This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #113 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was nations.

Topics

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

I have one box of several boxes of petitions all dealing with one subject which I would like to present to the House today. Discussions have taken place and I believe you would find unanimous consent to allow me to present them at this time. It would be really convenient if the House would agree to allow me to do it at this time. It would only take a minute.

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Does the hon. member have unanimous consent?

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Animal CrueltyPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to present four petitions which all deal with the same subject matter.

This petition was spearheaded by Tamara Chaney from Didsbury, Alberta and it contains 111,896 signatures from all across Canada, but predominantly from my riding of Wild Rose.

The petitioners urge Parliament to update our current laws with regard to animal welfare, in other words, toughen up our current animal cruelty laws, and that it be known as the Daisy Duke bill in memory of a pup killed in my riding.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:35 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, obviously I am very pleased to speak today to the fifth report of the Standing Committee on International Trade. This report calls on the federal government:

—to stem the current market disruption, in specific categories, in the Canadian apparel industry, by immediately invoking Article 242 of China's accession protocol to the WTO and putting in place restrictions or safeguards on the growth of specific categories of apparel imports from China.

The report also calls on the federal government to begin bilateral negotiations with China, similar to those undertaken by the United States and the European Union, to reach an agreement on imports of clothing and textiles.

This motion, which was moved by the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster and which the Bloc Québécois obviously supports, was adopted by the committee on December 12, 2006 and its purpose is to invoke Article 242 of China's accession protocol to the WTO in order to prevent the complete disruption of our industry.

Although imposing quotas on imports from WTO member countries is generally prohibited, there is nonetheless an exception to this rule and that is China. When China joined the WTO in December 2001, the agreement was that WTO members could limit the increase of Chinese imports until December 2008. This safeguard helps curb imports in case of market disruption caused by the export of Chinese textiles. This is quite precisely what is happening in the clothing industry in Quebec and Canada, which has been rather disastrous in the past few years. The following are some statistics that clearly show the issues in and importance of this report.

In Canada, the number of employees went from 101,000 to 70,000 between 2000 and 2005, which is a 31% decrease. Among the employees working in production, the decrease was 37%, going from 89,000 to 57,000. Quebec has been the hardest hit: 40% of jobs in this industry have been lost and the industry has just 36,000 employees left compared to 60,000 in 2000 and 90,000 in 1998. This is the sharpest decline of all the industry sectors in Quebec.

This decline in employment was more marked in Quebec than anywhere else in Canada. Between 1987 and 2005, Quebec's share of Canada's textile labour force dropped from 56% to 47%. Between 1995 and 2005, that industry dropped from first place to eighth place in terms of all manufacturing jobs in Quebec. Employment in the textile industry in relation to the entire manufacturing industry dropped from 14% to 6%.

As we all can see, this sector has suffered tremendous losses, and this is a very important sector for Quebec. Yet, as I have mentioned, although quotas on imports from WTO member countries are prohibited, there is one important exception to this rule, and that is China.

The United States and the European Union used the special safeguarding measure to ensure that Chinese clothing imports would not destroy their industry. But so far, Canada still refuses to do so. Why? We must ask ourselves some questions.

When in power, the Liberal Party did nothing to support the textile industry. During the last election campaign, the Conservatives promised to act, but the federal government still refuses to take action.

I would like to point out that this motion was adopted by the majority of committee members. The Bloc Québécois, the NDP and the Liberals also voted in favour of this motion. Only the Conservatives, who have forgotten the promises they made to Quebeckers during the last election campaign, did not support this motion.

Not once in the past has the federal government used the safeguarding measures, although they are set out in trade agreements. Never has the federal government tried to enter into discussion with China to reach an agreement to limit the increases in Chinese imports, which can be done in the context of a bilateral agreement, as indicated in the motion.

The Conservatives, although they used to support this type of measure, finally decided, once in power, to oppose this motion. We should not really be surprised, since, for them, there is no room for government intervention.

The Standing Committee on International Trade is talking about totally free trade, with no social protection for workers affected by industry closures. That is the free market. The Conservatives, who are slightly doctrinaire about this, believe that they can fix everything and that any government intervention will only prevent the free market from producing those benefits. They are talking about protectionist measures. We are not talking about protectionist measures, but about protecting our industries temporarily to make them more competitive internationally. It is not a question of overprotecting our industries. We just want to protect certain jobs and become more competitive by taking temporary measures.

We must not forget that the Minister of Industry comes from the Montreal Economic Institute, a right-wing, doctrinaire lobby that believes the federal government should take no action to avoid having jobs threatened by Chinese competition move abroad.

Like the government, this report by the Montreal Economic Institute has seriously misjudged the serious impact of Chinese competition on the textile and clothing industries. Nevertheless, the Conservatives should understand that the safeguards are not permanent protectionist measures, as I have already mentioned, that will prevent the industries from having to modernize. They are temporary measures designed to prevent the industries from crumbling before they have time to modernize. Unfortunately, the former Liberal government and the current Conservative government have not understood the purpose and importance of these measures.

