Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise to speak to Bill C-10, the budget implementation bill, which is an important document. Canadians have been looking for leadership from the government to deal with today's economic climate and the problems we face.
It is important to point out, as I start this discussion, that the New Democrats do not support the bill for a number of different reasons, but we are doing our job. We are showing leadership on what we should have in the country. The country should have a more balanced approach with regard to a budget that not only deals with the economic crisis, but deals with some of the systemic issues the country faces with previous legislation and lack of action as well.
We have an interesting case with regard to democracy. Last year, when the Liberals consented to the Conservative budget changes, the Immigration Act was changed. We have to remember that with the passage of the budget bill last year, the immigration minister received a blank cheque to change the immigration system, without going through the normal, democratic process in the House of Commons.
The normal process is the minister introduces a bill which then goes through a reading in the House of Commons. Then it is vetted at committee and comes back to the House of Commons. If passed, it goes to the Senate and if there are changes, it comes back here. Now we have avoided that consultation process under our immigration policy, which is truly unfortunate, because there is economic opportunity. It is a social justice issue to ensure Canada does the right thing with its immigration policy. There is also an opportunity to engage the public and the private and not-for-profit sector about how our immigration policies work of do not work for our country.
By agreeing to that, the Liberals gave the government a blank cheque to change it. We have seen the effects, and it has not been an improvement in our immigration system. We have seen greater lineups, greater delays and it has reduced our capacity to respond in this global climate.
There are a couple of issues. Interestingly enough, through Bill C-10, the government is changing the Investment Canada Act. It also changing other legislation with regard to pay equity, for example, which will unfairly hurt women. Women will no longer be able to go through the court system to challenge pay equity. They will have to go through another process that will not be as fair. It takes away from the judicial system, which is the appropriate process.
It is important to note that this sends a message across the country that women's issues are secondary. It can be done on a one-off, with no problem at all, by the government. It sets the mandate for how it feels and how it goes forward to deal with serious matters.
Avoiding our legislative review process is truly unfortunate. Members of the House of Commons collectively are supposed to review bills. We are supposed to have input. We are supposed to garner the witnesses. We are supposed to go through a process to improve a bill.
Often we find common ground. Sometimes we get amendments put forth and avoid some unintended consequences. Since 2002, I do not know how many times I have been in committee reviewing a bill and our party or the government has found errors in it, whether it was the Liberals in the past or the Conservatives currently. We go through the legislation to fix those errors. Instead we have legislation being rammed down our throats, which is unacceptable.
With respect to the budget implementation bill, it is ironic. After the G20 summit, the Prime Minister talked with other world leaders and said that he would come back with a package for Canada. Instead he set off a political crisis by cutting the provinces and a number of different services and putting in some other elements, which still cannot be explained today, for example, billions of dollars for sales of public buildings. The Conservatives cannot even name the buildings or what they will do with them. That really set up a firestorm in the politics. Hence, the government took a time out.
The Prime Minister went to the Governor General and told her the Conservatives needed a time out because everybody was upset with them. The Conservatives misled the world by saying they would do something, but did nothing. Apparently they thought nobody in Canada was paying attention to the international news, or they did not have access to the Internet or something else. Canadians quickly realized that the Prime Minister said one thing and came home and did another. However, the Conservatives had their time out. In that timeframe one would have thought they would have come back with a plan.
I come from the automotive sector and I have spoken many times in this House of Commons about a plan for the automotive sector. One would have thought the government would come back with proper legislation that would actually address the issues. It decided to go to Washington. The Minister of Industry went down to Washington, but nobody would meet with him.
The Americans are going to do something for the automotive sector to assist in filling the gap caused by the economic crisis and liquidity issue. There is a difference between what is happening here and what is happening in the United States. The United States had two sets of public hearings on the auto sector. Last year the U.S. had a series of hearings on the energy act and created a $25 billion low interest loan program for the auto industry to get new technologies and cleaner vehicles. Then there was the actual bridging legislation for the loans. Whether or not one agrees with the loan program, at least the Americans went through the process. The United States passed its legislation. There were hearings and input was received. It made a lot of news. The Congress and the Senate had the opportunity to vet the legislation. The legislation went through that process and was actually delivered to the public. What do we have in Canada? We only have promises from the minister. There has been no input at the industry committee. We have not had that type of vetting process.
