House of Commons Hansard #106 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was environment.


Opposition Motion— Kyoto ProtocolBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.


Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, people are realizing how important the idea of an east-west power grid is. It allows the country to develop a renewable energy backbone that goes right across the country. Electricity is the medium by which renewable energy in so many cases is transmitted. A natural gas pipeline is not going to be full of renewable energy. If we build and electrical grid, we can add renewable energy to it across the country.

Canada has one of the greatest wind resources in the world, but we do not have the connections that allow it to be used efficiently and effectively. That is the problem. An east-west power grid linking hydroelectric reservoirs in Manitoba, Quebec and B.C., would allow the development of an integrated renewable energy system.

It is not good enough to share with the United States. The United States is another jurisdiction. Making arrangements with the Americans so that we could use renewable energy in a correct fashion is unlikely. It is more likely within this country, among Canadians, that we can make this happen. This is the challenge ahead of us.

Manitoba Premier Gary Doer has spoken eloquently on this topic--

Opposition Motion— Kyoto ProtocolBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

We have a few more minutes left in questions and comments. The hon. member for Saskatoon-Humboldt.

Opposition Motion— Kyoto ProtocolBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.


Bradley Trost Conservative Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, I found it most interesting to listen to my hon. friend's remarks when he was talking about the NDP and about NDP governments.

I should remind the House that when Kyoto was passed the NDP Government of Saskatchewan was adamantly opposed to Kyoto. Something we do not often here from New Democrats is that when they are in government they are very different from when they are in opposition.

When the New Democrats are in government, reality actually hits them. Reality actually bites. We saw it with Bob Rae in Ontario. When he got in, oh my goodness, he had to learn how to balance a cheque book. He tried for many years and could not do it, so now he has joined the Liberals to see if he can learn there.

If NDP governments when they are in charge provincially are opposed to Kyoto and they do not believe it can be implemented, why does the member think now, after many years of the NDP not having any practical and workable solutions, those members actually think they can pull some fairy dust out of the air and make something work when in government they cannot?

Opposition Motion— Kyoto ProtocolBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.


Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, it goes back to the point I made in my speech. Making Kyoto happen is a national task. It is not a provincial task; it is a national and international task. I am certain that if the NDP Government of Saskatchewan had doubts about Kyoto when the Chrétien government signed it and knew that the Chrétien government at the same time had a laissez faire attitude toward the development of fossil fuels across the country, it must have known that it was unlikely to happen. The NDP government's opposition to it may have been simply that it realized there were no mechanisms in place, there was no opportunity and nothing there that could make Kyoto happen at the time.

Here we are sitting in Parliament in 2007. There are four parties that say they want to move toward Kyoto. There is a committee working on that and we have the opportunity actually to do something for Canadians. Let us put the history behind us and get on with the job that we have in this Parliament today.

Opposition Motion— Kyoto ProtocolBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.


Steven Blaney Conservative Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House this afternoon to take part in debate on an issue that is of the greatest concern to the government and which also is of concern to Canadians, Quebeckers and the residents of my riding, Lévis—Bellechasse, who hope one day to be leaders in field of sustainable development in this country.

Since yesterday, we are further along that road, thanks to our government’s initiative to support dairy production on the family farm. Given our defence of supply management, this is a way of encouraging sustainable development. It is also a way of saying to Quebeckers that the Conservative members they elected have come here to work at making Quebec and Canada a better country.

Today, there has been a lot of talk but no action. Fortunately, our government is doing something. That is why, this afternoon, I am pleased to talk about an initiative of our government to improve environmental conditions in our country through concrete actions in which all Canadians can participate. I am speaking of the ecoenergy technology initiative.

Previous governments greatly reduced transfer payments to the provinces. We have made a commitment to correct the fiscal imbalance. Our government gives the provinces the means to carry out their plans and to act within their fields of jurisdiction. Since the environment is an area of shared jurisdiction, correcting the fiscal imbalance will give Quebec the means of meeting its commitments. We have some work to do at the federal level. That is why we are here.

Improving and protecting the quality of the air we breathe is a priority for the government. It is very clear. In our country, energy production and consumption are major sources of air pollution and account for 82% of greenhouse gas emissions. It is important, therefore, that Canada’s strategy for improving air quality and the environment include measures dealing with energy.

Our government is determined to bring about major changes in the modes of energy production and consumption. To achieve that, we are addressing three components: research and development directed at making conventional energy cleaner, increased use of renewable, clean energy, and energy efficiency. The objective is to move from our dependence on non-renewable hydrocarbons to renewable energy sources.

That is what this is all about: global action to which nearly $2 billion was committed. This is not a hastily put together announcement; this is something that was announced in the Speech from the Throne, for example, and in the budget brought down a year ago. It is now taking shape and becoming available to individuals who want to take concrete action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and their own energy consumption.

Greenhouse gas emissions can best be reduced not simply by moving from hydrocarbon energies to renewable energies, but also by reducing our energy consumption. The idea is to aim for negawatts. That is the direction we want to encourage Canadian taxpayers to take with the ecoenergy initiative.

The environment is the responsibility not only of the Department of the Environment, but of all departments. As the Minister of Natural Resources likes to say, among the largest untapped sources of energy is the energy that we waste.

There are 13 millions houses and 380,000 buildings in Canada. These use 30% of our energy and generate nearly 30% of our greenhouse gases. This means that by using new energy-efficient building technologies developed here or abroad, we could dramatically reduce emissions and at the same time save building owners a great deal of money.

Before going any further, I would like to say that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Saskatoon—Wanuskewin.

The government announced a $300 million investment in the ecoenergy efficiency initiative designed to increase the number of energy-efficient homes and buildings in Canada and to help businesses and industries use energy more wisely.

This initiative provides for financial incentives for projects requiring support, such as retrofits by homeowners, small businesses or industries.

The ecoenergy efficiency initiative has three components, because ecoenergy takes a much more global approach.

One of these components is the ecoenergy retrofit program, which will provide financial assistance to encourage the renovation of houses, small buildings and industrial equipment. This is direct assistance, concrete and tangible, a form of green taxation actually, which enables Canadian taxpayers who adopt environmentally sound behaviours to reduce their energy consumption while saving money. As the government, we encourage them to do so because this is a societal choice.

Another component is ecoenergy for buildings and homes, which will support the construction of new energy efficient buildings and houses, and the renovation of buildings and houses. Under this initiative, the government will work with the provinces and the territories on developing building codes inspired by best practices in construction and energy efficiency.

In 1976, when my parents built their home, two-by-fours were used to build houses. In 1993, when I became a homeowner, they were using two-by-sixes. The houses were insulated better and the electricity bill was lower.

Finally, ecoenergy for industry will stimulate investment aimed at saving energy in Canada’s industrial sector. This component will promote the exchange of information on best practices, ensure the training of energy managers and provide industries with better access to the latest energy efficient technologies and practices.

I would like to talk about the ecoenergy retrofit program because it directly affects taxpayers and it concerns most homeowners, whether small commercial, institutional or industrial properties.