I believe that if Quebec had been a sovereign nation, it would have protected its workers. But, as things stand, it is the federal government's responsibility to speed up the modernization of the industry and create the market conditions conducive to modernization. It has the money. It is responsible for these international agreements, but it is not doing anything.

The decline of the textile and clothing industries is not inevitable, but the business environment in which these industries operate has changed so rapidly that they need help to modernize more quickly. Left to their own devices, they will not be able to keep up and will continue declining. The government must help them modernize and convert more quickly with assistance programs, new equipment, research and development, and design services.

At the same time, the safeguards provided in trade agreements to give the industries the few years of respite that they need to change their focus have to be enforced.

That is precisely what this report approved by the Standing Committee on International Trade is all about.

We have to call on the federal government to take action to support our apparel and textile industry, as promised during the last election campaign. It is important to recall this because, so far, the ministers of Industry and International Trade have never taken action or used the safeguards provided in trade agreements, which are available to them.

Moreover, at no time has the government endeavoured to improve the aid packages to speed up the industry's modernization. The support program made up of the CATIP and the CANtex is simply insufficient. We did put many questions to the government during the last Parliament, as we are doing today, to bring about some improvement. The allowable maximum of $100,000 is not even enough to allow industries to renew their production equipment.

The solutions to these many problems are known to and recognized by everyone who is concerned about the future of these industries. All that is missing is the will of the government.

In fact, the Bloc Québécois has repeatedly suggested solutions and prompted Parliament to discuss issues that the government would rather have kept under wraps.

I would like to take a moment to discuss a few of these proposed measures.

Introducing incentives to encourage the use of Quebec and Canadian textiles is a simple measure that could enable the textiles sector to keep jobs and could help the apparel sector too.

We have to help workers whose employers close up shop. The older workers assistance program everyone talks about so much must be universal and must help all workers in Quebec and Canada. People who lose their jobs at 54, 55 or 56 are not in a position to retrain. Often, those who do retrain retire soon afterward. Today's question period was enlightening on that subject.

We could also increase transfers to Quebec to fund job training for younger workers who would also benefit from new employment opportunities because of that training. We could use the safeguards in the trade agreements by putting quotas on imports from China under that country's WTO accession protocol.

As I said earlier, when China joined the WTO, there was a provision allowing countries to limit the increase in Chinese imports by implementing temporary quotas to keep their industries from being decimated by the industrial giant.

The United States and the European Union had talks with China and agreed to cap increases in Chinese textile and apparel imports.

In Canada, both Liberal and Conservative governments sat idly by, which explains the results we are seeing today.

Today we are talking about textiles and apparel, but we could just as well be talking about the entire manufacturing sector—the automobile sector, the aerospace sector, the furniture sector—which the federal government has abandoned.

Let us look at what is happening: last week, Saint-Étienne-de-Lauzon's Shermag and Disraeli factories closed for good. Today, Canadel, one of Quebec's largest furniture manufacturers, which operates in my constituency, let 46 workers go.

In the last five years, the number of employees in the furniture sector has fallen from 1,200 to 700.

According to the company's general manager and owner, Mr. Devault, the 15% decrease in sales is due to Asian competition.

I mention this because the government's lack of action in the textile sector should not cross over to the furniture sector. I believe we should take action on behalf of the textile industry as well as many other manufacturing sectors to counter Asian competition.

According to some articles, Mr. Devault of Canadel stated that a standard piece of his company's furniture sells for US$2,298 while a similar Chinese offering sells for $497. How can you compete?

We must modernize, improve our technologies and give our industries a chance to gain a competitive edge, even in the Asian market. We could even capture a portion of that market because there is an emerging middle class in those countries and there are some who would be interested in buying our furniture. We must support our industry. It is the ineffectiveness of the current government that makes it seem like no one cares that 50,000 jobs have been lost in the textile sector. In the past few years, 5,000 jobs have been lost in the furniture sector. The same goes for other sectors, such as the aerospace and automobile industries.

We have the means to support our companies. For this reason we are supporting the motion submitted to the Standing Committee on International Trade to support the textile industry. I am urging the government to support other sectors as well.

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Jean-Claude D'Amours Liberal Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for this presentation. The entire issue of clothing and textiles is very important for a number of ridings in the country. I can certainly say that a riding like the one I represent, Madawaska—Restigouche, experienced very significant economic development in the past because of clothing and textiles.

Over the years, situations have arisen. We know that the Chinese market has certainly hurt the industries and the economic development of our ridings.

When we look at the situation, we see how important is it to find a way to help the people, industries and workers in each of our ridings. For my riding it is extremely important to find a solution that will allow us to keep these jobs and not just for now, but for the long term. To be able to do so, this motion, which calls for Article 242 of China's accession protocol to the World Trade Organization to be invoked, is very important.

When this government was in the opposition, it had a very different position. Today, it seems that the government is taking a different direction when it comes to the market. When we look at the economic situation of the clothing and textile industries, we see that the needs are tremendous. In my colleague's province, many jobs have been lost. In my riding, hundreds and hundreds of jobs have been lost. Furthermore, hundreds and hundreds of jobs are currently on the line.

