House of Commons Hansard #128 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was workers.


Wage Earner Protection Program ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.


Jim Prentice Conservative Calgary North Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, essentially the Conservative Party had suggested that the protection be capped at the amount of $5,000 per employee, as opposed to $3,000 per employee, which is what we find in the legislation. I do not see why we would not see greater protection for working class Canadians. I think in the House there is a consensus on the kind of protection that everyday people need in the event of a bankruptcy. Three thousand dollars is a start. I do not know why we would not go with the Conservative proposal, which was for $5,000.

Wage Earner Protection Program ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business, as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from June 1 consideration of the motion.

Textile and Clothing IndustriesPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


Marc Boulianne Bloc Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today on the motion of the Bloc Québécois regarding textile and clothing.

People working in these sectors do not know what tomorrow will bring. Closures are rampant and jobs are disappearing.

In the last several years, we have seen a shift toward low wage countries in the production of clothing and textile. This shift has increased with the elimination of the quota system.

In Quebec, for example, where most Canadian clothing and textile industries are located, clothing imports are on the rise and are increasingly coming from emerging and developing countries, particularly China, which captures alone more than 40% of Quebec imports.

The decline of textile and clothing industries will worsen if the current Liberal government does not act in the short and long term by taking rigorous measures.

Statistics show that clothing manufacturing lost a third of its manpower between 2002 and 2005, a loss of almost 20,000 jobs held mostly by female workers. In my region, Chaudière-Appalaches, this represents a loss of 52% of the manpower.

In addition, since the end of the Multifibre Arrangement, the losses have been mounting. People in this sector are very worried. Worry has become the daily lot of people in my riding, who feel more abandoned than ever by the Liberal Party.

Worst of all, the government's response—that is to say, the response of this party—reveals not only its inertia but a lack of humanity. They simply said that the problem was not as bad as all that and we should just try gradually to keep the system as it is.

Since the start of the year, 500 jobs have been lost in my riding of Mégantic—L'Érable. The vast majority of these jobs, as I said earlier, were filled by women, mothers of families, adolescent girls or mothers raising families on their own. But that does not disturb this government at all.

Plants in the RCMs of Granite, Amiante and Érable are closing, while the government remains arrogantly devoid of all humanity. The loss of 500 jobs is really something. I can name a few of the companies where these job losses occurred: Avanti in the Érable area; Canadel in the Lac-Mégantic area; Confection East Broughton; Confection Patry and Keystone. Those are all companies that closed or moved to Mexico. At the last Canadel plant in the Lac-Mégantic area, 185 people lost their jobs.

The government refuses to offer any solutions. The people in my riding have not given up. A little while ago, there was a petition to pressure the government to do something and get some results or solutions. In three weeks, more than 7,000 people signed our petition. This was an extremely important sign of solidarity to show that the government is an accomplice in this piece of our economy that is unfortunately going down. The workers in our region, in our riding, will just turn to other sectors or lose their jobs.

The plant closings in the textile industry are a trend that is not about to stop so long as the government does not take radical action.

There are solutions. The Bloc Québécois has some to propose to the government, but unfortunately it does not listen.

We already said that we need quota monitoring. China is obviously a major problem. Since the quotas were eliminated there has been a complete invasion. In fact, China accounts for almost 40% of our imports. Until we see an aggressive intervention in this regard, China will continue to invade our market.

Under WTO rules, countries can restore quotas for periods of 3 to 5 years. That could reduce imports by about 7%. That would be an extremely important measure that we should take and it is among the solutions put forth by the Bloc.

There is also another practice that should be stopped and it is the importation of foreign-made clothes without any customs duties. We must act against the invasion of foreign products. The U.S. did it. The EU is doing it for linen. Each country is reacting at one time or another to put a stop to the invasion of its market.

At the end of my intervention, I would like to move an amendment.

I move, seconded by the hon. member for Montcalm and with the support of the hon. member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, the following amendment:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “particularly” and substituting the following:

“by allowing clothing made with Canadian textiles but manufactured abroad to be imported without customs duties and by creating an income support program for older workers.”

Textile and Clothing IndustriesPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

This amendment is in order.

The member for Drummond.