As part of this initiative, our government would offer financial incentives to nearly 140,000 owners for improvements that will enable them to reduce their energy consumption and costs. It is expected that the average subsidy will be worth $1,000 or maybe more depending on the number of improvements made. Clearly it is worthwhile adjusting to climate change.

Participating homeowners will receive a personalized checklist indicating the best renovations to make to their home. They will also be informed of the financial assistance they are entitled to for every improvement.

The checklist will be created when the assessment is carried out by an energy specialist. Afterwards another assessment will check whether all the work has been done properly. The cost of both assessments will be charged to the owners.

Financial support will be established according to the efficiency of each improvement to reduce energy consumption. For example, the replacement of an old gas furnace with an Energy Star approved high efficiency model will result in a saving of some 20% on a heating bill and could therefore be eligible for substantial financial support. Insulating an unfinished basement, also eligible, and replacing windows are things that will allow us to improve the energy efficiency of Canada’s building inventory.

Once the improvements suggested on the energy checklist are complete, each house’s energy performance will be verified for a reduction of some 30%. This approach will mean a reduction on average of nearly four tonnes of greenhouse gases annually.

That was the residential component. There is also an ecoenergy retrofit component for some 800 small businesses, industrial facilities and organizations, to enable them to implement ecoenergy measures. Factories, community buildings, stores, offices and educational facilities will be eligible for financial assistance. The eligibility criteria will be established in consultation with target groups and potential partners such as provinces, territories and utilities.

In Quebec, Hydro-Québec had a pollution control initiative in which I was involved, which enabled a number of municipalities to reduce their energy bill.

Retrofit projects will involve, among other things, improvements to equipment or building envelopes leading to a savings in energy. The initiative will focus on such areas as improvements to heating and air conditioning systems, to lighting, to motors and to industrial processes. Financial incentives will be evaluated according to the savings established by an operations audit. Projects may be submitted to an audit by a third party, to confirm the actual completion of the improvements.

The total savings of ecoenergy retrofit program, including home and small organization renovations, would be enough to heat all the houses in a city the size of Windsor, Ontario, for a full year.

There are specific measures: $1,000 per household to retrofit a house and improve the efficiency of our building inventory. It is the ecoenergy initiative and it is in our jurisdiction. In addition to tidying up our own backyard by recognizing the fiscal imbalance, we are providing the means, as is Quebec, to ensure effective measures and a plan on climate change. They will help to make our country, Canada, a world leader in the fight against climate change.

Opposition Motion— Kyoto ProtocolBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5 p.m.


Thierry St-Cyr Bloc Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was pleased to hear my colleague from Lévis—Bellechasse talk at length about a former Liberal program that the Conservative government first abolished then restored. If the environment situation were not as serious as it is, if the government's inaction were not such a major concern, it would be almost funny to hear him announce and explain once again a program that existed before the Conservatives abolished it.

Surprisingly, what he said has very little to do with the motion before us today and which asks to provide the Government of Quebec with the sum of $328 million to enable it to implement its plan, something all stakeholders in Quebec are asking for unanimously. It is not only the Bloc Québécois that is asking for it, it is not only some mean separatists who are asking for it. Of course, the Bloc Québécois and the Parti Québécois are asking for it, but so are the ADQ and the Liberal Party of Jean Charest, which cannot be accused of plotting against Canada.

My colleague from Quebec did not say in his speech whether he would vote in favour of the Bloc Québécois motion, so I ask him. Will he vote, yes or no, in favour of the Bloc Québécois motion? If the answer is no, can he explain to this House what he represents: the interests of Quebeckers or the interests of oil companies in western Canada?

Opposition Motion— Kyoto ProtocolBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.


Steven Blaney Conservative Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Jeanne-Le Ber for his pleasant question. I always find it amusing when I hear members of the Bloc Québécois talk about provincial jurisdictions whenever they feel like it.

I would like to remind my colleague that the environmental issue should really be above all partisanship and that the Bloc Québécois is asked to pass a bill on climate change and clean air here, in this House. The members of Parliament were elected to represent the citizens of Quebec who want actions regarding the environment. I also remind my colleague that his own colleagues sitting on the committee are obstructing our bills.

What is the Bloc Québécois waiting for? Why is it not agreeing to a bill on climate change and clean air since this is exactly what the country needs, according to the leader of the Parti Québécois?

Lastly, I would like to remind him also that we live in a large country, which extends all the way to Vancouver. We should stop taking shots at one another and we should take up the challenge together, not only for the future of the country, but also for the future of our children. We should work together because this is what our fellow citizens expect. Canadians want us to move things forward on one of the most important issues of our generation, the environmental issue.

Therefore, I reach out to my colleague across the way. I invite him to work with us in passing the legislation on climate change and clean air.

Opposition Motion— Kyoto ProtocolBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, in that same spirit of cooperation expressed by my colleague, I will say that I agree with much of the tone and the content of his remarks, even if it did not directly answer the opposition day question specifically.

I agree with him that we have an opportunity to become the world centre of excellence in demand side management in energy conservation. Even in our harsh northern climate, we can show the world how to do more with less and perhaps that will be our most valuable export: the technology associated with the demand side management of our precious energy resources.

I do not see evidence that the government has embraced that notion, other than the programs that my colleague mentioned, a small housing retrofit program. As a demonstration project, could the Government of Canada not do a comprehensive energy retrofit on the 68,000 buildings that it itself owns and operates to show the world how it can be done, and to show the private sector how we can save as much as 40% in our energy costs and greenhouse emissions by energy retrofitting comprehensively those buildings that are under the direct control of the federal government?

Opposition Motion— Kyoto ProtocolBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Lévis—Bellechasse must give a short answer to the question.

Opposition Motion— Kyoto ProtocolBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.


Steven Blaney Conservative Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

I would simply remind him that Public Works Canada is a leader in the field of sustainable development, particularly as it pertains to green buildings.

I agree with him: the federal government must be a leader and show the way. For that matter, many Public Works buildings stand out due to the adoption of energy efficiency measures. Having been myself an employee of Public Works Canada, I know that that department has taken recycling measures in its buildings.

Opposition Motion— Kyoto ProtocolBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.


Maurice Vellacott Conservative Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate today. There is no doubt in my mind and in the minds of most Canadians that there is a big issue before us on the environment.

Our Conservative government clearly understands that global warming is a serious threat to the health and well-being of Canadians. They want clean water and air, and most of all they want action. They do not want just empty words that they have heard for so very long on the climate file. There is really no doubt about that fact.

The government is taking some concrete action that was already promised during our campaign last fall and in the first part of this year. We have actually followed through on some of those things already. We are moving forward with some pretty concrete and specific results.

The most obvious example of late of course is Bill C-30 which is the clean air act, which is now before a legislative committee of the House. That legislation lays out a very solid and workable plan. It makes a fundamental change in the approach of the federal government with respect to air pollution, and also greenhouse gases, a change which is vital and crucial to the health of Canadians.