Does my colleague recognize, as I do, that we need to look at what is going on with this government: the Conservatives claim that the market will stabilize things, that this is a global crisis and a situation to which businesses and industry will have to adapt. Those who are in this situation know this is somewhat contradictory; this is the opposite of economic development and the opposite of keeping jobs in our ridings.

Does my colleague from the Bloc recognize, as I do, that the government is saying that it will allow the market to regulate itself, that jobs will be lost and that one day, perhaps, it might be able to turn around and find help for these people?

Why must we wait for such situations to occur before helping our workers? Today, they are working. To those who have already lost their job, it is hard to say that we will take action to fix problems of the past. However, we can look towards the future.

The only decision that this government seems to want to make is to look back at the past and never act. This government, which calls itself progressive—although I highly doubt it—wants to rely on market rules alone to ensure that the industry survives. There is no way. We must be able to help our employers and our workers.

When we look at the situation, it is clear that the example of China is a reality. The product enters Canada at a very low cost, because Chinese workers are paid a lower salary and do not have the same quality of life as Canadian workers. We must be able to support the clothing and textile industry so that our employees, our workers, continue to enjoy excellent benefits and continue to receive the support needed to ensure the industry's survival.

Is it not ironic that the government says that the market will regulate itself, while it is abandoning workers? It is virtually unacceptable to always here the same thing, time and time again, from one situation to the next, when it comes to the lumber or furniture industry—Shermag has two industries in the riding of Madawaska—Restigouche—or the auto industry. These situations have recently become all too common. At the end of the day, the government does absolutely nothing.

Does my hon. colleague recognize, as I do, that the government says that it will leave the market alone and that, if jobs are lost, that will be that—which is unacceptable?

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:55 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my Liberal colleague's input and his concern about supporting our industries and preserving our jobs.

The Conservative Party's economic laissez-faire approach must stop. Between 2000 and 2005, 40% of the jobs in the textile sector disappeared.

It used to be that the Liberal Party occupied the seats opposite. We asked the Liberals for the same safeguards to support the textile industry, but to no avail. Plants closed, as hon. members know. My colleague from Huntingdon and I called for improvements to the CANtex program. We asked for POWA assistance for our workers. We asked for safeguards, but the Liberal government did nothing. Today, the Conservative Party is doing nothing.

We hope that the future will be brighter with the Liberal Party if it ever regains power, because it was extremely ineffective.

The Conservative government is no more effective. It has the means to take action, thanks to the budget surplus. The CANtex program could be improved. There are measures that could help the industry turn around temporarily, modernize and increase productivity. The Standing Committee on Industry, Sciences and Technology recently released a report containing 22 recommendations to support the manufacturing industry. What is the government waiting for to act? We are all wondering.

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from the Bloc Québécois for his reasoned debate on this very important issue.

As he may have heard, my mother-in-law worked in a textile plant in downtown Montreal. She was very proud of that work. When I talk to her, she is always upset that all those people no longer have the opportunity to work there. The plant has shut down because those jobs have been sent offshore.

Shipbuilding in Lévis, Quebec is another industry that is in trouble. Valleyfield, another beautiful community in Quebec, is in trouble. The forestry industry is in trouble, et cetera, et cetera.

Does the member have any confidence that the government will do the right thing and honour the committee's decision in moving this very important issue forward?

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, if this Conservative government is planning to act to support industry and the manufacturing sector, now is the time. It is high time the government did something. That is what Quebec is waiting for.

The government made lots of election promises during the last campaign. It wanted to win seats in Quebec. It made fantastic promises, but it has not done a thing since then.

By refusing to help workers and support social programs and policies, the Conservative government is attacking Quebec values. Quebeckers will not accept that.

As we all know, the government cut social programs for literacy. It can help people through an older workers assistance program. It cut women's programs. Quebec needs its social programs and policies. More than anything, it must take control of its own powers and its economic and social tools so that it can achieve sovereignty. That would be the best solution for us.

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to enter the debate on this very important issue.

I would remind the House of words that were spoken by a gentleman for whom I have great respect, who is now the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development. He used to be the finance critic for the Reform-Alliance-Conservative party. I came to the House in 1997, but he said something in 1998 when he was chastising the then Liberal government about the Canada pension plan, EI and all of the support programs that help pensioners and workers. He said that the best social program is a job; that the best thing we can give Canadians is a full time job. He was absolutely right. When Canadians have jobs that they like and can depend on to look after their families, they have pride and dignity.

Mr. Speaker, as you know, my family came to Canada in 1956 and settled on the west coast in Vancouver. My brother worked in a lumber mill in the same job for almost 45 years. My dad worked in upholstery and was a postman. My mom and dad ran a group home for many years in Richmond and Burnaby, B.C.

I was very proud when I got my first full time job as a fibreglass worker at Lansair at the south airport in Vancouver. I eventually worked at a hotel, then at Canadian Airlines and now I am a member of Parliament. I have had the good fortune of having a job, being able to look after the financial needs of myself and my wife and children as well. I have been very blessed having lived in Vancouver, the Yukon and now in Nova Scotia, that I have not yet lost a job. I have moved to follow my work but I have not yet lost a job.

