or apparel in a Caribbean country, those products could come back onto the North American market through the United States, because the U.S. is one of the major markets.

Our plan must not forget the people who are and, unfortunately, who will be the victims of the current situation. This is particularly true in the apparel industry. Some apparel manufacturers are unaffected by this crisis because they are targeting very specific niche markets. This has proven somewhat successful. However, it always depends on two or three specific factors, such as the proximity to the American market and the ability to rapidly adapt to consumer demand. Not everyone is successful.

I can mention all the subcontractors. It has been a systematic occurrence for many years now, particularly in the denim industry. In my region of Saint-Pamphile, one company was the unfortunate victim. Industries Troie employed hard workers. It had a good management team and very professional seamstresses who subcontracted their services to manufacturers in greater Montreal.

However, when companies began to subcontract to China for substantially less, it was impossible to remain competitive. Now, there are 180 unemployed professional seamstresses, a number of whom are older. The federal government did nothing to ensure that they could obtain benefits under an older workers assistance program, which had existed up to 1995. This program gave older unemployed workers temporary benefits until they qualified for their old age pension in Quebec. We owe it to them.

They are entitled to benefits, because they worked for 15, 20, 25, 30 or 35 years. They paid taxes while working, often year-round, in jobs that paid little. These people were dedicated to their jobs. At the end, they are told that they will get 35, 40 or 45 weeks of EI benefits. After that, that is it. In my opinion, these unemployed workers deserve a decent income until they receive their old age pension.

The intent is not to create markets but to ensure that those working in this sector will be able to move on to other employment possibilities or to retirement without having to get through a period of time with an unacceptable drop in income.

We are talking about people who are often the second wage earner in the family. When jobs are lost—this example comes from my area—they are often the jobs of women earning $8 or $9 an hour. They get offered the same kind of job, but 50 km from home, for $9 an hour. It is not even worth contemplating; it is not cost-effective. There must be measures in place to really help these people find another job. When this is not possible, there must be a program in place to help the oldest workers manage.

My hope for this debate I am opening up today is to ensure that the federal government will proceed with a number of additional measures that will truly allow the textile and clothing industries to adjust to the new market realities. If we manage to get the federal government to accept three, four or five of these measures, I think we will have accomplished something positive. We must not settle for the programs we have at present. The CANtex program is a bit like when someone feels a bit guilty and goes ahead to compensate for some shortcomings, but it solves nothing. There is not enough money in the program. This is not the only kind of program needed. A system is needed that will open up the markets.

This is what I am proposing in my motion, a system that will also ensure those workers forced to leave the work force of decent treatment.

If this House cannot manage to reach agreement on the means to that end, I hope that this hour of debate and the next one will give us an opportunity to exchange views. As a result, we will end up with some action by the federal government that is far more aggressive and, when all is said and done, far more effective, or we can at least hope so.

Textile and Clothing IndustriesPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


Alain Boire Bloc Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my hon. colleague from Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup on the excellent work he has done on the textile issue, and on his motion.

I would like to know how this motion could have prevented 1,000 textile industry jobs from being lost in my riding of Beauharnois—Salaberry? I am referring to the 850 jobs at Cleyn & Tinker in Huntingdon and the 150 jobs at Huntingdon Mills and Ormspun.

I want to know how the government could have protected that textile market, since there is currently nothing on the clothes we buy showing where the fabric was made.

Textile and Clothing IndustriesPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.


Paul Crête Bloc Rivière-Du-Loup—Montmagny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. I would like to acknowledge all the work he has done since these plant closures in Huntingdon were announced, sadly.

The answer to his question resides in the fact that, like every government around the world, the Canadian government knew that new market rules would apply starting January 2005. It had been known for years that we would have to change our way of doing things. The mistake was not to have prepared for it well enough and sent a clear message to the industry stakeholders that the Canadian government was there to ensure they would have access to this new market.

I have reviewed all the proceedings of the various committees dealing with international trade and industry. A departmental committee was also struck a few years ago. The government has hidden behind the fact that it was difficult to get the textile industry and the clothing industry to come to an agreement. So, it said that, once these stakeholders had agreed on something, it would implement it.

This took a long time and it was not easy. They are not the same industrial sectors and often they have different interests. Nonetheless, as a result, employers in Huntingdon got the message that nothing would change in Canada, that they had to make do with what they had and, at most, they could get a little bit of money through the CANtex or CATIP programs designed to update the companies. However, these were not significant amounts of money and there was no indication there would be a market.