We can compare that of course to the record of the previous Liberal government as it stalled on the environment over some 13 years actually. For many of those years I was there and served as a member when the stalling occurred. The Liberals racked up a lot of rhetoric, a lot of verbal diarrhea, as some would say over that time, and stalled due to a lack of realistic goals.

The previous Liberal government stalled because a timid government was unwilling to step up and accept its responsibility in concrete terms for fear of giving offence to others. It stalled as well because of the clear failure to accept that simple truth that Canadians already know. Canadians cannot be healthy without clean air.

The Liberal regime may not have been willing to act, but the Conservative government certainly is and is committed to do that in very practical and concrete ways. The government respects the objectives and principles of the Kyoto protocol. We are committed to making some real progress toward achieving those objectives.

However, we do face a challenge and I think we need to be honest to admit that, a challenge made greater by the inaction of the previous Liberal government as it failed to set up and then to follow up with clear priorities for greenhouse gases and air pollution reductions.

The path toward a new and a more realistic approach requires an approach that we have started through, in fact, the clean air act. It requires an approach based on targets that will mean immediate and also long term health benefits for all Canadians.

It is important to understand that the government is looking at clean air in a comprehensive way. We believe that we can ensure that Canadians receive health benefits from cleaner air now and we can take actions that will address also the longer term issues of climate change.

I want to comment a bit on the health considerations of our actions because this is where it really gets down to each one of us. The health of Canadians has been the focus of the government since the very beginning. Beyond the legitimate focus of our government, our partners and Canadians on health care, we understand the need to be concerned about the many determinants of an individual's health, such as genetics and behaviour. Air quality is also a big part of that.

For decades scientists have assembled and gathered evidence together on the health effects of air pollution, not just the killer smogs off in London and Los Angeles in the past but right now in our major cities across Canada as well. They know that air pollution causes premature mortality, hospital visits, lung cancer, and cardiac and respiratory illnesses. They know that air pollution results in increased absenteeism from school and work. Outdoor air pollution in Canadian cities also contributes to some 5,900 deaths per year from stroke, cardiac and lung disease. That impact is not evenly distributed throughout our society among Canadians but rather, air pollution has its greatest impact on children, the elderly and also the very frail.

In fact, in Toronto during the summer, smog is a factor in 35% of acute respiratory hospital admissions in children under the age of two. Individuals with diabetes, asthma, emphysema, heart disease, and circulatory disease are at greater risk on days when air pollution is high.

Those statistics have more than personal impacts. They have impacts on our health care system and our economy. In fact, in Ontario alone the costs of lost productivity due to air pollution are estimated to be some billion dollars per year.

I think Canadians understand this. In fact, more than half of Canadians believe that air pollution will eventually have a negative impact on their very own health. A full third of Canadians believe that air pollution has already had some kind of an impact upon them.

The Conservative Party believes that these Canadians are right. We believe the scientists are right. The government introduced Bill C-30 to address these concerns. That is why the government is charting a new and dynamic path.

The government introduced Bill C-30 to kick-start effective action that was so lacking until now. On this issue, as on so many others, we know that effective action is possible if there is a will. We know that taking--

Opposition Motion— Kyoto ProtocolBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Order, please. I am reluctant to interrupt the hon. member, but it being 5:15 p.m. pursuant to order made earlier this day, all questions necessary to dispose of the opposition motion are deemed put and a recorded division is deemed requested and deferred until Tuesday, February 13, 2007 at the expiry of the time provided for government orders.

Accordingly, I am afraid that the hon. member and his speech are cut off at this point.

Opposition Motion— Kyoto ProtocolBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, if you were to seek it, you would find that there is unanimous consent to see the clock as 5:30 p.m.

Opposition Motion— Kyoto ProtocolBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Opposition Motion— Kyoto ProtocolBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members


Opposition Motion— Kyoto ProtocolBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

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

Textile IndustryPrivate Members' Business

February 8th, 2007 / 5:15 p.m.


Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC


That, in the opinion of the House, the government should act on the motion proposing to help the textile and clothing industries adopted in the House on October 5, 2005, and worded as follows: “That, in the opinion of the House, the government should establish, in compliance with international agreements, a policy of assistance to the textile and clothing industries in order to enable the industries to compete throughout the world, particularly by 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.”

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to the motion that I proposed. I want to deal with the form first. The motion says that the government should act on the motion adopted on October 5, 2005.

One and a half year after this House adopted a motion asking the government to establish policies and programs to help the textile and clothing industries, the government still has not taken any action. We are not talking about subsidies, but about concrete measures proposed by stakeholders from both sectors. This inaction has terrible consequences.

For example, The Metropolitan Economy, the economic bulletin published by Montreal's economic community, includes the following, in its edition on the first quarter of 2006:

Continuing Decline in Clothing. Employment has been shrinking for six years now in textiles and clothing. From 62,000 jobs in 1999, it fell to only 28,000 by the first quarter of 2006.

Montréal clothing producers continue to lose ground on the Canadian market, and have also been slipping on the U.S. market since 2002. They have also had to cope with the complete elimination of international quotas since January 2005.

The elimination of these quotas affects Montréal producers not only on the domestic market, but also on the U.S. market, where they had made gains in the 1990s. In the first quarter, Canadian clothing imports were up by 5% year to year. Clothing exports plunged by 18% and textile exports by 23%. The most drastic impact is on foreign markets.

Those are the numbers. Let us now look at the reality.

In the last year, the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology has looked at the entire manufacturing sector. During the research, we visited many different locations. We went to Montreal to visit a company called Samuelsohn, which makes business suits of a very high quality using Canadian fabrics. These people use a special technique to create high-end clothing. A company called Peerless also makes business suits and is a very important manufacturer. These two companies have to compete with China regarding the products that can be submitted. This results in massive job loss.

For example, Quebec has been hit harder than Canada by the loss of jobs in the apparel sector—which includes knitting plants as well as plants manufacturing apparel and accessories. Forty per cent of all jobs have been lost. This industry now has only 36,000 employees, compared to 60,000 in 2000 and 98,000 in 1988.

The textile industry includes on one side the spinning, weaving and finishing operations and, on the textile product side, all the processing plants. In Canada, the number of employees went from 50,000 in 2000 to 41,000 in 2005, an 18% drop.

In Quebec, the industry now employs 20,000 people, compared to 24,000 in 2000 and 36,000 in 1988.

However, the decline of those industries is not inevitable. The Liberal government, which preceded this Conservative government, dithered for years before taking appropriate measures. It is truly responsible for the current situation. We have a highly skilled workforce. I have seen it at Peerless and Samuelsohn. These people are highly qualified and they earn low wages despite their heavy workload.

As members of Parliament, we work hard, but if we were in the shoes of the people who knit and work in the clothing and textile industries, at the end of the day, we would be very tired. These people deserve our support. They deserve a chance to improve their lot and make it through. It is possible.