I can only imagine the tragedy and travesty for people who live in mill towns and smaller communities where the mill shuts down, like in Red Rock, Ontario. Their livelihoods are gone. They say goodbye to their friends and families, sell their homes and off they go. I know all too well what happened to the fishing communities in the great province of Newfoundland and Labrador and the other maritime and Atlantic provinces when the northern cod fishery collapsed. Thousands of people lost their jobs.

Now we are losing jobs because of what we consider unfair trade deals with one of the largest economies on the planet, which is China.

China's economy, by all accounts, is doing remarkably well. There has been a huge transformation in China over the last 20 to 30 years. The federal government still gives CIDA money to China. The Canadian International Development Agency still gives money to the developing nation of China, one of the largest economies on the planet. A member from Calgary often raised the question of why the government continued to give CIDA money to China. That is a debate we can have in the near future.

We all know that China does not have environmental, human rights and workers legislation. It does not have EI, workers compensation, health and safety standards, et cetera. It does not have those things for its workers. Also, the salaries that workers are paid in China are nowhere near the salaries paid in Canada. The former Liberal government and the current Conservative government tell the workers, communities and businesses in Canada that they have to compete with that.

Mr. Broadbent, the former leader of the NDP, said very clearly that it is not free trade. It is not even fair trade. It is unfair trade when we compete with a country that has no respect for human rights, environmental or labour standards or any other aspects that we in Canada in many cases take for granted.

The rights of workers in Canada did not come about because of the goodness and graciousness of governments. They came about because of the hard work of people on the picket lines, of people who died on the picket lines. Mr. Speaker, you of all people know very well that the Winnipeg general strike was a turning point in this country. I do not mean to say that you were there at the time, but you are fully aware of it.

One of the great leaders of our party, J.S. Woodsworth, wrote about how that strike spurred him and others on to a more socially democratic way of life so that workers could have the benefits to look after their families. It is now 2007 and the threat is competing with countries that are not balanced in any way when it comes to equality of fair trade.

I have absolutely nothing against Chinese workers, their families or the government in any way, but it would be nice to know that China was on the same level footing as we in terms of the environment, human rights, worker safety, worker salary, et cetera, but it is not and the committee, therefore, came up with a motion and we are asking the government to honour it. We will have the opportunity very soon to see whether it wants to accept the will of Parliament.

I want to go back a bit and go over the Conservative track record over the last 13 months. The government rallied and railed against the previous government for appointing its friends to various positions. What is one of the first things it did? Michael Fortier, an unelected Conservative fundraiser, or bagman some people say, was put into the Senate and made a cabinet minister.

The next thing it did, almost at lightening speed, was accept the first of many floor crossers. A gentleman who was from Vancouver Kingsway was a Liberal member at 10 a.m. and became a Conservative cabinet minister at 11 a.m.

Then, during the campaign, the Conservatives wrote a letter on the Prime Minister's behalf to a widow of a veteran in Cape Breton and said that if the Conservatives formed the government, they would extend VIP services to all widows of veterans, regardless of time of death or whether they applied. The word “immediately” was in there.

Then they sent a letter out to Danny Williams, the premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, basically reflecting the motion that the now Minister of Fisheries presented when he was in opposition. In a motion brought forward by the Conservatives, he said that the Conservatives would invoke custodial management on the nose and tail of the Grand Bank and Flemish Cap immediately.

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

I hesitate to interrupt the hon. member but the motion does have to do with China's accession to the WTO and restrictions or safeguards on the growth of specific categories of apparel imports from China.

So far the member has gone from veterans affairs to fisheries and the liturgy I am sure will continue, but I would caution the hon. member to try to be relevant and come back to the motion every once in a while.

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:20 p.m.

Kootenay—Columbia B.C.

Conservative

Jim Abbott ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if my friend would like to come a bit closer to some reality. We are talking about textiles. He has brought in a couple of times the issue of his mother and the closeness that he feels about this. I could speak about my aunt who was also in the textile business. We all understand that aspect of it. Would he not agree that perhaps there is a responsibility on the part of not just the 308 members of Parliament here, but on the part of all 31 million Canadians?

Wal-Mart stores are not empty. They are filled with people who are making buying choices. Is the member saying that when an individual has a choice between a $95 pair of shoes made in China or a $300 pair of shoes made in Canada that the choice should be gone? Is he suggesting that we should put up barriers and that Gap should be unable to sell its products here? Is there not a responsibility on the part of all Canadian consumers to make these kinds of judgments?

On a vaguely related issue of fair trade, I point out to him, for example, coffee. Canadians can walk into a Safeway or a Loeb or whatever the store and buy some coffee with no questions asked. They can get it for $1 a pound or whatever the amount is. On the other hand, they will pay $3 or $4 a pound for fair trade coffee. Canadians are making these choices because they are educating themselves about the whole situation with respect to coffee.