Textile and Clothing IndustriesPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.


Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, please allow me first to salute the rigorous work that was done by my colleague from Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, who, since what we may call the textile crisis, has had numerous meetings and visited many regions in Quebec to fully grasp the extent of the problem. The quality of his work is an honour to the Bloc, and I commend him for it.

I am also pleased to take part in this last hour of debate on the amendment proposed by my colleague from Mégantic—L'Érable. This amendment reads as follows:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “particularly” and substituting the following: “by allowing clothing made with Canadian textiles but manufactured abroad to be imported without customs duties and by creating an income support program for older workers.”

This amendment is part of five tools that we tried to propose to the government in order to help our industry, which really needs it.

Must we remind the House that the textile sector has long been one of the jewels of the economy in my riding? This is no longer the case today. Since 1998, the big textile and clothing sector has been losing ground in Drummond. Closures of businesses such as Celanese, Cavalier Textiles and, recently, Denim Swift, have something to do with that.

The Celanese plant closed gradually. It was like a slow death: 5,000 people in all had lost their job in March 2000. Management moved the facilities south of the border. Seven months later, another plant closed: Cavalier Textiles ended its production. In December 2003, Denim Swift management announced that it was ceasing its denim production activities in April 2004, putting 600 people out of work. It cited repercussions of the Caribbean Agreement to justify its announcement.

The industry came together. We brought various stakeholders together around the same table to try to find a solution. I personally intervened to get the then Minister of Industry to delegate a representative from the Economic Development Agency of Canada.

The Denim Swift strategy committee tried everything to get help from the federal government in order to avoid closing the plant, dismantling the facilities and moving the equipment to the United States. The Liberal government disappointed many in our region by choosing to do nothing.

Then, in May 2004, two letters came from the American president of Denim Swift, in which he expressed his concerns about the removal of tariffs and quotas. He indicated to the Minister of Finance that reducing customs duties would cause serious problems for the textile industry. He stressed the fact that removing tariffs would destabilize the market and cause major uncertainty for the future of the industry. It could affect the Drummondville community even more.

I want to share with you one of the questions raised by Mr. Heldrich, president of Denim Swift in the United States:

This government appears to believe that the latest measures they have announced, CATIP and CANtex, are the solutions to the problems. Unfortunately, these programs are no substitute for appropriate and realistic policy for today's context. When our industry has no markets left, what good will these programs be?

The government did not respond. Six months later, during question period, the current Minister of Finance candidly admitted that he never read the letters in question.

Last March, the current minister responsible for the Economic Development Agency of Canada went to Drummond, but was not very forthcoming in his answers to journalists, who questioned him on the famous Caribbean Agreement. Allow me to quote this excerpt from the weekly L'Express site from March 31, 2005.

When asked what his agency intended to do with regard to the Caribbean accord, an international treaty on textiles that has hurt companies like Denim Swift, (the minister) did not say much, mentioning the intervention of numerous ministers in order to resolve the issue.

Shortly thereafter, the Société de développement économique de Drummond published the employment rate for our RCM. Not surprisingly, it was not good. The loss of 600 jobs at the Denim Swift plant in Drummondville hit the regional economy hard. As a result, the textile and clothing industry now represents only 8.9% of all jobs in our RCM, and is the sixth largest provider of manufacturing jobs in the region. In comparison, it represented 12.5% in 2003 and was the second largest.

Those are the facts.

Since the first closure, and still today, the Bloc Québécois has made every effort to try to find practical and responsible solutions to these problems.

What can be done to prevent companies from electing to close their operations here because they can take advantage of low production costs elsewhere due to overly weak social and environmental legislation? An international policy capable of averting low-cost offshoring should also be adopted.

The action plan that the Bloc Québécois presented to the government also contains a measure to encourage the use of textiles from Quebec and Canada by allowing the duty-free entry of clothes made abroad, from textiles of Canadian origin. The government must negotiate Canada's accession to treaties signed by the United States and countries in Central America and the Caribbean. This would open the American market to textile and clothing manufacturers.