Indeed, both industries have made suggestions that the Bloc Quebecois retained in the proposal that it put forward. We did not list them all in the motion. For example, we are talking about allowing clothing made offshore with Canadian textiles to enter duty free. In other words, when the threads are made here and the piece of clothing is made abroad then comes back to Canada without competing with clothing made here, we would like it to be duty free.

Right now, it is crazy. The threads and the fabrics that are used come from Canada. We have the clothing finished in other countries and, when it comes back to Canada, we have to pay customs duties. Yet, if it comes from very poor countries, from developing countries, and it is made from fabrics from India or Bangladesh, for example, there would not be any tariff on its arrival here. It is completely absurd. It is a perverse effect of the initiative that was taken to help the poorest countries.

This problem has needed fixing for a long time now, but we keep coming up against officials at the Department of Finance. We have not managed to budge them yet, but we hope we will soon.

The textile and clothing industry is not doomed. We can make things happen; we can propose measures. For example, the Bloc Québécois' strategy proposes implementing measures to encourage the use of textiles made in Quebec and Canada, such as the one I mentioned earlier: duty-free importation of clothing manufactured abroad. We could also impose stricter country of origin rules on developing countries. We think we are helping developing countries, but we are not. In the end, we are only hurting our local industries. We could negotiate to include Canada in agreements signed between the United States and Latin American countries. The Americans did not hesitate to sign bilateral agreements, such as the one with Caribbean countries.

The American market used to be a major outlet for Canadian textiles. We sold our textiles to the Americans and they made them into clothes. The Americans signed bilateral agreements with Caribbean countries. Now, clothing is manufactured there from American textiles. Then the clothing goes back to the United States duty-free. In Canada, we have to pay duties. We can no longer sell our textiles to clothing manufacturers. For clothing made in Caribbean countries to re-enter the United States duty-free, it has to be made from American textiles. We should fight fire with fire. Let us stop being boy scouts and start giving our industries a chance.

Furthermore, we should have a local purchasing policy wherever international agreements allow it. That would help. All we have to do is create awareness. When I became a member of Parliament, I did not check every piece of clothing I wore to see if it was made in Quebec or Canada. Now that I know the impact it has on employment, I do check. Every time I buy a suit, a shirt or any other item of clothing or cloth, I think about this issue so we can get results in the end.

We also have to help workers from companies that close down by giving them additional training. The Bloc Québécois fought to obtain a program for older worker adjustment. Finally, the new Minister of Human Resources and Social Development has agreed, for the first time, to assess the implementation of passive measures. What is a passive measure? It is an income that ensures income security for a family or individual until their old age pension kicks in because he or she tried everything to find a job and did not succeed. What is sad is that the government continues to wait and let things drag on. There will be nothing new in the next budget. In that regard, I think the Conservatives are doing even worse than the Liberals. The program for older worker adjustment is very important.

In the clothing sector, a sector in which people are older on average, nearly 45% of the workers were over 45 in 2005. There is a need. When a person has worked 25, 30 or 35 years in the textile industry, they do not become a computer technician overnight. It is not easy for them to just go work in another sector. They need opportunities. People want to work, but they do not necessarily get the training they need. They need to be given a chance because often these are people who came from somewhere else in the world. They are providing for their family here in Canada and they are also helping family members who still live in their home country. All they are getting in return for dedicating their life to a company and working for a very small salary is to end up on welfare because there is no program to help them. And our society produces wealth. There is a problem with the distribution of wealth and the government has to be aware of this issue.

Furthermore, we should also use safeguards in new trade agreements. What are safeguards? That is what the U.S. and Europe use in dealing with Chinese textiles.

Textiles from China arrived in huge quantities. In 2005, a rule included in international agreements came into effect. That rule allowed the Americans and the Europeans to control those imports and to limit the quantities during a three year period. The limits on textile imports were so radical that the Chinese agreed to negotiate the percentage increase, which allowed for a softer transition. Here, in Canada, that rule has not been used. The free market principle applies. We act a bit like boy scouts, believing that our complacency will give results. We have not seen any results yet.

Jobs are disappearing regularly. That was mentioned in the statistics on Montreal and it is the same thing in the regions. In my riding and in Montmagny, textile companies like Consoltex, closed their doors. Other businesses also disappeared during that period and the statistics for Montreal could be applied to the rest of Quebec. The number of jobs fell from 62,000 in 1999 to only 28,000 in the first quarter of 2006. That is an unacceptable disaster to which the successive governments should have reacted and that they could have alleviated with corrective measures.

We see an unacceptable laissez-faire. According to the protocol for the accession of China to the WTO, we could impose quotas on Chinese imports, for example. In fact, when China became a member of the WTO, it was accepted that countries could limit the increase of Chinese imports by setting temporary quotas to avoid mass closures of industries due to the arrival of that industrial giant.

As I said, the United States and Europe did it. Here, we did nothing. We could also adopt an international policy that could prevent offshoring. Minimum internationally accepted standards applicable to workers rights and environment protection must be included in trade agreements.

The same thing happened during the industrial revolution at the end of the 19th century. Children were working in factories and people were saying that they could not do without them. It was the same thing in the days of the slave trade. People were saying that they could not do without the slaves. Today, we are saying that people are working for 25¢ an hour and that this is the way things are. In practice, the whole world will have to ensure that every worker's rights to minimum conditions are protected. We are currently penalizing our own workers who have significant expertise and, what is more important, we are not giving them a chance to participate in the increase in wealth that is generated by globalization. If globalization really existed, the regulations on the environment and the protection of working conditions would be standardized, and there would be a better distribution of wealth.

When millions of dollars are earned from the sale of aircraft or other products to other countries, some people are raking in profits. They can do it because the markets have been opened. Globalization has created victims. Our system cannot be judged only on the way it creates wealth. Right now, Canada and Quebec do not get a passing grade in the textile and apparel sector because the government has not implemented the proper programs.

The capper is that there used to be a program called CANtex that helped companies modernize. The Conservatives announced the good news that they were getting rid of this program as part of a series of cuts where, without giving much thought to what they were doing, they axed the court challenges program, which enabled organizations and people with limited financial resources to challenge improper court decisions. The government also cut funding for literacy programs. This is interesting. At a time when jobs are being cut in the textile and clothing industry and people are being advised to go to school and get training, literacy funding is being slashed. The government also eliminated the joint federal-provincial literacy initiatives program, which provided funding for developing original tools.

In Montmagny, for example, a major company, Whirlpool, cut 500 jobs. Only 200 to 250 of the 500 people who lost their jobs found new work. Some needed literacy services, and tools were developed for them. Now these programs are being cut. People cannot necessarily be trained in the same way at 15, 20, 45 and 55. The government does not seem to understand this.

Today, there are labour shortages in some sectors. If the government had kept on investing appropriately in literacy, people could fill those vacancies today. But they cannot, because the government hid behind the wave of neo-liberalism and told itself that the market would take care of everything. Well, the market cannot take care of everything. People deserve help. Some industries are growth sectors.