Yes, there is a place for the government—

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:20 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Order, please. The member has had a couple of minutes now. There are a number of people who want to ask questions.

The hon. member for Sackville--Eastern Shore.

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, to correct the member, it was my mother-in-law who worked in that plant.

He is absolutely right, but I ask him a question right back. What is the federal government doing to educate Canadians to buy Canadian first? When was the last time there was any kind of advertising to buy locally first? The province of Nova Scotia is doing that. The member knows as well as I that it is very difficult to compete with a major competitor like Wal-Mart. The member is right. The onus is on Canadians, whether it be the environment, their purchasing power, or whatever.

He talked about $300 shoes. I would sure like to know who makes running shoes in Canada any more. I have looked for many months and I cannot find them. If I could find them, I would certainly give them a good shot.

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I like parts of the member's speech, in particular the breadth of the issues about which he spoke. There is a number of things with which we disagree.

I want to offer my friend a number of suggestions, and I would appreciate his input on them. We both share ridings and constituencies that are on coasts. My riding is on the west coast; his is on the east coast.

My first suggestion deals with shipbuilding. I think the government ought to adopt this solution. Why does the government not take the import tax on ships purchased abroad and use that with a combined fund, to which the private sector can contribute, to help refurbish and upgrade our shipbuilding infrastructure? In other words, the government should take that import tax and rather than dump it into general revenues, put it into a shipbuilding restructuring infrastructure program that would have an equal amount of money from the private sector.

My second question deals with immigrants who are in Canada illegally and who have been here for a long time. Would his party approve of those immigrants being able to access work permits, renewable on a yearly basis? Then those people can get out from the cold, start paying taxes and ultimately, if they are able to do this over a period of years, they can apply to become citizens and be a part of our wonderful country?

My last question is on the issue of China. Is he in favour of erecting trade barriers against China? The Liberal Party is not in favour of that. It would violate many of our international agreements.

Does the hon. member think the government should invest in the elements of productivity, such as education, access to education, infrastructure, a cities agenda, which we adopted, that would allow us to make the strategic investments with other players to improve our productivity?

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, first, I would ensure that the government did not give into the request of B.C. shipbuilders and knock the export tariff off those ferries. We should keep the export tariff and use the money in a proactive way as mentioned by the member. I do not have a major problem with that. It is something to look into.

The second question was about trade barriers against China. I never said we should have trade barriers against China. I asked to use the same principles the WTO gave us. My colleague from Winnipeg said it very clearly. It was on the table. We could have had phased in targets over the time. I think he was talking about 7.5%.

The United States and the EU did it. We are asking for the same thing to be done in Canada. It is still not too late to do that. That is within the trade agreements. I did not make that up. The WTO has that.

Why can we not do what other countries have done? I never once said we should have trade barriers against China. I said we should work with China and other countries to develop an economy worldwide where all workers are lifted up, not just some of them

Because I have been rambling on, I forget his third question, but I will talk to him privately on that.

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for Sackville—Eastern Shore for taking what is a complex issue, bringing it down to earth and relating how it affects Canadian workers.

Part of the problem with the unfair competitive advantage that China enjoys and the reason the WTO has agreed there should be phased in safeguards is the unfair competitive advantage on labour standards, the very issue about which my colleague spoke.

China does not allow unions and free collective bargaining. Chinese businesses and manufacturers manipulate currency in an unfair way that we would never tolerate here. Currency manipulation is a sleazy tactic. The world agrees that China should not be doing it. The WTO, in trying to create a level playing field for global trade, has agreed that if we are to let China in we have to phase in the impact to the domestic market.

The Liberals did not avail themselves of that opportunity. I see the former minister of international trade here. How in God's name could they leave that on the table when everyone else immediately saw the need? China agreed there was a need or else it would devastate the local domestic manufacturing sector. Has anyone ever told the former minister what the rationale could possibly have been on the Liberal's part to not avail themselves of this protection and stand up for Canadian workers and our garment industry?

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:30 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Winnipeg is absolutely correct. A lot of my venom, more or less, was at the current government, but in fairness a lot of these problems existed with the previous government.

The so-called new government has an opportunity to correct that, to fix it, to follow the rules. The Conservatives promised that they would. They rant and rave about how bad this is, but that is one of the promises they made.

When you cut me off, Mr. Speaker, and rightfully so, I wanted to do the comparisons of all the other promises they failed to keep. It is true that the previous government absolutely screwed up big time. It put Canadian workers at the altar of the sacrifice.

However, how do we compete with a country where workers do not even get to vote for their own government? How do we compete with a country where workers cannot have the right to health and safety standards? How do we compete with a country where 5,000 coal miners on average die every year? How do we compete with a country like that? We do not. We have to work with them to ensure that human rights, workers' rights, environmental standards, et cetera are up and then negotiate trade deals that are fair for both countries.

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this debate today on the motion for concurrence in the House of Commons committee report to provide some relief to Canada's apparel and textile industries.