We have also spent a lot of time talking about the Chinese invasion following the lifting of tariff barriers on January 1, 2005. As we have said since the beginning, the government can use remedies under international treaties. For example, under the World Trade Organization accession protocol for China, these remedies allow for the adoption of quotas on Chinese imports in sectors where such imports could disrupt the market. Similarly, the government also has the duty to maintain import tariffs on clothing and types of textiles produced in Canada. That way, we can ensure that local manufacturers have sufficient flexibility until they are able to adapt to international competition.

Finally, behind all these figures and statistics are the faces of the men and women who are the first victims of the Liberal government's inaction. Worse yet, not only has the government done nothing to protect their jobs, but it has also proposed nothing concrete to help them out. In this connection, the Bloc's plan proposed that the government increase transfer payments to Quebec for trade training.

Then, for those who are close to retirement age, we continue to call for the creation of an aid package tailored to their reality. When people have spent their entire working lives with one employer, it is not easy to get back into the work force. This is why we believe that restoring POWA, the program for older workers, is essential in order to allow them to bridge the gap between EI payments and their pension cheques.

It is no longer a matter of figures, statistics, ratios, percentage; it is a matter of dignity and equity. These workers are bearing the brunt of our open borders, and of this government's laxness. If the liberalization of markets is good for society as a whole, it strikes me as normal for us, as a society of solidarity, to compensate the victims of the modernization of our economy.

Textile and Clothing IndustriesPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Chatham-Kent—Essex Ontario


Jerry Pickard LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, the motion tabled in the House by the hon. member from across the way includes two issues related specifically to tariff policy. These are: maintaining tariffs on imported clothing and types of textiles produced in Canada; and, allowing clothing made with Canadian textiles but manufactured abroad to be imported without customs duties. I would like to address these two issues and clarify the misunderstandings that may exist regarding the government's position on these policies.

Let me begin with the first issue of maintaining the tariffs on textiles and apparel produced in Canada.

The Canadian apparel and textile industries remain important providers of earned incomes and economic activity in this country. Concentrated in key urban areas, such as Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver, the apparel industry serves as an important employer of new Canadians. The textile industry is a source of skilled employment in communities throughout Quebec, Ontario and the Maritimes.

The Canadian apparel and textile industries have faced and continue to face a challenging global trade environment, one that has encouraged their transformation from national to globally integrated companies and markets. 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 innovative and attractive new products, and through identifying the 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 long competition from low wage countries. The Canadian dollar has demonstrated renewed strength in the last two years, and, most recently, textile and apparel quotas were limited in their entirety at the end of 2004, 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 great challenges.

It should be noted that the tariffs on imports of textiles and apparel are among the highest tariffs in Canada. While the Canadian average tariff is 4%, tariffs on textiles range from 8% to 14%, while the tariff on apparel is in the range of 17% to 18%. These tariffs serve to provide significant protection for the Canadian textile and apparel sectors.

Canada, along with over 144 other WTO members, is currently participating in the Doha round of multilateral trade negotiations and discussions are currently focusing on methods for achieving trade liberalization. The government is keenly aware of Canadian import sensitivities regarding the textile and apparel industries. Any decision to reduce tariffs would be predicated on an overall result that is beneficial for the Canadian economy.

That said, in order to enhance the competitiveness of the Canadian textile and apparel industries, the government announced in December 2004 that it would implement tariff relief on fibres, yarns and apparel fabrics not made in Canada. As a first step in the implementation of this initiative, the Canadian International Trade Tribunal, or CITT, was directed to inquire into and report on the availability of these products from domestic production.

In the course of its inquiry, the tribunal reviewed 591 textile tariff items. Information on textile production was collected by means of questionnaires completed by domestic textile producers and submissions from textile and apparel producers, as well as the Canadian Apparel Federation, the CAF, and the Canadian Textiles Institute, the CIT.

On the basis of the information, the tribunal issued a report on June 30 of this year and recommended the elimination of tariffs on 341 of the tariff items examined. The proposed tariff relief amounts to several million dollars in duty forgone. It is the government's intention to respond to this report as expeditiously as possible. As announced last December, any new tariff relief measures will be made effective January 1 of this year and importers will be able to request a refund of the duties paid since that date.