Today, the people who study textile are in touch with reality. They have modern plans and are willing to develop the industry. The same is true of the clothing industry. We have quality designers and a skilled workforce. The government's inaction angers these two sectors, which feel that the government has sacrificed them to the global market.

We do not accept it. That is what the Bloc Quebecois defends. I wish that, after adopting the motion of October 5, 2005, this House would have had the decency to adopt it again this year and to press the government so that, finally, we would have appropriate programs. In fact, there are still thousands of workers in that sector who deserve to be helped, not with subsidies, but with innovative programs encouraging the industries to perform and deliver results. That is what we expect from the government.

Textile IndustryPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I share the outrage of my colleague from the Bloc Québécois. For 10 years or more, the NDP has raised the issue of garment workers and the garment industry and how successive federal governments have abandoned this industry sector.

There is a clear simple thing that the current federal government could do that would be of great benefit to the Canadian garment industry. It has to do, as my colleague raised, with the WTO and the safeguards put in place.

When China entered the WTO, it contemplated the impact that this surge of Chinese garments coming into Canada, without any tariff or duty, would have on the domestic industry. Other governments like the United States, the European Union, Mexico, Turkey, Argentina and other countries around the world took advantage of the available safeguards and limited the increase of the Chinese imports to 7.5% per year. Our Canadian government, in some zeal to be free traders, allowed 200% and 300% per year increases. Some sectors were flooded with specific garments such as ladies pants. It was as much as a 385% increase.

This devastated, undermined and almost crippled the industry in my home town of Winnipeg, in which I have 43 garment manufacturers. At least the last time I checked, I had 43 garment manufacturers. By the end of today, we have probably lost two or three more. They are dropping like flies because of the negligence of successive federal governments, which refused to take advantage of even those protective measures that were available to them.

Could my colleague give us any indication what possible reason the government could have for not implementing the safeguards available to us under the WTO? What is the rationale?

Textile IndustryPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague raised an interesting point.

The Americans and the Europeans have used these measures. Why not Canada? It is because in the United States and in Europe, they did not give China the status of a market economy. They thought China did not meet the necessary criteria to be recognized as a market economy. Consequently, they are able to use safeguards.

We, on the other hand, have behaved like boy scouts. We have decided to give that status without demanding anything in return. When we could have used the safeguards, we turned a blind eye. We have seen it, for example, with bicycles. There is a bicycle manufacturing plant in the Minister of Industry's riding. In his first months in this House, he chose not to appeal even though the Canadian International Trade Tribunal was allowing it. To say “as far as we are concerned, the market forces rule” is clearly a neo-liberal approach.

The same philosophy applies when we award a $3.4 billion contract to Boeing without any requirement as to how this money will be distributed. We could have checked to see what the currently distribution looks like. This government has shown a lack of will to help the industrial sectors. However, there is some hope.

The Standing Committee on Industry has produced a unanimous report regarding the textile and apparel sector and all the other manufacturing sectors. This report has been welcomed by the Manufacturers and Exporters Association as a breath of fresh air.

We now hope that the federal government will apply the committee's 22 recommendations to its budget and other measures in the coming months, so that accelerated depreciation, for example, can actually become an interesting option for installing new equipment and making sure that the workforce is available.

In the end, I believe that this all boils down to the fact that we must show respect for the citizens and for the people who work long hours in these sectors and who have become specialized, so that each and everyone of us, as citizens of Quebec and of Canada, can become mindful consumers.

A lady from Quebec named Laure Waridel wrote an extraordinary book titled Acheter, c'est voter or “to buy is to vote”. In this book, the author explains that if we choose carefully when we buy and if we encourage local production of good quality, we can have an influence on the market.

However, that will not be enough if the governments do not step in to provide the necessary development tools so that our manufacturing sector can move forward.

Let me conclude by saying that we must think very carefully before lowering the GST by another 1%. There could be increased consumption of products that, many times, come from somewhere else. Personally, if the choice were mine, I would change the tax structure in order to protect our manufacturing sector and create higher incomes and more permanent jobs. That is how we could turn the tide.

Textile IndustryPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo B.C.


Betty Hinton ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to participate in today's debate on Motion No. 158, and specifically, speak to the challenges and opportunities facing older workers in Canada. I underscore two key words from that preceding statement: challenges and opportunities.

With the inevitable passage of time, we are faced or challenged with a natural transformation, physically, mentally and emotionally, that will alter, to one degree or another, oneself. As the Swiss philosopher Henri-Frédéric Amiel once wrote:

To know how to grow old is the masterwork of wisdom, and one of the most difficult chapters in the great art of living.

This difficult chapter of life, already brimming with challenges, can be compounded with additional anxieties related to an unanticipated change in one's professional life. Such has been the lamentable case for many working Canadians in the forestry, apparel and textile industries facing sudden layoffs, with industries themselves undergoing difficult transformations.

Regardless of what the Bloc would have us believe, I wish to assure Canadians that the Conservative government recognizes the challenges confronting older workers. Moreover, we also realize that such challenges also present opportunities.

As Canada's labour shortage becomes more pronounced, we must seize on this moment to ensure older workers have ample opportunity to contribute their immense knowledge and skills to our national workforce. As Judy Cutler, of Canada's Association for the Fifty-Plus, so succinctly put it:

There's a shortage of workers, and as more and more people retire, there will be a greater shortage....We have older workers who want to work. Why not embrace their expertise?

Why not, indeed?

I am proud to report that Canada's new government has taken tangible action in pursuit of this objective. For instance, last fall we announced a $70 million targeted initiative for older workers. Working with our provincial and territorial partners, we will help ensure older workers between the ages of 55 and 64 in vulnerable communities, such as those affected by transformations in the forestry, textile and apparel industries, remain active participants in the labour force.

Furthermore, participating provinces and territories will have significant latitude in identifying such communities and in the design and delivery of the projects. Support will particularly assist those workers who have exhausted their EI benefits and may require further assistance to stay active in the workforce.

For the interest of the member opposite, the province of Quebec has already signed on to this initiative and will receive $19 million in federal funding for older workers, $19 million more than the Bloc Québécois has ever managed to deliver for older workers.

Canada's new government is not content to end there. Building on our budget 2006 commitment, we have recently announced the appointment of an expert panel to study the labour market conditions affecting older workers. The panel, which eminent membership includes Ms. Diane Bellemare, the senior vice-president and chief economist of the Conseil du patronat du Québec, has a mandate to look at a range of potential measures to help older workers, such as improved training and enhanced income support such as early retirement benefits.

Additionally, the panel will engage in extensive consultations with provincial and territorial governments as well as with employers, labour representatives, academics and other stakeholders.

Unlike the Bloc, many Canadians have acknowledged that the striking of this panel is a positive and important step as we seek to address the issues facing older workers. Gabriel Bouchard of the Montreal-based Monster Canada, a leading human resources agency, has remarked that this very positive move by the government is:

—a much needed step in the right direction...Many Canadian businesses are already feeling the dramatic impact of our shrinking labour pool and it is crucial that we look for answers now, including new ways to capitalize on the excellent experience and qualifications that older workers bring to organizations...