In terms of NAFTA, if they had known five years ago, given the decision by the U.S. to recreate bilateral agreements with the Caribbean, that Canada would be making efforts and representations to the U.S. to be part of these things, the employers would have thought that the U.S. market might stay open for them. They could have invested and made sure their companies were as up-to-date as possible in order to try to keep their place on the market. Since there was no indication of the sort—there may have a decline in investment and interest—they decided to close their plants at a time when it made the most sense financially.

Unfortunately that is where things stand today. The other big problem is that no programs were set up for the older workers. People knew for many years that this threat was hanging over their heads, but the federal government did nothing about it. The first reaction occurred in December, the day after the plants closed in Huntingdon. It makes no sense.

They should have been proactive three or five years ago and set up programs. However, there was nothing. The day after the plants closed in Huntingdon, a few measures were announced here and there. So far, they have not produced the desired effect. We want the federal government to shift gears and take the offensive to help the clothing and textile industries take their rightful place.

Unfortunately this will not help the people of Huntingdon, but let us hope we can at least learn something from this sorry experience.

I invite my colleague to continue the work he is doing on behalf of the people coping with these terrible situations. I hope we will have the necessary sympathy and empathy here to ensure that there is in fact an assistance program for older workers, to help these people who, in 30 or 40 weeks, will run out of employment insurance benefits.

Textile and Clothing IndustriesPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

Ahuntsic Québec


Eleni Bakopanos LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Social Development (Social Economy)

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak once again on behalf of the textile and apparel industries. In fact, other members and I have supported these industries over the years, and we continue to do so by taking part in the debate on Motion No. 164.

As the federal member for Ahuntsic, a riding where a great many apparel and textile manufacturers once—but not now, unfortunately—did business, I have very often had the opportunity to meet and talk with businesspeople in my riding to discuss and learn about the challenges and barriers these industries are facing.

Let me say that I do not support this list of amendments to the original motion. However, I would like to speak in favour of the original motion, which I support and which is aimed at establishing, in compliance with international agreements, a policy of assistance to the textile and apparel industries in order to enable these industries to compete throughout the world.

As my colleagues know, Canadian textile and apparel industries are still major sources of economic activity revenue in Canada. Located mainly in major urban centres such as Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver, the clothing industry is a major employer for new Canadians.

My mother and my aunts came from Greece, my country of birth, and worked in these factories. The textile industry is a source of skilled jobs throughout Quebec, in Ontario and in the Maritimes.

Canada's apparel and textile industries have faced and are still facing a difficult global trade environment. It is an environment that has encouraged them to make a transition from national businesses and markets to global integrated businesses and markets.

Continually challenged by increasing competition from abroad, the Canadian apparel and textile industries have had to transform themselves over the past decade through focusing on higher value added activity, on innovation and attractive new products, and through identifying and winning niche markets for their products.

However, further change continues to be the order of the day. Apparel and textile markets continue to globalize. Domestic producers continue to face strong competition from low wage countries. The Canadian dollar has demonstrated renewed strength in the last two years. Most certainly, textile and apparel quotas have been eliminated consistent with Canada's World Trade Organization commitments.

Although many of these changes are not unique to the apparel and textile industries or even to the Canadian economy, they are nevertheless having an impact upon the environment in which these industries have and continue to operate. It is in the face of such challenges that the government has demonstrated its continued commitment to the long term viability of both the apparel and textile industries in Canada by working with them to confront these very challenges.

Even though this dialogue started some time ago, and not just because of calls by the opposition, I want to draw the attention of my colleagues to a particular case that illustrates this collaboration between government and industry representatives to overcome these challenges.

To assist these two industries with their preparations for the future, in 2002, the Government of Canada established a joint government-industry working group on textiles and apparel. The industries were represented by the Canadian Apparel Federation and the Canadian Textiles Institute, the two main marketing associations of these industries, as well as the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees, representing the employees. Officials from Industry Canada, Finance, International Trade, Statistics Canada, the former Human Resources Canada and the Canada Border Services Agency took part in these meetings.

This joint government-industry working group met a number of times in 2003, not in response to a crisis, because it already existed. During these meetings, representatives of these industries recommended that the government address the issues related to the long-term competitiveness of the apparel and textile industries.

In direct response to these recommendations the Government of Canada announced in February 2004 its commitment to continue 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. It would continue to protect against illegal transshipment of imported apparel and textile products and to use existing tools as appropriate to respond to industry complaints regarding injurious import surges.

It would work 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 the rapidly changing labour market. It would identify and reduce tariffs on imported textile inputs used by the Canadian apparel industry so as to improve the industry's cost competitiveness, initially an approximate value of $26.7 million to the apparel industry over the next three years and subsequently expanded by the Minister of Industry and the Minister of Finance on December 14, 2004 to an approximate value of $75 million.