When one looks at the plan that the United States passed, it is a plan with different rules and things that are changing. The document, “A Call for Action: A Canadian Auto Strategy”, was produced by the Canadian Automotive Partnership Council, CAPC, back in 2004. The auto industry, unions, suppliers and many other auto industry components warned the then Liberal government of the potential failure of the auto industry in the future if we did not lay out a plan. It put forward a simple and straightforward plan where results could be measured. It had a series of strategies calling for action. What have we done since then? Nothing. We have not done anything on it. That is unacceptable, because this plan could have been tabled with the budget bill. It could have been more extensive. The government had the time to do it.
What has happened in between is quite astonishing. We have seen the collapse of the auto industry, not only here but also in other parts of the world. There have been success stories. I reference the United States and its $25 billion low interest loan program which was passed last year. The U.S. is already seeing results. General Motors is going to build the Volt in Detroit, Michigan. The state of Michigan recently signed on to assist in the battery procurement policy. The battery for the Volt will be produced in Detroit as well. Despite the challenges of the industry and where it is going, the Americans have already laid out the game plan.
What have we done on the Canadian side? In the last budget, money was cut from the auto sector. On top of that, the government imposed a new tax on vehicles. It kept the tax component of the eco-auto feebate program. For those who are not aware of that program, it was an unbelievable disaster. There was about $116 million in that program. Most of that money went to vehicles produced overseas. That is the irony of what the Conservatives did in their first budget. They created this incentive program to buy certain vehicles. It did not work. On top of that, they ended up sending money to Japan, China, Korea and other areas where vehicles are produced. It is not acceptable in terms of a policy.
The Conservatives also brought in a tax on vehicles. They kept the tax, which represents around $50 million a year in revenue for the government. That is the estimate from the industry. The United States laid out a plan that is very progressive, and which is focused on cleaner new vehicles, production, manufacturing and low interest loans that are recoverable for the taxpayers. Here in Canada, the government added a new tax. It put some of that money into a new program of $50 million per year for five years for a total of $250 million. Basically, the industry had to go through h-e-double-hockey-sticks just to access it. That happened leading up to an election.
The government is sending the message that Canada is closed for business and partnerships to revolutionize the industry and that if people want to take advantage of one of the government programs, the Conservatives are going to make them squirm, beg and crawl. They are going to punish people pubically for wanting some type of a procurement element.
These things are not foreign to North America. Germany is the second largest auto producer and Japan is the third largest. Japan is a major exporter. Germany has major exports too, but it also does a lot more domestic. Germany and Japan have procurement policies that actually work for their industries. That element is out there. If the government wants to assume that a free market economy with no actual incentives is some type of carrot with which to approach the industry, the Conservatives are alone in the world in that. Even the United States does not do that. Nobody does that. If the Conservatives want to change that policy, then great, let us engage the world about that practice.
Until that time, if we keep our current automotive policy, we will see that what is happening will continue. We have gone from fourth in the world in assembly to eighth. What does that mean? It means that not only auto workers and their families are losing out on economic development, but so are those in the mould-making industry and the tool and die industry.
The tool and die industry has made an appeal to the Minister of Industry. That industry is owed about $1 billion. The industry needs that money to prevent bankruptcy from happening.
There are other victims in this mess if we do not have a viable auto industry and one of the most value-added industries will disappear. It is going to cost money for things such as the United Way and skills training.
It is also important to think outside the automotive box. If all that industrial development goes into new technologies, they can actually revolutionize other industries, especially looking at some of the new technologies in the use of battery and other elements. It is an exciting time despite the challenges. Some new and interesting products are coming on line that will meet new customer desires. It is also going to provide an opportunity to have a greener, cleaner industry, which is really critical because we put so much faith in that.
It was interesting to see the minister, when it came to the budget, make a big to-do about the shoes he was going to buy. We saw him on TV when he bought some workboots. He came to work that day and decided that they did not fit right and they hurt his feet. It is ironic, because it is the same with this budget. It hurts a lot of Canadians and it does not fit right for what we need to do.
It is not even a question about how much money we are or are not spending. It is also about the way we actually spend. That is why it is important to recognize that this was an opportunity that was wasted.