These two important measures undertaken by Canada's new government in just the past year alone underline our commitment and, more fundamental, our belief that older workers still have the ability to make vital contributions to our labour force.

Let us contrast that with the Bloc's pessimistic assessment of older workers. For example, let us listen to the words the Bloc member for Drummond uttered when assessing an older worker's ability to perhaps learn a new skill. She said:

Let us be logical: that is impossible at 58. What is more, employers are hesitant to hire older workers, and the only way they can manage is to go on welfare.

I am proud to state that our Conservative government rejects such an assessment and instead has chosen to work with our provincial and territorial counterparts to advance solutions promoting the continued labour force involvement of older workers, especially those in the forestry, textile and apparel industries.

I would also like to highlight for the House other federal support measures provided, although indirectly, to older workers.

Chief among them is the employment insurance program. The first line of assistance for eligible unemployed Canadians, EI provides eligible older workers active re-employment benefits and measures to help them find and regain employment.

In 2004-05, unemployed Canadians aged 55 and over received nearly $1.4 billion in benefits. An additional 80,000 workers aged 50 or older also participated in retraining programs that helped them prepare for new employment under EI part II programming.

With reference to Quebec, the Government of Canada transfers nearly $600 million in EI funding to the province, under the labour market development agreement, for employment programming geared to eligible unemployed workers. Under this agreement, Quebec has the latitude to design and deliver initiatives that respond to eligible unemployed workers' needs.

While Canada's new government is actively pursuing measures to ensure the continued engagement of older workers, we are cognizant of the increasingly crucial need to build a larger transformative framework that will produce the best educated, most skilled and most flexible workforce to compete in the global marketplace.

This past November, the finance minister unveiled an ambitious and long term economic road map entitled Advantage Canada. One component of that road map was the plan to build a knowledge advantage.

What do we mean by a knowledge advantage? First, it is about quantity: increasing the participation of all Canadians in the workforce to meet future labour needs. Second, it is about quality: enhancing the quality of education and skills in Canada. Finally, it is about efficiency: facilitating worker mobility and giving Canadians the information they need to make informed labour market choices.

Canada's new government has made a pledge to make significant and sustained progress on each of these fronts.

On quantity, we are taking steps to encourage the increased participation of Canadians in the labour force. We have improved the foreign workers program service delivery. We are working toward the creation of a Canadian agency on foreign credentials to allow more new Canadians an opportunity to fully contribute their skills. We are also striving to eliminate the barriers preventing under-represented groups, such as Canadians with disabilities and aboriginals, from greater participation.

On quality, we are utilizing a multi-faceted approach to foster an improved environment of learning for Canadians. We are working to provide stable and predictable federal funding to the provinces and territories to ensure the quality of the post-secondary education system. Furthermore, to encourage the skilled trades, Canada's new government introduced apprenticeship and tools tax incentives in budget 2006.

On efficiency, we are following through to ensure Canada has the most efficient and effective labour market possible to succeed in the highly competitive global economy. We firmly believe that workers, older and otherwise, must have the option to pursue opportunities and practice their occupations wherever and whenever they choose, free of interprovincial barriers. Similarly, Canadians also need relevant and accessible labour market information in order to know what job opportunities are available, what skills are likely to be in demand, and where those jobs will be.

Not surprisingly, Advantage Canada, especially the knowledge advantage component, was well received. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce's Nancy Hughes Anthony called it a “great road map”, saying that “it's got all the elements of things we need to do”. The Canadian Council on Learning stated that the measures supporting post-secondary education are “welcome and positive initiatives”.

Clearly, despite the Bloc's empty rhetoric, Canada's new government is already building the foundations for a strengthened workforce, one in which older workers will form an integral element.

Textile IndustryPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise in this House for the first time as the official opposition critic for labour. I look forward to working with members of all parties to ensure that Canada's labour market continues to grow in fairness and prosperity.

In that vein, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak on the motion put forward in relation to the protection of Canada's textile and clothing industries.

The textile and clothing industry is clearly in need of support. This motion helps to demonstrate that we in this House recognize this reality.

If we were to look back only 20 years ago, we would see that approximately 70% of the textile and clothing products consumed in this country were actually made in Canada.

However, by 2004, as reported by Statistics Canada, imported goods had come to supply the Canadian market with over 60% of the textiles and clothing consumed in this country. That is an astonishing shift in the marketplace and is a resounding call for action from the Government of Canada.

This is an important sector for Canada and for the major urban centres across the country that have textile and clothing industries as an integral part of their local economies. For example, in my city of Toronto, there are over 550 apparel manufacturers operating and they account for nearly $1.4 billion in wholesale shipments. This represents 16% of the domestic market in this country.

Perhaps more important than the dollar figures are the numbers of people in the city of Toronto who work in the textile and clothing sector. An estimated 50,000 people work in this sector, with more than half of them employed in the manufacturing side of this equation. These jobs include cutters, sewers, pressers, art directors and so forth. These are jobs that we need in Toronto and in cities across the country. They are jobs that need to be protected.

The Montreal textile and clothing sector is a very important player in the region's economy and is recognized internationally as a major pole of this sector of activity.

The reality, as already mentioned by many members, is that the international business environment has changed considerably over the years.

Beginning in the early 1970s and continuing until the middle of the 1990s, the trade in textiles and clothing was quite closely regulated via a system of import quotas put in place by major importers and exporters of these materials.

Countries such as China and India were the subject of agreements with Canada, and these quotas, known as the multi-fibre arrangement, continued until the member countries of the World Trade Organization voted to remove all these quotas at the Uruguay round of negotiations. This was to be undertaken in four separate stages from 1995 through 2005.

We must add to this the reality of the 1989 free trade agreement with the United States, which saw the importation of American products grow very rapidly. This continued until 1999, when there was a shift toward the importation of goods from China and, to a lesser extent, India.

This shift was a direct result of the removal of quotas on goods originating outside of Canada. Consequently, there was of course a significant impact upon Canada's textile and clothing industry and upon the companies that manufactured them, as well as the employees who worked for them.

In terms of numbers, the growth from China is quite dramatic. In the textile sector, China was exporting to Canada $800 million in goods by the year 2004. The clothing sector is even more dramatic, with China's share of the Canadian market moving from $571 million in 1992 to $2.3 billion in the year 2004.

These are significant numbers, especially when we consider the substantially reduced costs faced by Chinese manufacturers compared to their Canadian counterparts. This reality is particularly noteworthy in terms of labour costs.

China, of course, is the most important player in terms of the export to Canada of textiles and clothing, but there are other countries. India has already been mentioned. There has also been an impact on Canada's market due to imports from Mexico.

We must add to this the reality that the biggest trade partner of Canada's textile and clothing products, the United States, has followed Canadian suppliers in turning its attention abroad for cheaper products. This reduced share of the American market also significantly affects Canada's textile and clothing industry.