It would improve the competitiveness of Canadian textile companies through a new three year $26.7 million textiles production efficiency initiative implemented in late 2004 and subsequently expanded on December 14, 2004 by $50 million over five years. It would make the remaining funding from the company component of the Canadian apparel and textiles industries program or CATIP, as it is more widely known, more readily available to companies to undertake initiatives in advance of the removal of apparel and textile import quotas. Therefore, there was an initiative even before there was a problem. It would continue 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, all of which are in the amendments.

This may be old news to members on this side of the House, but it is worth noting in the context of this debate. It demonstrates that we have and are continuing to work with both industries to address these challenges in order to facilitate the continued viability of domestic firms.

In January 2003, we created the CATIP, a program with a three-year, $33 million budget. Thanks to this program for Canadian apparel and textile manufacturers, funding was allocated to over 350 innovative strategic projects to enhance productivity, improve efficiency and identify new markets.

Furthermore, since 2002, $10.9 million was provided to the Canada Border Services Agency to counter illegal trans-shipments of textile and apparel products by least developed countries.

Finally, we provided the initial funding to create the CANtex program, as I mentioned.

Just recently, we also announced duty reductions on textile inputs for further manufacturing in Canada; the allocation of an additional $50 million for CANtex, the textiles production efficiency initiative, so that the textile industry can diversify, develop new product lines and identify new and expanding niche markets; and the five-year extension of the duty-remission orders, benefiting Canadian textile and apparel manufacturers.

I would like to come back to an initiative that affects the workers.

On May 2, 2005 I announced in Montreal on behalf of the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development funding of $5.9 million under the sector council program for four projects by the Textiles Human Resources Council. These projects would help support the promotion of skills development within the textile sector, an aim to improve our country's economic growth and competitiveness in the sector.

This was followed again by another announcement last month by the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development of $3 million for three projects aimed at improving our country's economic growth and competitiveness in the apparel sector.

In terms of the workers there is a pilot program for older workers. It is a program that I have been pushing on behalf of the government in order to expand and ensure that those workers who lose their employment once the industries are caught in this globalization will in fact have a new way to look for new jobs not within that sector but perhaps in another sector.

I want to remind hon. members that it is also up to the provincial government, since the Government of Quebec is responsible for training in Quebec. It has not put forward a program and we have had discussions with the sector councils to ensure that these workers are recycled perhaps. I know that in terms of the organization that works in my riding there is an 80% success rate in recycling some of those older workers.

Therefore, challenges remain. The government remains committed as it has in the past to help these industries meet these challenges. On this side of the House we are concerned about this industry. We are concerned about the workers in this industry, but we have not sat back and only criticized. We have in fact worked with the sector councils and the ministers involved, and we have brought forward measures in order to assist these industries.

Textile and Clothing IndustriesPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.


Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour tonight to put some remarks on the record. As I listened to the speeches and the rhetoric about the announcements as far back as 2002 in the textile industry, I was wondering what members opposite were thinking when they eliminated the tariffs on fibre and yarn imports. That amounted to $15 million a year. They also eliminated the tariffs on imports of textile inputs used by the apparel industy, which was worth up to $75 million a year effective January 1, 2005.

I remember back to January 2005. There were a lot of families that did not have Christmas because their industries were shut down or cut back in Manitoba. I remember mature workers not knowing where their next jobs would be coming from. I remember families under duress because of the uncertainty of their futures. This was a move by the present Liberal government that caused a great deal of harm to the textile industry throughout our nation.

The textile industry is a very formidable industry. There are 47,000 Canadians employed in textile jobs across Canada and 97,000 employed in the apparel industry. That is a lot of people. The announcement on January 1, 2005 effectively put people out of work. This hurt new immigrants in our country. A lot of these people were in the textile industry looking to obtain job experience and work their way up in that field in Canada. They wanted to present themselves with work experience so they could obtain other jobs.

What is happening now is like a band-aid on a bad situation. The present government must be very careful. More care and diligence should be put into trade agreements and negotiations. Unfortunately, many of the economic problems in this country now are caused by the problems Canadians are facing due to poor trade negotiations. BSE and softwood lumber are examples in addition to the textile and apparel industries.

I will read Motion No. 164 into the record again and then speak to some points surrounding it. It states:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should establish, in compliance with international agreements, a policy of assistance to the textile and clothing industries in order to enable the industries to compete throughout the world, particularly by broadening the Technology Partnerships Canada program to include these two sectors.