I had the great pleasure, in 2004, of working as a member of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance when we did a very exhaustive study of the textile and apparel industry and came out with our report in October. The report was entitled “Duty Remission and Zero-rating of Tariffs on Textile Inputs: the Canadian Apparel Industry”.

As a result of that report and other requests, the minister of finance at the time, the member for Wascana, brought in a very complete package to try to assist the apparel and textile industries in Canada to cope with the competition arising offshore and to try to give them a transition whereby they could become more productive and more accommodating to that competitive environment.

When China acceded to the World Trade Organization, it committed to develop a market economy. In Canada, we view that on a sectoral basis, guided by the Special Import Measures Act, SIMA, and we review by sector whether a market economy exists, in this particular case in China.

I have had some experience working on some issues that came up with respect to bicycles and barbecues. We had a similar problem. Industries in China are hugely competitive in terms of costs. Some of that is driven by low wage costs. I think we have to distill and separate out of this some of the issues and how we go about dealing with them.

If we as Canadians have concerns around low wages in China, there are mechanisms to try to deal with that through our meetings with the Chinese. I believe firmly that we should be engaged with the People's Republic of China and that the best way to get change is to trade and invest with China, with some restrictions.

I am not a very keen supporter of state-owned enterprises buying up our natural resource companies, and I have spoken out about that on a couple of occasions, but generally speaking we should be open to trade and investment with countries such as the People's Republic of China. I think that over the medium term to the long term that is how we are going to be able to influence policies like low wages or the employment of children and the like.

There is a very interesting book that I would recommend to many members of the House. It was written by a gentleman by the name of Jeffrey Sachs. Jeffrey Sachs is the United Nations coordinator with respect to the millennium development goals. Recently I read his book. Unfortunately, I do not remember the title.

In that book, he talks about the use of child labour and the use of very coercive labour techniques in terms of hours of work and conditions of employment. This gentleman is responsible for monitoring the millennium development goals on behalf of the United Nations, and what he concludes is that while we should argue for improvements, the reality is that there are so many more people employed who otherwise would not have any income whatsoever. For the woman or the young child working in a small village in China, India or Bangladesh, even though the wage to us seems totally unfair and unreasonable sometimes, without it, that person might not be able to look after their children or have any standard of living whatsoever.

So while we realize that the competitive positioning of China right now is very favourable, not only for reasons of low wages but for the way it is using technology and the way it is capitalizing on some of its competitive and comparative advantages, we all know what is happening.

It is the concept of what is called offshoring. This is happening around the world. We are losing many industries to countries such as India and China. Rather than arguing that it should not be happening, we have to adapt and respond to that. This is a reality.

I have heard a lot of critiquing of what our Liberal government did or did not do, but I would like to set the record straight. Our government increased the Cantex funding. Cantex is a program that encourages companies to improve productivity through projects such as lean manufacturing and the implementation of new information technology and logistics systems.

Back in 2004, the Liberal government increased funding to Cantex by more than $70 million over five years. That additional funding was to assist the textile and apparel industries to become more competitive and to respond to the competitive pressures from countries such as China.

If we look at the textile and apparel industries, we see that they cut somewhat along these lines. There is a very strong textile industry in Quebec. There is some textile industry in Ontario as well, but Ontario has had quite a strong presence in the apparel industry. Quebec does as well.

If we look at the apparel industry, we see that its main objective is to have cheap raw materials, so there is a creative tension between the apparel industry and the textile industry. The textile industry wants to compete against countries such as China, India and Bangladesh. The apparel industry wants to get the cheapest raw materials it can. Within all that, though, they do work together. There are some meetings of the minds and some accommodation is made. They generally have been supportive of a number of programs.

The apparel industry, for example, has the benefit of the duty remission orders. The duty remission orders were introduced in 1997-98 to give textile and apparel companies relief from some duties. The government had previously sunsetted them. They were about to expire in 2004. Our government decided to extend them but to sunset them to provide the industry with a little more time to adapt to this new competitive reality. I was very happy that we did so.

As part of that announcement in 2004, we also eliminated the tariff on fibre and yarn imports, which was worth about $50 million a year, and on imports of textile imports used by the apparel industry, which was worth up to $75 million a year. That was effective as of January 2005.

These were efforts to try to assist Canada's textile and apparel industries to adapt to the increasing competition from countries such as China, India and Bangladesh, but there is also the reality that this is a new world and this kind of competition is here to stay. In fact, under the Doha round and under commitments that our federal government has made, there is I think an inclination to reduce tariffs so that those in the developing world can actually sell their products, uplift their economies and help alleviate poverty in their home countries.

There is a careful balance here. Do we allow all these imports from countries in the developing world? In the agricultural sector, it is a very big issue. Do we allow this surge in imports from countries in the developing world so they can lift their economies, provide more employment for their people and address poverty but also create some economic destabilization in this part of the world?

These are difficult questions, but there are remedies available to countries where there is huge disruption. The gist of this motion is to say that the kind of competition coming from China is causing a huge disruption in the sector and the committee would like to bring in safeguards to deal with that.