I would be remiss not to mention the other two elements of the package of competitiveness initiatives announced by the government last December, namely: the provision of $50 million in additional funding to the textile production efficiency component, CANtex, over the next five years to encourage Canadian textile companies to shift to higher value-added products, focus on niche markets and improve productivity; and, the extension of the duty remission orders benefiting textile and apparel manufacturers for five years, gradually phasing out benefits over the final three years.

CANtex encourages companies to improve productivity through projects such as lean manufacturing and the implementation of new information technology and logistics systems. Starting in fiscal year 2005-06, the additional funding is intended to encourage excellence and competitiveness in the manufacture of technical, specialty and industrial textiles, including assisting manufacturers producing textiles for the traditional apparel sector to reorient production to other textile product markets. CANtex will allow companies to apply for up to $3 million in repayable contributions for projects, including equipment and machinery acquisition.

Duty remission programs for textiles and apparel have been a feature of the Canadian tariff policy in these sectors for a number of years. Extending the six remission orders in question will help the textile and apparel industries in transforming their operations to adjust to the new competitive pressures. Over the next few years the government will review the current administration of the duty remission orders program and revise it as necessary to address the problems.

The measures announced last December were in addition to over $70 million in federal support for the textile and apparel industries over the previous two years, and more than tripled the annual level of assistance to these industries.

I am confident that these measures will help Canadian textile and apparel producers to lower costs and to invest in new initiatives and improve productivity as they continue to adapt to the challenges of a global trade environment.

I would like now to turn to the second tariff policy issue in the motion in question concerning the duty-free entry into Canada of apparel made from Canadian textiles. This policy is commonly referred to as outward processing and it is a policy that many of our trading partners, including the United States and the EU, have adopted to assist their textile industries.

Over the past decade, the Canadian government has on several occasions explored the possibility of introducing an outward processing program for textiles with Canadian textile and apparel producers. However these efforts have not come to fruition due to the fact that the two industries have not been able to agree on the details of the program.

The House may recall that in 2002 the government established a joint government-industry working group on textiles and apparels. The industries were represented by the Canadian Apparel Federation and the Canadian Textiles Institute, the two primary trade organizations associated with these industries, as well as by the Union of Needle Trades, Industrial and Textile Employees, representing employees. Government officials from Industry Canada, the Department of Finance, International Trade Canada, Statistics Canada, the then Human Resources Development Canada and the Canada Border Services Agency participated in these meetings.

This joint government-industry working group met on a number of occasions in 2003, during which representatives from the apparel and textile industries submitted recommendations for government action to address the issues related to the long term competitiveness of apparel and textile industries.

One of these recommendations involved implementation of an outward processing program, which the government responded to in February 2004. In this regard, I am pleased to inform the House that the Canadian textile industry has submitted the basis of a proposal for an outward processing program to the Department of Finance. The Canadian Textiles Institute is currently working with the Canadian Apparel Federation on details of the program.

I would again like to thank the House for this opportunity to clarify the government's position on tariff policy elements.

Textile and Clothing IndustriesPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


Lynne Yelich Conservative Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Motion No. 164, which reads as follows:

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....

I recognize that this is a very important issue for the province of Quebec and for the entire Canadian clothing and textile industry. We in the Conservative Party are committed to a real and sustainable industrial development policy.

I looked into the background of this motion. In December 2005, the federal government announced a program for the textile sector to, first of all, eliminate the tariffs on fibre and yarn imports. That was worth up to $15 million a year. There was also the elimination of tariffs on imports of textile inputs used by the apparel industry. That was worth up to $75 million a year. All of this was effective as of January 2005.

Additional funding of $50 million was provided to the textile production efficiency component, better known as CANtex, over the next five years. This encouraged Canadian textile companies to shift to higher value added products, focusing on niche markets and improving productivity. The program extended current duty remission tariff reduction orders benefiting textile and apparel manufacturers for five years, gradually phasing out benefits over the final three years.

This followed much pressure from all of the opposition parties to address the impending January 1, 2005 removal of textiles and clothing quotas. A Bloc day motion on February 9 called for industry support for the textile sector of $50 million over five years as well as an aid program for older workers and the invoking of special safeguard measures under existing trade agreements. The Conservative Party supported this motion. It was passed by the House.