We on this side of the House in particular have some questions about adding the two sectors to the technology partnerships Canada program. We always support domestic industries.

It is a shame when opposition parties must ask the government to come up with policies that will support industry. Obviously, the kind of reckless decisions that were made to placate political agendas have really fallen hard on the textile and apparel industries in our nation.

By maintaining the tariffs on imported clothing and the types of textiles produced in Canada, we agree that there should be a two year maintenance and a slow phase-out of that. This would allow clothing made with Canadian textiles but manufactured abroad to be imported without custom duties. For example, if blue jeans are made by a foreign country, they can be free of any tariffs, but if those blue jeans are made by Canadian cloth, that is a different story. For instance, if something were made in Bangladesh and the company was developed by an entrepreneur in China who bought the company in Bangladesh and then imported it into Canada, it would be free from all the tariffs, according to the January 1 initiative by the Liberal government.

There needs to be a more careful assessment of the kinds of companies that are developed. Where are they developed? Why are they developed? Are they avoiding the tariffs to go through a lesser developed country? This is happening today here.

In fact, we suspect, through some evidence that has been gathered, that there are not enough checks and balances put in to find out exactly what is happening. If it is made in Bangladesh, it can come to Canada tariff free. But who has developed that company? Who has bought that company in Bangladesh? What country are they from to import things back into Canada? Those are the questions.

We should impose stricter rules of origin on less developed countries. Even though something comes from a less developed country, that does not necessarily mean that the owner of that company originated in the less developed country. There are not enough checks and balances in there to ensure that we know what is going on there. Canada must adhere to the agreements concluded with the United States, Central America and Caribbean nations. In other words, we must live up to our commitments.

In this day and age, there must be a more professional type of policy in the business world. We should be thinking about Canada first. We should be thinking about our Canadian companies first. The Liberal Party does not work with international organizations to reduce protectionist policies and to secure free trade agreements.

When I hear from members opposite about all these lists of different announcements that are supposed to impact in a very positive way, it behooves me to say that the big gap that really put a blow on the textile industry was made on January 1 when the government eliminated the tariffs on fibre and yarn imports and textile imports used by the apparel industry.

We are all for increasing occupational training transfers to Quebec and for giving training and training programs to workers. In the textile industry and the apparel industry, there are many mature workers. When I listen to the kind of band-aid approach that the present government has for dealing with the mature workforce in the industry, I just have to shake my head.

We need to create an adjustment program that is worthwhile for older workers. Older workers, or what I call mature workers, in the industry are people who are caught. They are caught because they have committed themselves to working in the textile and apparel industry as a career and then when they get up to be 40, 45, 50, all of a sudden, with their jobs being negated, they do not have a future.

The Liberals should ensure that Canadian industries are secure and Canadian workers are taken care of. With the kind of approach that is happening at this time, it behooves us to take a look at the amendment and work quickly to uphold this industry.

Textile and Clothing IndustriesPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to have the unanimous consent of the House to split my time with the member for Windsor West.

Textile and Clothing IndustriesPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Winnipeg Centre has asked for unanimous consent to split his time with the member for Windsor West. Is there consent?

Textile and Clothing IndustriesPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

An hon. member


Textile and Clothing IndustriesPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thought we had the unanimous consent of the parties because we checked ahead of time.

Textile and Clothing IndustriesPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.


Paul Crête Bloc Rivière-Du-Loup—Montmagny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I wonder if the Chair could check again to see if we can get unanimous consent to allow the NDP member to split his time.

Textile and Clothing IndustriesPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Does the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre have the unanimous consent of the House to divide his time with the member for Windsor West?

Textile and Clothing IndustriesPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Some hon. members


Textile and Clothing IndustriesPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank all my colleagues for the generosity of spirit that they have demonstrated today. As a personal favour from my colleague from Windsor West, I asked if I could share time with him today. The subject of the debate is an issue that is very important to me and to my riding.

I had 43 garment manufacturers in my riding, but now I have 42. Just a few weeks ago yet one more garment manufacturer succumbed to the pressures of that industry and went out of business. Therefore, we suffered another bankruptcy in this industry sector.

The reason I welcome the opportunity to debate the issue of the health and well-being of the garment and textile industry is that the government's treatment of this industry to date is difficult to understand. It has ranged from absolute neglect for many decades to meddling and unhelpful interference.

What is really frustrating is we have a long established industry that has been healthy from one end of the country to the other, from Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Vancouver, southern Ontario for textiles. Somehow it just has not captured the imagination of the government or previous governments. It has always been allowed to bumble along and flounder without any help or support.