To go back to the bicycle and barbecue example, there were protectionist tariffs on bicycles and barbecues. With commitments made by our government, and in fact by governments all around the world, once we were convinced that China was a market economy, those tariffs would come down. For example, in the case of bicycles, CCM and other companies located in Ontario and companies in Quebec were very concerned that if those tariffs were eliminated completely there would be a flood of bicycles into the market, and the jobs and the economy activity that goes with them would be threatened.

There was a lot of pressure on the government, but the issue was a basic one. Are we satisfied as a government that in China there is a market economy as it relates to bicycles? I will use the bicycle example first. There were many visits by Canadian officials to the People's Republic of China to ascertain whether there was a market economy functioning in the sector of bicycles.

We need to be careful because subsidies and dumping are different issues. There are other remedies available. In terms of these protectionist tariffs that Canada had on bicycles, the issue was whether China was operating as a market economy with respect to the market for bicycles.

What the officials concluded after many trips back and forth and by working with local missions was that the bicycle market was operating much like a market economy. In other words, the government was not dictating prices. That is largely the test: is the government involved in setting domestic or export prices? They concluded that it was not.

Having worked in China as a business person and having been to China number of times, I must say that I was initially a skeptic. At the time, I had the great honour to serve as parliamentary secretary to the minister responsible for the Canada Border Services Agency. I remember requesting a number of briefings on this issue, in which I was asking people to convince me that there was a market economy operating in China with respect to bicycles. I must say that they had done a lot of work and had a fairly convincing case that a market economy did exist with respect to bicycles.

In Canada, we approach a market economy definition for China on a sectoral basis, as I indicated earlier. That aligns with the way we go about the Special Import Measures Act. There are some countries, for example the United States, that decide as a global entity when, in their judgment, China is a market economy. They have a slightly different approach. Some of the companies in Canada were somewhat dismayed by the fact that Canada had a different approach, but it was aligned to our own legislative framework and the way that we approach things generally, so that is the way it was.

The reality is that in the case of bicycles the tariffs came down. I have not followed up since then and I do not know if the bicycle or barbecue manufacturers in Canada have used some of the special measures that are available. I forget the exact process, but I think the case goes to the Canadian International Trade Tribunal in the first instance. Ultimately the decision is made by cabinet, which says that notwithstanding the obligations it has, our industry is being negatively affected in a very substantive way and therefore the cabinet is going to provide some tariff protection in the short run.

I am not sure if the bicycle manufacturers or the barbecue manufacturers avail themselves of those provisions. From the point of view of a business strategy, I know the companies were looking at finding the niches where Canada can compete more effectively. This is what I think we need to do more and more with respect to the textiles and apparel industry. I will give an example.

The textile industry in Canada, rather than staying with the typical rugs and carpets and apparel, has moved into textiles as they relate to automotive use and other OEM-type applications. The argument with the bicycles at the time was that yes, we would get a lot of bicycles into Canada, but they would typically be the lower end and lower cost bicycles, and that Canada's companies could position themselves in the middle to upper end of the bicycle market. That is what we need to do, not only with bicycles and barbecues, but with textiles and apparels. The reality is that economies like China, India and Bangladesh are here to stay and Canada has to find the strategies to move up the value chain.

We could look at the amount of outsourcing, or offshoring as it is called, that is going on in Canada with respect to India and the information technology industry. There was a good example that I read about not too long ago. It was in a book called The World is Flat.

The example used was of California's animation and cartoon industry. Today some of that work is being farmed out to India. Bangalore and various centres in India have developed a huge cadre of IT professionals who are quite qualified. They can turn a lot of that information into animated cartoons which are then sent back to California, and the industry in California upgrades them. They are adding value to that raw material. They are finding actually that they are growing their industry in that sense, because the industry in Bangalore is just developing and is not as mature as the industry in California. The IT professionals in India are able to do the basic animation, actually in a quality way, but they are not trained yet to do the value added.

We have a great responsibility in this world as a developed country to allow more access for the products of the developing world. We are seeing a growing gap between the rich and the poor nations, and if we are going to deal with that, we are going to have to be a little more accommodating with respect to allowing developing countries access to our markets. In doing so though, there are ways in the short to medium term that we can provide some protection to our industries, but if we do not deal with this, we are deluding ourselves because this is becoming a serious problem globally.

I am not suggesting that terrorism is a function necessarily of the growing gap between the rich and the poor countries, but I would say it is a factor. Therefore, not only is it the right thing to do, it is the pragmatic thing to do to try to close that gap. One way to do that is to provide more market access for the developing countries.

With respect to this motion, my colleagues have been more intimately involved. I will have to be guided somewhat by them and do more research myself, but I wanted to speak on this topic because it is a very important one and something that we need to be seized with, and that is how to cope with these new emerging economies of countries like China, India and Bangladesh.

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:50 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, no one, at least on this side of the House, said that we wanted to put up a great big wall and exclude China, or India, or Bangladesh, or anybody else. We never said that.