On November 30, 2004, the Subcommittee on International Trade, Trade Disputes and Investment studied the issue. It was here that the Bloc first raised the issue of assigning part of the Technology Partnerships Canada program to research and development, for example, in this industry for the first time.

On November 30, 2004, an NDP concurrence motion was introduced on the issue of duty remission orders, which was consistent with our Conservative call to extend for a further seven years the duty remission orders covering the apparel sector.

My observation is that there is an inherent contradiction between the textile and apparel sectors about government action. The inherent contradiction with the textile industry is the concern that Canada already provides duty free entry for many fabrics used in garments made in Canada. The apparel industry is concerned about duty free entry for some garments that are 100% made outside of Canada. The textile industry struggles to find domestic markets within the apparel industry when garments made in other countries from Canadian fabrics are fully subject to duty.

This observation makes it clear that there is a need for further government-stakeholder consultations to agree to a whole industry approach to this issue.

We favour reducing subsidies to for profit businesses, but the tariff eliminations must be phased. There must be a phased reduction of duty remissions which benefit the domestic industry and the industry support commitments.

We must work with international organizations and individual nations to reduce protectionist policies to secure free trade agreements, and where there is injurious harm caused by a trade action we must have a reasonable chance of winning and/or reversing this action. We must support the industry on a temporary basis until the trade action is resolved.

This approach should not only reduce but eventually eliminate these subsidies to for profit businesses by focusing on improving overall economic growth through facilitating competition, improving productivity, streamlining regulation and fostering innovation in concert with free and fair trade agreements.

Technology Partnership Canada is not really designed to be an adjustment program for established industries, but to encourage new and emerging sectors to maturation. Therefore, it is not clear that the mandate of Technology Partnerships Canada extends or is appropriate for the clothing and textile program and that there may be another government program or service line that would better address this industry's needs.

We support an examination of programs delivered by Human Resources and Development Canada to assist all the workers, not just older workers displaced by changes in the textiles and clothing industries.

The apparel industry is the 10th largest manufacturing sector in Canada and the second largest in the province of Quebec. As of 2002, over 94,000 Canadians have been employed in the apparel industry, with an annual payroll of $2.3 billion. We recognize how important the apparel industry is to Canada and to Quebec.

The Canadian textile industry provides direct employment for almost 50,000 Canadians and indirect jobs for many thousands more.

The differing positions within the textile and apparel industry suggests that more work needs to be done by both the government and stakeholders to agree on a plan for the evolution of this Canadian industry. We have an appreciation that we must have a transition period in place so the industry can be encouraged to adapt to the new market conditions.

Again, I realize it is very important for Quebec and the entire Canadian clothing and textile industry. We are committed to real and sustainable industrial development policy. However, the Technology Partnerships Canada program I do not believe is designed to be an adjustment program for established industries, but to encourage new and emerging sectors to maturation, upon which time the Technology Partnerships Canada loans must be repaid.

Therefore, it is not clear that the mandate of Technology Partnerships Canada program extends or is appropriate for the clothing and textile program and that there may be another government program or service line available which would better address this industry's needs.

We would recommend also that we broaden the directive to the government to seek solutions from Human Resources and Skills Development to approach the labour market rather than narrow the focus on the program.

Textile and Clothing IndustriesPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


Borys Wrzesnewskyj Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on Motion No. 164, especially as it relates to the Government of Canada's work with the textile and clothing industries to help them adapt to new market forces. We are committed to the long term viability of both of these industries. Our goal is to work with them to develop effective ways to address the impacts of the reduction of tariffs and quotas in these sectors.

The Government of Canada realizes that it is the personnel of an industry that faces the brunt of these impacts. We recognize that all workers, including older workers, can and want to continue making a contribution. This is why the Government of Canada, in close collaboration with provinces and territories, has been working to test approaches to assist older workers to find and retain employment.

The Government of Canada invested $50 million in the older workers pilot projects initiative between 1999 and 2005. The initiative was extended until May of 2006 and enriched by $5 million. This will allow the Government of Canada, with provinces and territories, to continue to explore ways to assist older workers in the labour market while identifying key lessons that will inform future policy and programming for older workers.