When the government does wake up and pay attention to the industry, it does things that cause more harm than good, such as this least developed nations policy that the former prime minister virtually arbitrarily pulled out of the air. This was a bad idea because least developed nations would get a duty remission or a relief on import tariffs. All that did was the multinational manufacturers shifted their work to least developed nations to exploit the cheap labour and then those goods would come into Canada without any duty or import tariff. This was a devastating move. As I say, sometimes we are almost better off with no intervention than that kind of meddling which did more harm than good.

The industry in my riding of Winnipeg Centre is in crisis. It urgently needs the intervention of the government and it needs the ear of the government. Somebody has to convince the government that this is an industry worth saving, that it is an industry of value. Maybe it is not one of the sexy, high tech industry sectors that the government seems willing to throw tons of money toward, but it is just as important to keep the jobs we have as it is to spend money to try to attract new jobs. What good does it do Canada as a whole to spend a fortune trying to attract new jobs and new industries to Canada if we are letting the old established industries slip away from us at a rate faster than the new ones are growing? That is what is happening in this important industry sector.

I only have a few minutes but I will point out how critically important these jobs are to my riding in Winnipeg Centre. In many ways they are gateway jobs. These are the first jobs many new Canadians get when they land in Canada, and they are not poorly paying jobs. They are unionized jobs. I have been to many of the garment manufacturers in my riding such as Western Glove, et cetera. They have good day care centres right in the plant and they are well lit, bright, clean and healthy working environments. People in Winnipeg at least can raise a family or buy a house with the wages they earn from these jobs. Why would we willingly stand by and watch these jobs slip away?

I will comment on one last thing. We have to be quicker to react when an industry like this tells us it is crisis. For some inexplicable reason, the Minister of Finance sat on the duty remission orders that were on his desk for nine months until the very brink of disaster. They were set to expire December 31, 2004, and right into the middle of that month, we were in the House of Commons demanding, begging and pleading with him to reapply these duty remission orders so the industry at least would have a fighting chance.

I see the value of the House of Commons being seized of the issue of protecting this important industry. We should do it for the whole country and we should pay attention to the benefits that a vibrant garment industry brings to Canada.

Textile and Clothing IndustriesPrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleagues for allowing us to split our time on this very important issue. The member for Winnipeg Centre has been working on this issue for a long time. It is important to have the personal touch related to ones constituency involved in this.

As the industry critic for the New Democratic Party, I would like to give credit to the Bloc for bringing the motion forward. Sectorial strategies are very important. There are approximately 93,000 workers employed in this industry which stretches from coast to coast to coast. It is one that is important to recognize in terms of a manufacturing base.

There has been a lot of preoccupation in recent years with the idea of moving to higher technology. Technology is seen as the panacea to moving a business forward. The automotive base is located in my constituency of Windsor West, and it is one of the most important industries in Canada in terms of its history and its future.

However, we need our manufacturing industry to survive for a number of reasons. It provides good employment and opportunities. It also leads to other industries and development, including the high tech industry. It feeds into a whole different area of development, whether through design, or newer technology and computerization or training opportunities so people can move into further employment. That is why sectorial strategies are important. In my opinion the government has missed this.

I want to mention some testimony that was provided in 2003 at finance committee by the president of Western Glove Works. In 2003 the company employed just under 1,300 Canadians. A year later that number was down to 587. Those people had good jobs. They made a decent wage and had a decent standard of living. Those jobs are gone now. We cannot get them back.

Some countries we compete against use all kinds of advantages, whether it be tariffs, or environmental or working conditions that are unfair to our Canadian workers. Our workers are proficient. They are well trained, but unfortunately they have to compete in an unfair market.

I was recently in Washington doing some parliamentary work with other members of Parliament. I was sitting in the office of a Republican member from California who told me that he regretted voting in favour of letting China into the WTO because of fair trade. Being a New Democrat that comment nearly floored me. He asked me how workers in the manufacturing industry in California, Michigan, Ohio were expected to compete when post-end production in some of these other countries was deplorable?

When I say deplorable, I am talking about some of the environmental and waste management subsidies not used because of the lack of scrutiny and regulations conducive to a better environment. How do we compete with those factors?

When the government enters into trade negotiations, it has a responsibility to ensure they are fair. The United States said China “lacked legal grounding” in some of the things it was doing. The States has been pressing this issue as well.

The government does not have a good comprehensive plan. I want to point out one thing in particular. The government has provided $50 million in additional funding to encourage restructuring of the textile industry, which is the 10th largest manufacturing industry in Canada. That is peanuts. When that $50 million is broken down, of the 3,900 businesses, it amounts to $13,000 per establishment. It could hire a part time janitor to help with the restructuring.

