Mr. Speaker, when I was first elected in 1997, there were 43 garment manufacturers in my riding. They employed some 7,000 skilled craftspeople. These were good jobs: union jobs with pensions, benefits and dental plans.
Since then, established companies in this industry have suffered terribly. Major established companies such as Gemini, Western Glove and Nygard are dropping like flies, one by one yielding to insurmountable forces with virtually no assistance from the federal government.
The government has abandoned the garment industry. I cannot understand why.
It is almost impossible any more to find anything that is made in Canada. When China was allowed into the WTO, Canada could have put quotas on imports so our domestic employers would have a fighting chance. The government did nothing.
Duty remission orders now are sunsetting, from 50% to 25% to zero in 2010. If the government cares about the garment industry at all, it needs to extend the duty remission orders to 2016, and at 100%, not 50%.
The government has failed to act in any meaningful way. The duty remission orders are one last chance so that these employers can keep hiring Canadians to make clothes in Canada that we can all be proud of.