Quebec has signed an older workers pilot project initiative agreement with the Government of Canada, under this extension, for over $3 million in federal funding to carry out projects for older workers. In addition, under this agreement the Government of Canada has committed to continue to work with the province of Quebec to identify the needs and long term solutions for older workers.

As well, many older workers are assisted through employment programs funded through the Employment Insurance Act. Across the country, 142,000 Canadians aged 45 or over were served in EI funded programs either developing new skills or receiving support through job counselling, resumé writing and job search assistance. Last year over 50,000 workers over the age of 44 in the province of Quebec were assisted.

Our approach to assisting workers means looking to the long term by helping to adapt to changing circumstances so they can continue to stay productive. That is the driving force behind the workplace skills strategy which the Government of Canada announced in the Speech from the Throne. Budget 2005 set aside $125 million over three years to help us work with the provinces, industry and unions to: first, help develop a highly skilled, adaptable and resilient workforce; second, build a more flexible and efficient labour market; and, third, make our workplaces more productive, innovative and competitive.

Sector councils have led the way in anticipating and planning workplace adjustment. Across Canada some 30 national sector councils bring business and labour together in key industries to identify and address human resources and skills issues. Both textile and apparel sectors have used sector councils to help facilitate change.

Last spring Human Resources and Skills Development provided funding of $5.9 million to the Textiles Human Resources Council to improve the skill levels of the textile industry workforce and to encourage young people to consider the textile industry as a viable career option. The Apparel Human Resources Council received more than $3 million to promote the skill level of its existing workforce and to attract and retain a new generation of skilled workers.

I hope the foregoing amplifies how the government is committed to a thriving textile and apparel industry in Canada. By working with industry and showing Canadians that we care, we are building a society of opportunity for years to come.

Textile and Clothing IndustriesPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I too am pleased to speak in favour of the original motion put forward by my colleague opposite regarding an assistance policy for the textile and apparel industries.

Both these industries are dynamic players in the modern Canadian economy. With combined shipments of $13 billion annually, both industries continue to contribute to the Canadian manufacturing landscape. Moreover, both the apparel and textile industries contribute to the social landscape of the country.

The textile industry is a major employer of quality jobs in many smaller towns across Quebec, Ontario and the Maritimes. The apparel industry provides a source of employment for Canadians in cities such as Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and my city of Winnipeg.

Throughout the second half of the 1990s both industries have made efforts to reduce costs, achieve productivity gains and increase their exports to the United States to ensure their continued viability and contribution within the Canadian economy.

Irrespective of these strengths, members on both sides of the House are nevertheless aware that the Canadian textile and apparel industries are currently facing an unprecedented period of trade liberalization. This liberalization is primarily the result of international obligations under the WTO to remove all import quotas on textile and apparel goods on January 1 of this year.

As members of both sides of the House are aware, apparel and textiles did not fall under the normal trading rules of the WTO's general agreement on tariffs and trades for the two decades prior to 1994. Instead, trade in these industries was governed by the multi-fibre arrangement, MFA, which allowed quantitative restrictions on imports of apparel and textiles to be negotiated bilaterally between member countries.

The MFA was replaced in 1995 with the agreement on textiles and clothing. This agreement committed countries to integrate textile and apparel products into the normal GATT trading rules over a 10 year period that began January 1, 1995. Over the last decade three phases of quota removal occurred in 1995, 1998 and the year 2002 with a final reduction occurring on January 1 of this year.

This has been a major change to the global environment in which Canadian apparel and textile industries operate. However, as my hon. colleagues are well aware, the tremendous unknown behind the removal of import quotas have been our domestic industry's ability to compete with increasingly stiff competition from countries such as China and India, particularly with respect to the possible displacement of Canadian exports destined for the U.S. market.

Against such a backdrop, a host of factors that are affecting all sectors of the economy, factors such as new technologies and products, changing consumption patterns, increased global competition and individual decisions taken by Canadian firms are having a significant impact on both these industries. As a result, both the domestic apparel and textile industries are facing considerable restructuring challenges that are affecting their future viability.

While it is true, as I noted earlier, that the Canadian textile and apparel industries have improved their competitiveness in the 1990s through increased exports to the U.S. and the use of technologies and cost reductions, these challenges remain nevertheless.