There has to be a better comprehensive plan and an ongoing commitment from the government for a comprehensive strategy. The motion is a step in the right direction.

Textile and Clothing IndustriesPrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.


Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to take part in this debate on Motion M-164, which seeks to require the federal government to establish a true plan to support the textile and clothing industries, which are currently going through a very serious crisis. This situation was certainly predictable. However, because the government did not assume its responsibilities in this respect over the past decade, it is only right that additional efforts now be made to help companies and workers in the textile and clothing sectors. Indeed, we must allow them to adjust or change, while taking into consideration the new reality. I am referring more specifically to the lifting of quotas, on January 1—something we knew since 1995 would take place—and, of course, the emergence of China which, as we know, has experienced tremendous growth in recent years. For example, last year, that growth exceeded 9%.

This is why I am very pleased that the hon. member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup proposed this motion asking for an integrated plan. This is extremely important. Such a plan cannot include only a form of assistance to restructure the industry through more productive technology and better occupational training. Of course, such initiatives are necessary, but there must also be measures to allow this transition. The federal government has many options available. However, it has not even announced its intentions yet. It has not made any move.

I should point out that the United States and the European Community announced that they would begin looking at the possibility of initiating the process that would allow them to use safeguards. This is provided under the WTO agreement, more specifically the agreement on textile and clothing. This was also negotiated specifically with China, when it joined the WTO, in 2001. At the time, I put a question to the Minister of International Trade. I wanted to know if, should an uncontrolled invasion of Chinese or other imports in this sector—or, for that matter, in other sectors—occur, the federal Liberal government, the Government of Canada, would use the means available under international rules.

The only response I got from the Minister of International Trade was that it had gone up only 6% in two months. That was two months ago. Now it has gone up considerably in certain very specific sectors. Today we had an opportunity to meet with representatives of the unions and the industry, and were told that there had been some quite major increases in Chinese imports, in particular men's trousers, and undergarments and brassieres, where they exceeded 100%. These figures are for the first four months of 2005.

I would remind hon. members that, according to the clothing and textile sector human resources committee, there have been 4,000 jobs lost since January 1. That is huge. In comparison, the U.S. figure of 12,000 lost jobs is nothing compared to the 4,000 in Canada, given the American market. In the U.S., their government has initiated a process whereby there is a possibility of implementing some potential protective measures.

The European Union is looking at the situation. Some EU member states and some businesses are concerned. The administration of the EU has announced that they have set in motion a process that might lead to protective measures. What about Canada? No word of anything.

Fortunately certain members, such as the hon. member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, want more than just speeches. And goodness knows we have had plenty of those. I have heard plenty of talk from the Liberals, and now we need some very concrete action.

What the hon. member is proposing is a plan that would enable us to meet future challenges. We do not want to have protective measures for our markets indefinitely. I think everyone must agree on that . As we know, these are measures that can be used for three years, so we would give ourselves three years to achieve a proper transition to areas requiring more leading edge technology, while not abandoning a broad range of apparel product areas in which we have performed very well.

I would point out that, when we signed the free trade agreement with the United States and the North American free trade agreement, which Mexico signed, alarmists warned of catastrophes in the textile and clothing sectors. These industries did very well, on the contrary, and we were able to help them face new situations.

There is nothing at the moment, apart from a plan cobbled together after the closure of the six companies in Huntingdon. It was high time to return to the House to propose a plan to supplement the inadequate one cobbled together, which the government presented in December.

After discussion with my colleague for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, we would like to push our proposals a little further. With his consent, and seconded by my colleague from Richmond—Arthabaska, I would like to move the following amendment:

That Motion M-164 be amended by inserting the following after the words “in particular”

by maintaining the tariffs on imported clothing and the types of textiles produced in Canada;

by establishing, as required, quotas on Chinese imports under the protocol on China's accession to the WTO;

by allowing clothing made with Canadian textiles but manufactured abroad to be imported without customs duties;

by imposing stricter rules of origin on less developed countries;

by negotiating Canada's adherence to the agreements concluded between the United States and Central American and Caribbean countries;

by adopting a local purchase policy, where allowed under international agreements;

by asking certain countries to increase their minimum labour standards and environmental standards in order to prevent offshoring to locations with lower costs;

by requiring detailed labels to allow consumers to identify the source of the products they purchase;

by increasing occupational training transfers to Quebec;

by creating an adjustment program for older workers;

by establishing a modernization assistance program for the clothing and textile sectors that would stimulate research and development as well as creation.