The previous Liberal government did take action in this matter, as indicated by my colleague, the former member for Ahuntsic, the honourable Eleni Bakopanos, during a debate on the issue. She spoke of the work accomplished by the Liberal government, mainly through public-private partnerships, to help these industries face the challenges of the new global economy.

A number of measures were considered, including lowering customs duties on imported textiles used by the Canadian clothing industry.

My Liberal colleagues from the Montreal area vigorously and effectively defended the textile and clothing industries in their respective ridings.

The member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, home to many textile and clothing manufacturers, was a particularly energetic advocate for this industry.

The motion at hand calls for “a policy of assistance to the textile and clothing industries in order to enable the industries to compete throughout the world”. I am in full agreement with the spirit of supporting our textile and clothing sectors.

While we all recognize that there are new realities in terms of global economic development, it is essential that we as a country recognize through public policy the obligation of the Government of Canada to protect industries that provide a means of livelihood to so many Canadian workers.

I understand that there are many people within the industry who identify tariff policy as a means of protecting Canada's textile and clothing sector. Although these tariffs are among the highest in terms of other sectors, this is still very much worthy of review in regard to the unique nature of this industry and its importance to our national economy.

Similarly, I believe there is a great deal that the federal government and provincial governments across Canada can do to assist the textile and clothing sector, including training programs, export assistance and simple advocacy.

The member's motion also speaks specifically to the idea of allowing foreign made products made with Canadian textiles and clothing products to be imported without customs duties. This trade procedure is known as outward processing, and I believe that this indeed has the potential to be of great assistance to the textile and clothing industry in Canada.

In cooperation with the various partners within the Canadian textile and clothing industry, the government needs to move promptly in terms of outward processing, in conjunction with Canadian producers. It is my understanding that both the United States government and the European Union have already taken practical implementation steps in terms of outward processing on behalf of their textile and clothing sectors.

As members of the House are aware, during the last Parliament the members who now comprise the government voted against the original motion dealing with this matter. I would encourage these members to join with the other parties in the House in support of this important motion.

As noted at the beginning of my remarks, there are phenomenal pressures on Canada's textile and clothing industries. The textile and clothing sector is a significant player in our national economy and, like other governments across the world, we have an obligation to assist these Canadian businesses and workers to compete effectively in the new global economy.

Quite frankly, it is clear that no sector of our economy operates within a vacuum. Jobs lost in one sector will invariably affect another and the ripple will continue.

The textile and clothing sector has experienced considerable pressure over the last 25 years. When those Canadians employed in this industry look to their government for assistance, it is important that their voices do not go unanswered.

I intend to support the motion. I encourage all other members, regardless of their party affiliation, to vote with Canadian workers in the textile and clothing industry by voting in favour of the motion.

Textile IndustryPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to enter into the debate on Motion No. 158 put forward by my colleague from the Bloc. It gives us the opportunity to draw attention to an industry that suffers terribly from neglect from not just the current federal government but a series of federal governments.

Time does not permit us to go through the complex difficulties that this industry has. Let me start by saying though that I represent 43 garment manufacturers in the inner city of Winnipeg. That number is down dramatically from its peak perhaps 10 or 20 years ago when it was a major industry in my home province. Still today well-meaning companies are doing their best to hang on but it is literally by their fingernails, companies like Western Glove, Tanjay, Peerless and Gemini. Their workforces are dramatically reduced but they continue to try their best to maintain their second and third generation companies.

Let me for a minute express how important these jobs are to new Canadians. In many ways the garment sector in Winnipeg has offered gateway jobs for newcomers who come to Canada. It is often the first job that they find. These are good jobs. They are unionized jobs that pay a reasonable wage with fair working conditions. These are not sweatshops. These are quality jobs. Often there is a day care centre in the building. They are quality jobs that we are seeing fly out the window with very little action taken to try to arrest this flight of jobs.

The single issue I will dwell on today in the few minutes that I have is to appeal to the Government of Canada to reconsider exercising the safeguards that are available to stem the onslaught, the absolute floodgates of Chinese imports that have taken place since the January 1, 2005 WTO system of quotas was lifted for Chinese imports. This has been devastating to the riding that I represent. It is a material tangible issue we can see in the inner city of Winnipeg. I do not rise in any way to object to international trade or free trade, et cetera. This is all about fairness.

The reason China enjoys this unfair competitive advantage is what we believe are the illegal and unfair subsidies given to the Chinese producers in the form of currency manipulation, non-performing loans, reduced or free utilities provided to those factories, subsidized shipping, sometimes no property taxes, export tax rebates, et cetera.

Textile IndustryPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Jason Kenney Conservative Calgary Southeast, AB

CSL benefits.

Textile IndustryPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from the Conservatives agrees that Canadian manufacturers face an almost insurmountable unfair competitive disadvantage. For that very reason China agreed when it joined the WTO that safeguards might be needed to avoid disruptions in domestic marketplaces where it hoped to trade. Therefore, the United States availed itself of that offer from the WTO to limit increases in Chinese imports to 7.5% per year. The European Union very wisely also availed itself of this negotiated phase-in period. Mexico, Argentina,Turkey, most countries said if they did not phase in this influx of Chinese imports, their domestic industry would collapse. Why did Canada not do the same? It boggles the mind.

From January 1, 2005 to July 1, 2005 we were faced with a 40% increase overall in Chinese imports. In certain categories, for instance, men's jackets and blazers, imports grew 358% in the first five months. In the area of 11 million units came flocking in here. In women's skirts the growth rate accelerated 233%.

Clearly, China was waiting for this date. It is within its right and within the WTO rules to bombard the Canadian marketplace with Chinese imports. We know that if we look at labels for where things are manufactured, it is difficult to find something that is not manufactured in China or Bangladesh. It is more and more difficult to try to support our domestic industry.

We are not asking for anything unusual. It defies reason that when we brought it to the minister of international trade and the Liberal government in 2005, we were met with a stone wall. The Liberals said, “No, we are free traders. We drink our milk from a dirty cup”. I suppose they were trying to be some kind of tough guys.

In actual fact, why not avail ourselves of the measures that were put in place to protect domestic markets? The result has been predictable, devastating and irreversible, but there is still time. The Conservative government could still tap in to this phase-in period. This is our opportunity to raise it with the new government and ask if it would please consider this.

I should note that in November 2005 the Conservative official opposition critic for international trade said that he supported the safeguards, “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”. He was speaking specifically about the garment industry trade safeguards when he was the official opposition critic. I think he is now the chair of the international trade committee.

The solution is simple. The WTO allows member countries to impose limits on the growth of specific categories of Chinese clothing imports. It can be 7.5% growth per year for a period of three years. This would translate into hundreds of millions of dollars of economic opportunities for our domestic manufacturers to be able to plan a strategy at least instead of being attacked in this way.