Let me turn my attention to the critical part of the original motion in question, Motion No. 164 which reads as follows:

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...

As members on this side of the House are aware, the government is not only aware of the particular challenges facing these industries but has taken the necessary steps to strengthen them in face of the economic challenges. In so doing we believe the government is already working toward the objectives highlighted by the hon. member.

Now I will turn my attention to what the government has undertaken.

The most recent set of measures was announced on behalf of the government by the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Industry in December 2004. They were designed to address important policy considerations and remove tariff impediments to the competitiveness of both industries.

Included in these measures was the announcement of additional funding for the textile industry to refocus its production toward innovative products. Specifically, this is an increase of $50 million over five years to the funding support available through the textile production efficiency initiative, better known as CANtex, administered by Industry Canada in cooperation with Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions. In total, the implementation of these measures is making available almost $77 million in direct financial assistance to the textile industry. Increasing CANtex funding will help the Canadian textile manufacturers diversify production toward new product lines and growing niche markets.

Also among the measures announced on December 14, 2004 is the elimination of certain tariffs on the products imported by the textile and apparel industries for further production in Canada. In the case of the textile industry, this action is aimed at eliminating tariffs on certain fibre and yarn imports for Canadian manufacturers to a value of $15 million per year.

To help ensure that this tariff relief does not adversely affect current domestic production, tariffs will remain on imports of fibres, yarns and textiles produced in Canada. Toward this end, the Minister of Finance has asked the Canadian International Trade Tribunal, an independent body responsible for providing advice on economic and tariff related matters, to consult with the textile industry to identify textile products currently produced in Canada.

Finally, the government announced the extension of existing duty remission orders in council that benefit the Canadian textile and apparel manufacturers. These duty remission orders were introduced in the late 1990s as a series of temporary measures to assist domestic textile and apparel firms in adjusting to a more competitive trade environment. The extension of these duty remission orders will allow these benefits to continue to flow to domestic manufacturers.

These measures do not simply stand on their own. In fact, they are only the latest actions taken by the government. They build on a number of transition adjustment measures already announced by the government since 2002, with a value of almost $100 million in support of the apparel and textile industries. These previous measures include: the $33 million Canadian apparel and textile industries program implemented in January 2003; funding of $10.9 million for the Canadian Border Services Agency to monitor illegal transshipments; the February 2004 creation of CANtex, as I mentioned, initially valued at $26.75 million over three years; and previously announced action to reduce tariffs to the apparel industry on textile imports.

The government continues to work to address the challenges facing domestic textile and apparel manufacturers. The measures announced over the past three years demonstrate that the government is listening to the industries and taking the steps it can to help ensure their continued viability in the Canadian economy.

Therefore, I am expressing my support for the original motion. As I have already articulated, the government is and remains committed to listening to the issues raised by both apparel and textile manufacturers, as well as those raised by members on both sides of the House.

Moreover, the government is listening to Canadians, who know that well-paying Canadian jobs in these sectors will only come from the competitive and strong industry these actions are meant to facilitate.

Textile and Clothing IndustriesPrivate Members' Business

September 29th, 2005 / 6:20 p.m.

Beauce Québec


Claude Drouin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister (Rural Communities)

Mr. Speaker, we have noticed that, on both sides of the House, members are dismayed by the situation experienced by women and men throughout the country, particularly in Quebec, in the clothing and textile sectors.

This situation is most difficult and the Government of Canada has acknowledged that. Since 2003, we have invested hundreds of millions of dollars to try to help the industry overcome this crisis. However, the rising Canadian dollar has negatively affected our chances to help the industry. At the same time, we have seen that the European Community has threatened and has even tried to impose quotas on Asia, particularly on China, but that it had to change its mind. These are difficult times.

Some businesses here in Quebec and in Canada have started to move to Asia and in other countries where wages, unfortunately, are very low. We are talking about people earning $1 or $2 an hour or, in some countries, that amount of money for a day of work. The situation is difficult. We must find solutions to help these women and men keep their jobs or find other avenues to ensure that the Canadian economy remains strong.