I therefore move this amendment, which, in my opinion, expresses in even more detail my colleague's desire for a real assistance plan and an integrated plan of support for the industry and the people working in it today.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to know whether I have any time left. I really wanted to make sure I could introduce my amendment.

Textile and Clothing IndustriesPrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Normally a speech finishes once a member moves an amendment such as that, unless there are some short concluding remarks.

Textile and Clothing IndustriesPrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.


Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I indicated earlier, this amendment gives effect to my hon. colleague's desire to have an integrated plan. Notice as well that these proposals include a number of provisions to help the industry protect itself against certain threats that have already been identified in the past by the industry and the unions, especially at the Standing Committee on Finance.

I hope that all parties will support both the amendment and the main motion.

Textile and Clothing IndustriesPrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The debate is now on the amendment. The hon. member for Laval—Les Îles.

Textile and Clothing IndustriesPrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.


Raymonde Folco Liberal Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to reply to Motion M-164. While I do not support the list of amendments put forward by my hon. colleague from Joliette, this long list of amendments added to the main motion, I would like to speak to the main motion, which I support.

The government recognizes the pressure the Canadian textile and apparel industries are under to become increasingly competitive internationally. The difficulties these industries are currently facing are especially striking, as these are industries that had been sheltered from global competition since the 1950s.

Naturally, Canada is not the only country affected. Many developed countries have also protected their textile and apparel industries. But the gradual shift from a highly protectionist approach to greater trade liberalization marks an important milestone for businesses in the textile and apparel industries in Canada and in other developed countries.

Take for example the import quotas that were imposed during more than 20 years under the Multifiber Arrangement, whereby Canada and other developed countries could impose quotas on imports from countries where wages were low.

As we have heard, the replacement, in 1995, in WTO countries, of the Multifiber Arrangement with the Agreement on Textiles and Apparel—

Textile and Clothing IndustriesPrivate Members' Business

7:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Order. The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired, and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Textile and Clothing IndustriesAdjournment Proceedings

7:20 p.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak once again, as I often have in the House of Commons, on the Windsor--Detroit border. This relates to a question which I asked recently. The Prime Minister, who claims he is from Windsor, refuses to get up in the House of Commons and actually answer questions about the border. It is something which I think should be done. The Minister of Transport answered the question. I will read the question I asked:

Mr. Speaker, many of those jobs are at risk because of Liberal inaction at the Windsor-Detroit border. In fact, the Prime Minister promised in the last election that he would support a made in Windsor solution. He also promised cold hard cash. I would like to know from the finance minister how much of this weekend's announcement is cold hard cash to fix the Windsor border and protect Ontario's economy?

Previously, I have asked questions of the Prime Minister. I asked the Prime Minister a question this week and he refused to answer. The answer from the Minister of Transport was interesting. He said:

I want to tell the hon. member that the cash is there for the projects that have been agreed upon with the province of Ontario by the Government of Canada. We hope to take the city onside. The cash is there and we are ready to spend it anytime.

The fact is that the federal government came to Windsor with the province of Ontario for a photo opportunity. The province decided to put money on the table but the federal government did not. That is counter to everything the Prime Minister has said.

I want to review a few of those remarks. It is important to note the history and the verbal commitment by the Prime Minister which has not translated into actual funds to solve the problems at the most important border crossing in North America. It is a very important border crossing for the community as well.

In January 2004 the Prime Minister promised “cold hard cash” for the people of Windsor when they presented a plan. That was done through city council and the Schwartz report. It was presented to the federal government. The government has yet to issue a statement on its support of that plan.

The Prime Minister said, “The thing is that there is no doubt that the crossing here is the single most important crossing in Canada. And it is a priority”. Here is another quote:

--we are not going to do this unless it really conforms to what the people of the city want....So, now we've done this, now it's a question of determining what exactly, how the city wants to see us do it. This is not going to be imposed. That is an absolute guarantee. This is not going to be imposed.

That was the response the city received after sitting down and developing a plan and presenting it to the federal government. The Prime Minister has not followed through on it. That is discouraging because he promised to listen to the city's residents. They delivered a report and there has been no action of any significant magnitude.

I can point to specific things that are not even controversial. One is the Detroit-Windsor truck ferry. The government makes it pay for customs officials and the location of them, whereas the Ambassador Bridge and the tunnel do not have to pay. The ferry actually is a border solution that the residents and the people of the community support. It takes international truck traffic off our roads and is actually one of the safest crossings in the nation. It cannot advance because it faces unfair business practices because of the federal government.

All the government did in its recent announcement was propose to study the problem. The problem is that they have to pay for things that others do not have to pay for, so how can they compete? This is a good example of the bad behaviour that has been happening at our border.