The question is, the rest of the world has acted, why not Canada? If we value this industry sector, if we have not abandoned the garment industry and simply resigned ourselves to the fact that Canada will not manufacture clothes any more, and I would like to believe that no one in the House of Commons believes that, then we have to help this industry in a way that is not a handout but is simply availing ourselves of the protective measures that other countries had the common sense to put forward.

There are strategies we could talk about further. The motion that we are negotiating today addresses some kind of a transition plan for the workers that are going to be displaced. There have been casualties. There has been collateral damage to the extreme. There have been more jobs lost since January 1, 2005 than there are left in the industry. We are down to less than 50,000 jobs in manufacturing across the country now.

My own riding of Winnipeg Centre took one of the hardest hits because the industry has a certain critical mass in Montreal and Toronto that we do not enjoy. It has been devastating and I do not say that trying to overstate the situation. My riding is the poorest riding in Canada already. To lose this many jobs in that key industrial sector in the inner city of my riding is a blow that I cannot remain silent about.

As we look at an industrial strategy for Canada and as we address pressures on the auto industry, we are urged to act. As we address pressures in the aerospace industry, we seem motivated to try to encourage our domestic industry sector so that it continues to be a viable force and a well-respected sector internationally.

I am urging the policy makers and decision makers in the House of Commons to apply the same attention to the garment industry. Whether it is men's clothing, women's clothing, textiles or weaving, it should be one of the value added industries that is exciting.

I appeal to all members present to pass this motion and extend the spirit of the motion by availing ourselves of the opportunity in the WTO. The safeguard measures are important. They might be our last chance to save this industry.

Textile IndustryPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Robert Vincent Bloc Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise today to speak to the motion of my colleague, the member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup.

My colleague had two good reasons to propose this motion. First, he wanted the government to act on the motion proposing to help the textile and clothing industries adopted by this House on October 5, 2005. Second—and we have heard it often from witnesses at the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology—, the textile industry is being torn apart and the clothing industry is losing its shirt. We have to realize the pernicious effects of not being able to compete with some countries.

The clothing industry includes hosiery plants as well as clothing and clothing accessory manufacturers. Of all provinces, Quebec was the most affected in Canada. Its clothing industry lost 40% of its jobs. In 1988, there were 90,000 jobs in this sector. Today, there are 36,000. Between 1995 and 2005, the industry dropped from first to eighth place amongst manufacturing employers in Quebec. Dropping from first to eighth place, it is quite distressing.

The reason this issues touches me so deeply is that the Haute-Yamaska region has the most manufacturing activity in all the MRC of Montérégie. More than one person in three works in a factory. Consequently, I am very interested to be here and to speak about this industry.

A distinction must be made between the apparel industry and the textile industry. The textile industry is made up of spun yarn factories, woven fabrics factories and textile finishing factories. Furthermore, it produces also textiles, which includes factories that produce processed textiles, household items, floor coverings and industrial products.

In Quebec today, this industry represents 20,000 jobs, compared to 24,000 in 2000 and 36,000 in 1988; that is a loss of 16,000 jobs. The textile industry is going through a crisis, and it must redirect its production. In the textile sector, the prospects are best in artificial arteries and hearts, airbags and parachutes. All these activities require a lot of research and development. We have heard loud and clear the message conveyed by the people who appeared before the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. They indicated that they valued research and development and that, in order to help them, the government should invest in the search for new development niches.

I could compare that with the government's responsibility concerning the modernization of the industry. Safeguards must be used. Such safeguards are provided in trade agreements to give the industries a few years of respite that they need to change their focus. They have to be given a chance in matters of research and development to see what they can do. But they need time for that.

Ottawa has never supported the industry. The federal government has a big zero on its report card, and the results of the Conservatives are below zero. The government never tried to discuss or make a deal with China about a potential cap on Chinese import increases. The government never tried to improve assistance programs to speed up the industry's modernization.

There were some programs. There were CATIP and CANtex, but the maximum allowable was $100,000. What can an industry do with $100,000? It can change its transport truck, and nothing else.

Among other cuts announced last fall by the Conservatives, $25 million was taken out of CANtex. The programs assisting the textile industries were cut. Who did that? The Minister of Industry. It was a Quebec minister who stabbed the Quebec industry once again. Another Quebec minister, the Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, did not say a word to prevent this. The Quebec Conservatives are not very useful.

On December 12, 2006, the Standing Committee on International Trade urged the government to limit textile and clothing imports and begin negotiations to that effect with China. The government did not do anything. Just recently, on February 6, 2007, the Standing Committee on Industry, Natural Resources, Science and Technology tabled its report on the future of the manufacturing sector. The committee indicated that textile and clothing industries were on the verge of collapse and called on the government to abandon its laissez-faire policy.

However, today again, the Conservatives from Quebec who, last week, let down the Quebec aerospace industry, are showing that they are not only useless, but that their approach is harmful by now betraying the textile and clothing industries.

What about solutions? We often hear the Conservatives say that the Bloc criticizes but never proposes any solution. Let me suggest some solutions: first, let us allow clothing made abroad with Canadian textiles to enter duty free; let us impose stricter rules of origin on less developed countries; let us negotiate Canada's entry in agreements reached between the United States and Latin America; let us adopt a buy local policy that is compliant with international agreements.

Then, we talked about older workers. What can we do for them? The Conservatives set up a program for a period of one year. The Montreal and the Quebec City regions were excluded from this program. We know that in Montreal, there are several textile plants and clothing plants. But, I think that these people were forgotten, even if they worked all their lives for the growth of Quebec. When it is time to help them end their career decently, they are left aside. They are being told to retrain. How can you retrain 55 year old people with little education? I do not know. I do not understand the approach of the Conservatives on this issue.

The Bloc Québécois is in favour of the former program for older worker adjustment, POWA, which gave workers aged 55 and older the opportunity to earn a decent salary, at least until they received their pension. That program should be brought back in order to help these workers do something meaningful with their life.

Other solutions are also a step in the right direction. In both cases, the workers have had little schooling, as I was saying. Safeguards provided for in trade agreements—continuing along the same lines—ensure that import tariffs are maintained on clothing and textiles produced in Canada by introducing quotas on Chinese imports, under the protocol on China's accession to the WTO. When China joined the WTO, it was agreed that countries could limit the increase of Chinese imports by introducing temporary quotas, in order to prevent certain industries from being decimated as a result of this industrial giant's membership.

The United States and the European Union held discussions with China. They agreed to place a ceiling on imports of Chinese textiles and clothing. Canada did nothing. The government failed to act, with the result that, after China joined the WTO in 2002, its exports of clothing to Canada rose by approximately $1.8 billion, an increase of 86%. What will it be tomorrow?

We must adopt an international policy that will prevent discount offshoring, by working to include in trade agreements the universal minimum standards recognized in international agreements on the fundamental rights of workers and environmental protection.

Labelling is of great interest. How can we determine if we are buying a Canadian product? It is not on the label. You can look all you want in all the shops for a Canadian-made good, but you will not find one. You can look high and low, but to no avail. The first thing to do would be to identify the origin of the product.