I am very concerned with this situation. In our province, we have lost 2,000 jobs since 2003, despite the investments that we have made to help increase productivity and find the right niches. However, at the same time, there are businesses in our province, in the clothing sector, that are currently creating jobs. They are rare, but there are some. We must find niche products. We must help the industry and we will do so once again. Both sides of the House must do so relentlessly to help find solutions for the women and men who make a living in the textile and clothing industries.

Textile and Clothing IndustriesPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, I will dedicate this reply to the men and women who work in those industries. In my riding, for instance, we have people working at Consoltex, Cavalier, Industries Troies in Saint-Pamphile, and Cuirs Leco in Saint-Pascal. There are many examples of this living reality.

The points made by the member for Beauce speak to the relevance of the motion. Past efforts have been insufficient. It is critical that an additional approach be put in place showing that the government wants to help these industries which are not necessarily moribund. That is what is important to remember.

The textile industry will have a future, provided that it is given access to markets. We have put forward an amendment to allow textiles produced domestically and intended for use in garment manufacturing abroad to enter Canada duty free. This is a concrete example of what can be done to ensure access to market. This was a suggestion from the industry itself.

Some people in the garment industry are very specialized. For example, Vêtements Peerless Clothing in Montreal specializes in products that are quickly penetrating the American market. This company is able to overcome challenges. But, at the same time, many, many people are losing their jobs. These are workers who are not able to easily return to the labour market. They were excellent workers in their fields. They created quality items that I could never make in a million years.

When people aged 45, 48, 50, or 52 have spent 20 years in the same job and are asked to find another occupation or they decide to travel 50 or 60 kilometres to take another job paying $8 or $9 per hour, and they do the math, taking into consideration the price of fuel and everything else, they find it hard. As a result, we believe that measures are needed to help the industry survive this crisis. However, we must also help those affected to ultimately improve their situation so they can survive.

So what we want is a policy to assist the textile and clothing industries. The federal government has put a few things into place so far. It must be admitted that the two sectors have a great deal of difficulty making joint proposals.The two industries have different objectives. Overall, however, it is the government's responsibility to make choices and to lay the most suitable proposals out on the table.

I hope that the motion, as amended, will receive the support of all parties in the House. This is a sector of industry that has a future if it is assured of markets. This is a sector that has made extraordinary efforts in the past in the area of R&D. The best machines are not enough by themselves; the right to sell what one produces is also necessary. The quality of our workers is not an issue; there has to be a right to service the markets.

There is another very concrete example. In the first years of NAFTA, Canadian textile products invaded the American market. Since then, the United States have signed agreements with Caribbean countries allowing them to take American textiles, do the sewing in the Caribbean and return the garments to the American market without paying custom duties. This killed the Canadian textile market. This is the type of measure that we would like the government to push. Labour is available. These people are capable, they have made a living in that industry and they deserve adequate support.

In conclusion, I invite all parties to read again the motion as amended. I know that the government felt there were too many suggestions in the initial amendment. The President declared it out of order. I respect his decision. However, at this point, all members of this House have to vote on the new wording of the amendment. Generally speaking, this amendment calls for a policy to support both the textile and apparel industries, and specifies two areas of support. As I mentioned earlier, these have to do with textiles used in garments manufactured abroad and income support programs for older workers.

A number of additional measures can be included in a policy. All that is already included in the motion. I hope that, for members who have this type of industry in their riding, it will be very clear when they vote on the motion. As for the others, they ought to know that we are in a changing world. What happens in a specific industry can happen in two, three or five years in another industry. We have to be proactive. These two industries deserve our support.

Textile and Clothing IndustriesPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The question is on the amendment.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the amendment?

Textile and Clothing IndustriesPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members


Textile and Clothing IndustriesPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members


Textile and Clothing IndustriesPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

All those in favour of the amendment will please say yea.

Textile and Clothing IndustriesPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members


Textile and Clothing IndustriesPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

All those opposed will please say nay.

Textile and Clothing IndustriesPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members


Textile and Clothing IndustriesPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Textile and Clothing IndustriesPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Pursuant to Standing Order 93 the division stands deferred until Wednesday, October 5, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

It being 6:32 p.m. this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:32 p.m.)