The Prime Minister also said:

I think that whatever we can do to keep that free flow open between Windsor and Detroit, we've got to do.

The first thing is to start listening to the people in the area. We know how to get trucks off our streets and the economy running.

Textile and Clothing IndustriesAdjournment Proceedings

7:25 p.m.

Scarborough—Agincourt Ontario


Jim Karygiannis LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak about the very important initiatives for the Windsor-Detroit gateway. On April 21, 2005, the Government of Canada announced $129 million in projects as part of phase 2 of the strategy called Let's Get Windsor-Essex Moving. This is a further step toward improving the flow of traffic in the city of Windsor and in Essex county.

A total of $300 million has been allocated to this strategy by the governments of Canada and Ontario. The government has already invested more than $82 million in phase 1 projects that will be completed over the next three years. All Canadians have a stake in the efficiency of this gateway, which handles goods worth $140 billion every year.

We live and work in a just in time economy. Jobs and growth depend on the efficiency of transportation corridors. Companies make their investment decisions and choose their suppliers based on factors such as the reliability of delivery times.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in Windsor. In fact, Windsor is the single most important gateway in Canada. It accounts for over 25% of Canada-U.S. trade by truck. This corridor is vital to the jobs of millions of people throughout Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes.

The Windsor-Detroit gateway is a key priority for the Government of Canada, of which the Let's Get Windsor-Essex Moving strategy is a major component. Our American partners also understand the importance of this gateway.

Last February, the Minister of Transport met with the U.S. transportation secretary, Norman Mineta, to discuss ways to improve the security and the efficiency of gateways, including the need for additional infrastructure to improve traffic flows, new border capacity for the long term and expansion of border processing initiatives to help expedite cross-border traffic. I can assure the House that the U.S. administration also sees Windsor-Detroit as a major priority.

I am very proud of the efforts that the governments of Canada and the United States, as well as Michigan and Ontario, are making on the binational partnership. We are working together on long term solutions that will serve the Windsor-Detroit gateway for the next 30 years.

The binational partnership recently initiated an environmental assessment process that will determine the location for new crossing capacity across the Detroit River. This is a critical part of our planning to deliver additional capacity by 2013.

The binational partnership is working systematically and thoroughly. The partnership is taking every step to make the right decisions and the right choices for the long term.

We also recognize that we need to do more to improve the situation in the short term and the medium term. That is why the government announced on April 21 projects worth $129 million to implement phase 2 of the Let's Get Windsor-Essex Moving strategy.

The projects include environmental assessments and detailed design and feasibility studies for a wide range of initiatives, as well as construction of several road projects and the implementation of intelligent transportation systems. This involves several modes of transportation: trucking, rail and ferry transportation.

These projects build on the recommendations made in the Schwartz report, which provided the government with an excellent foundation for moving ahead. These short term and medium term projects fit well with the long term solutions that will be provided by the partnership. The government will bring the information provided by the Schwartz report into the work of the binational partnership.

The government is looking forward to working with all our partners to move these projects forward. I am sure that the city of Windsor and Essex county will continue to hear from the government over the coming months as the long term planning efforts are advanced through the binational partnership.

Textile and Clothing IndustriesAdjournment Proceedings

7:25 p.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have heard a lot in the House, but I just cannot believe that this is the best government response that can be canned and delivered.

Here is what happened. We had an understanding on phase 1. The province was on side, the federal government apparently was on side and the city was on side to move $82 million worth of projects along. Let me tell members right now that some of the funding has not even been released by this government for those projects. It will not release the funding for them and they are consensus items.

Those government members get up and talk about how much money is coming. I think every community across this country can probably appreciate the fact that Liberals go into their ridings and announce money, but the communities never actually see it delivered. This is a common experience.

Why was it that the ministers came to our community with the province of Ontario people and made announcements? The city was not on side. They had to have the photo opportunity instead of sitting at the table and working on a solution together. They should be embarrassed at doing this again.

Textile and Clothing IndustriesAdjournment Proceedings

7:30 p.m.


Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is the rhetoric we get from the NDP. It is unfortunate that members of the NDP never listen carefully. Let me again wrap up what we are doing.

We have a strategy in place called Let's Get Windsor-Essex Moving. It was announced last March. Over $600 million have been committed to the border infrastructure fund. We are committed to be there for the people of Windsor and Canada to ensure that 25% of transportation and trucks will go along the Windsor-Detroit corridor. It is just in time to provide jobs and make sure that the Canadian people, especially in the area my hon. colleague represents, have work for the long run.