I will point to one of the more interesting cases we have had recently and what could have been in the budget bill but is not. Today the New Democratic Party introduced a bill to respond to that. A procurement policy could have been part of it. I know that some people will say that the NDP wants to put up trade barriers and do something that would set off a trade war and create all kinds of problems, but that is a bunch of nonsense. Since the Great Depression, the United States has had a procurement policy in place. I would have liked to see one in this bill. What we could do openly and accountably is a percentage of that could go into Canadian manufacturing when there is a government procurement policy. That is done all over the world. Our partners do it. I do not regret that the United States does some of that. It is a challenge in some respects.
The most important example that has recently shown how poor we are in Canada in terms of strategy is the Navistar truck contract. I have spoken extensively about that, and I am going to keep talking about it because it is a great example of a missed opportunity and the lack of leadership.
Navistar, for those who are not aware, is in Chatham, Ontario. It produces trucks. A number of years ago, I and the member for Windsor—Tecumseh fought along with the CAW to get a modest investment from the federal government in that plant. It was saved, and it has paid back its worth. It is a windfall, not only with regard to the tax revenues to the nation but also to the workers and their families who have been contributing taxes.
What has happened is the government is not dealing with procurement policy, which is totally legal and which many municipalities endorse across the country right now. They back it because they understand it. We understand the rules. We can do this. The United States will not get upset with us for doing it. The Americans have a policy in place that has similar elements, and we accept that.
The Navistar truck plant in Chatham could produce the next load of defence vehicles, trucks that are necessary for our military. Ironically the government tendered it out, and what ended up happening is that Navistar International won the bid and the truck building component is in Texas. Texas is getting 300 million dollars' worth of work from the Conservatives, supported by the Liberals, and at the same time the workers in our communities are losing their jobs. Those are good paying jobs, jobs that this country invested in. The trucks we make are the best and we are going to lose out on that opportunity because of the ideology of the Conservative government.
The government is going to award a $300 million contract to Navistar in Texas when that contract could have gone to our own community. The excuse is that there was $800,000 of retooling necessary for that facility in Canada, but Canadians would have been doing that retooling. The value-added components would have been manufactured in Canada. There would have been economic benefits for Canadians who would have been paying taxes.
That investment would have been understood by the United States. The Americans would understand that Canadians want to build Canadian trucks for our Canadian men and women who are serving in our military. They would understand that. We understand when they do defence procurement for the same reason.
The Conservatives are allowing this to continue and are not cancelling the contract. It is unacceptable. Sending work down to Texas is not a solution for this country. It sends a message to all the others concerned with defence procurement. The government is saying that Canadians cannot be the ones who build for our men and women who serve in the military. That is the message the government is sending to people in Chatham, that they are fired and they are not going to be the ones who produce the vehicles for our military, that Texans can do it. That should have been in this bill. We could have done it.
What is also important in connecting the dots on this is that this country needs to have a manufacturing capacity for its sovereignty so that it includes components for shipbuilding, trucks, airplanes and other elements that are important for national infrastructure. A country needs to make sovereign decisions about what it does. The United States does that. I do not begrudge the Americans for that. If they want to build their military trucks in Texas and not in Chatham, I understand that because it is part of a plan for their country.
What do we have in Canada? We have no plan. Other contracting is being looked at right now. The plane contract is being examined. The Department of National Defence is eyeballing a single source contract that would exclude all Canadian aerospace manufacturers. It would be created and assembled in Italy. How is that possible? How can we have single source contracting for companies outside Canada?
What does that tell those companies that actually cluster and try to build around our manufacturing bases here in Canada? It tells them that if they invest and make that type of commitment to the Canadian people, if they do the training that is vitally necessary for the post-production development, they may not benefit from it, that we will simply have it built in Italy. That is the wrong message.
It is important that the government reverse the Navistar decision. It would send a message that we are serious. I expected that to be in the budget bill.
I spent a lot of time talking about Navistar and the auto sector, but I want to touch on one thing in the bill that is symbolic and important to me because of my background in developing programs for persons with disabilities with respect to employment and home services. Ironically in the bill there is a new program for home retrofit. Those who do some work on their houses get a 15% tax break on the first $10,000 spent on their homes. It includes some really interesting things, such as, sod and decks. However, those who rent are excluded from this. Twenty-five per cent of Canadians rent their accommodations. I think about seniors in my riding who have rented houses or apartments for a long time. They are not eligible to upgrade their bathrooms or other areas to make them accessible. Meanwhile, those who want to put new sod on their lawns or expand their decks in Muskoka are going to get a tax break. Ironically those people are the ones who have to subsidize that program with their taxes in the first place. It is wrong. That is why the budget needs to be defeated.