We said that we are going to enter into these trade agreements, which as the member said, opens up our markets to some of their products, but we have to do it in a way that is balanced and fair. We have to do it in a way that those workers in Bangladesh, Vietnam, India and China are not exploited. We have to do it in a way that those workers eventually get the same rights and benefits as the workers in this country do. It is called good standards, fair wages, fair competition, fair regulations, fair rules for all of us.

That member knows there is a tremendous imbalance happening. Anyone who has been to China has seen the mills, mines and sweatshops there. It is not conducive to fair and balanced trade practices. It is not right that the western world takes advantage of the extremely low salaries in those countries.

What can the member offer, not just to help and protect our own workers, but what if he had to stand at a shipyard or a textile plant and tell the workers that we are going to shut their jobs down? What would he do to encourage very quickly the upgrading of workers in the countries that he mentioned so that they have the same benefits that workers in this country have?

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, if we wait until there is, as the member called it, a fair wage in China, India or Bangladesh, we will be waiting a long time.

Fair is a subjective matter. Perhaps the member was not listening when I spoke earlier of the author Jeffrey Sachs whose sole commitment is to lift poverty around the world. This very reasoned gentleman argues that even though we find it uncomfortable to see child labour or women in employment with horrible hours and horrible working conditions, he has actually been there and talked to some of them and they say that it is not great, but it is better than the alternative. The alternative would be no work at all and their children would be starving.

If we say we are going to wait for a so-called fair wage, with respect, all we are saying is that we are going to provide protection almost forever. Even if we start raising the wages and working conditions of the people in developing countries, our wages and our working conditions in the west are going to increase, and the gap will never be dealt with. To use Al Gore's expression, the inconvenient truth is that we will never get a fair wage in those countries based on the gap that exists today and where we are headed in the future.

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:55 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am little perplexed because there were Liberal members on the Standing Committee on International Trade who said very clearly that they supported standing up for Canadian jobs. I am a little perplexed by the member's opinion which seems to be contrary to members of the committee. It was an NDP motion, but with the support of the Bloc and Liberal Party members, that motion was adopted and was brought here for concurrence today.

It was brought here for concurrence because those members around the committee table understood that losing 24,000 jobs in 36 months is something that the government has to deal with. The measures are here. We have the template for action that will help stop that hemorrhaging of jobs. Would the member not support stopping that hemorrhaging of jobs?

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, we find in this House of Commons that there are times and occasions when we do not all agree. In fact, I am on a subcommittee dealing with the anti-terrorism legislation and I seem to be not totally in agreement with my colleagues, so these things happen. This is the real world. It is not a homogenous playing field.

As I said earlier, my colleagues on the international trade committee have looked at this in much more depth. How I will be guided in terms of a vote, I will consult with my colleague from Brampton and others and be more apprised of the situation.

My purpose in speaking here today was to relate some of the experience I have had with respect to China, with respect to bicycles, barbecues, textiles and apparel. When I was a member of the finance committee we had extensive and exhaustive meetings and discussions with our finance minister at the time to provide some relief for the textile and apparel industry.

We heard the example earlier on shipbuilding. The Department of Finance was essentially saying that textiles and apparels are sunset industries. Our government at the political level said no, we were not going to accept that. We said we would give them a chance to become more productive, to deal with the competition. That is what we did. The members who criticized the Liberal government should go back and read the record on what we actually did.

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

February 19th, 2007 / 5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Peterson Liberal Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, Joseph Schumpeter referred to the world of a globalized economy as one of vast creative destruction.

I agree with the hon. members from the NDP that international competition is really rough. I agree with them that we have to do as much as we possibly can to help the workers who are being transitioned out to try to have the best possible jobs here in Canada. This is why we have to figure out how we are going to do it.

Unlike the NDP, I do not believe that we are ever going to succeed in repealing globalization and creating a totally level playing field in every country on earth. We know that is unrealistic. How are we going to help the workers best in the meantime?

Our government gave millions in support to our garment and textile workers to help the workers, to help the towns, to help the communities, to help the companies with transition. My goodness, there have been some that have been highly successful. For example, Peerless is producing men's suits here and exporting them all around North America.

How do we help our workers adapt to the new globalized economy? I will give two examples and we have to be good at it.

In the early 1990s everything we picked up said “made in Hong Kong”. In the middle of the 1990s the front cover of Fortune magazine said, “Hong Kong is dead”. Go there today. It is no longer a manufacturing economy. It is a service economy and it has never been richer and it is booming. It transposed and transformed itself.

Let me give an example of how a Canadian used China to his advantage. Phoenix Performance Products was making sporting goods here in Canada. Two years ago it had 52 employees. It found out that it could import one of the real staple products from China at one-sixth the cost. It had to in order to compete. Phoenix imported that product and kept its doors open because it was globally competitive. Did it lose jobs? No. What it did was transfer the people on that line to a higher value added custom product and a year later it had 93 employees.

That is how companies have to transpose themselves. This is why we as a government brought in CAN-Trade with $470 million over five years to work with small businesses to form the strategic alliances they need in these other economies around the world, to help them take advantage of globalization rather than be threatened by it.

What did the NDP do, it voted against it--