moved that the fifth report of the Standing Committee on International Trade presented on Wednesday, December 13, 2006, be concurred in.
I am pleased to share my time with the member for Winnipeg Centre who also has a very keen interest in the subject that we are discussing here today.
To begin with, I would like to read the fifth report because it is very important that the public watching here today understand what the NDP is bringing forward in the House in order to deal with the staggering job losses that we are seeing in the apparel industry.
We are requesting concurrence to, from all four corners of the House, the fifth report of Standing Committee on International Trade which reads as follows:
The Committee calls on the Government of Canada 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; and
The Committee further calls on the Government of Canada 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 should not be a concurrence motion that receives any controversy whatsoever because it was adopted by the Standing Committee on International Trade, and adopted by members from the NDP, the Bloc and the Liberal Party.
However, I have to mention as well, because it is an extremely important element, that these are the kinds of commitments that the Conservative Party made in the last election. It was held just a little over a year today. The Conservatives, in opposition, were a vocal supporter of safeguards and in fact urged the previous Liberal government who had not enacted those safeguards, much to the dismay of the apparel communities and apparel workers who have lost their jobs as a result. I am quoting the official opposition critic on international trade for the Conservative Party at the time who was a member of the international trade committee. He said:
A Conservative government would stand up for Canadian workers and work proactively through international trade policies to ensure Canada competes on a level playing field.
The Conservatives supported, during the election campaign that was held a year ago, the exact measures that the NDP is now calling on the House to support and urges the government to do. Therefore, this should not really in any way ignite any sort of debate. This was a Conservative promise. One would hope that the Conservatives would keep their promises. However, I am not so sure that they will.
What we have seen over the past year is completely inept negotiations and capitulations in a number of key areas around trade. I am very concerned as are my colleagues here in the New Democratic corner of the House that we may see the very same thing in the apparel industry.
We have seen the softwood lumber sellout which has cost over 4,000 jobs in the matter of just a few weeks since it was put into place. We have been hemorrhaging jobs in the softwood sector. In fact, as I know you are aware, Mr. Speaker, we have lawsuits that are being put up because of the complete ineptitude of the Conservative government in throwing this softwood sellout out there and trying to force it through when indeed it was a capitulation to the Bush administration.
We have also seen this with the Wheat Board. The moment another country says jump, the Conservative government asks how high. With the Wheat Board, with supply management, Canadians are seeing no defence whatsoever of our important interests.
Let us get back to the apparel industry. We have seen the capitulation on softwood, and we have seen the capitulation that the Conservatives are trying to bring in place for the Wheat Board and the supply managed sector. Fortunately farming communities across the country are reacting very strongly, fighting back and pushing back the Conservatives in this regard. However, if indeed they are doing this in these sectors, is there concern that they will continue to allow the hemorrhaging of jobs in the apparel industry?
It is a matter of great concern to us in this corner of the House because we have seen, in what is the 10th largest manufacturing industry in Canada, the clothing industry, 30% of those jobs hemorrhaged right out of the country, lost, in the last three years. Thousands and thousands of families have been impacted as a result of originally Liberal do nothing policies and now the Conservatives who are afraid to actually stand up for Canadian interests.
In January 2004 Canada had 75,500 jobs in that sector. In January 2005 when the WTO system of quotas expired, Canada had 63,000 jobs. We had lost 12,000 jobs already. A year later in January 2006--and remember that was at the end of the election campaign when the Conservatives had promised to put these safeguards in place--we were left with 54,000 jobs. Over 20,000 jobs have been lost. The November 2006 figures, which are the latest figures available to us, show that there are just over 50,000 jobs left.
Over a period of 36 months this country lost 24,000 jobs. Some 24,000 families have lost their breadwinner because of the inaction and ineptitude of the previous Liberal government and the inaction and ineptitude of the current Conservative government. This has to end.
We are proactive in this corner of the House. The NDP is bringing forward measures that are basically tailored, written and ready to go, so that the government can actually take action to stop the hemorrhaging of the jobs. It is not rocket science. Other countries have already put these safeguards into place. It is the Conservative government that is refusing to move.
What has happened since the WTO quotas expired on January 1, 2005, two years ago? For men's and boys' overcoats the quantity of imports from the People's Republic of China has risen close to 100%. The quantity of men's and boys' suits has risen over 150%. The quantity from China of women's and girls' pants has risen over 200%. The quantity from China of men's and boys' jackets has risen over 350%. Those are all lost jobs we are talking about. The quantity of women's and girls' skirts has risen over 200%. The quantity of men's and boys' pants has risen over 180%. The quantity of women's and girls' jackets has risen over 470%.
We are talking about a flood of imports that has led to a hemorrhaging of jobs in communities that depend on the apparel industry and the clothing industry across this country, particularly in areas such as Winnipeg, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. These are urban centres that are seeing this hemorrhaging of jobs.
I reference the softwood industry. I reference supply management and the Wheat Board. Statistics Canada tells us very clearly that most families in Canada have seen their real income actually fall since 1989. We have seen disastrous economic policies over the last 15 years where governments have simply said, “No, we are not standing up for Canadian interests, unless it is corporate CEOs or corporate lawyers who are represented. We are not going to do anything to help the Canadian middle class”. Regular Canadians have seen their real income fall. The Conservative government has been in power for over a year. It has done nothing to address that fundamental issue, that real incomes are falling for everyone, except the very wealthy and their incomes are skyrocketing.
Here is a clear case where a government can take action. The NDP has already drafted the plan for the government. The government can give credit to the NDP, but even if it does not, we are used to our ideas being moved forward and other parties claiming credit. The important thing is that the jobs be saved.
We have put forward this template. We have said what needs to happen. The job loss very clearly indicates that this is not something that we can debate and discuss. Action needs to be taken and it needs to be taken now.
What have some of the other countries done? The European Union and the United States have put into place these safeguards. They are already in place. Other countries, such as Turkey and Brazil, have put into place these safeguards to save jobs. It makes sense.
I would also like to mention that it has been extremely disappointing to see the incredible number of jobs lost, especially in Quebec.
Since early 2002, 24,000 jobs have disappeared in the apparel industry in Quebec alone, which has been devastating for communities that depend on this industry.
If it were up to the NDP to implement these very important safeguards,we would do it. We must take action. That is why we are tabling this motion today.