Mr. Speaker, it is important, when we look at the context of trade, that we look at the current deals that have been signed and, as part of our due diligence, to review what is happening here.
With respect to Bill C-2, the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster has requested the aspects to shipbuilding be carved out, which is a normal process of trade arrangements. In fact, in the history of trade arrangements they have had these elements in a series of different ways. For example, the United States has the Jones act and procurement policies with a number of different defence contracts. It also has policies in manufacturing, for example with the bus industry, where there are provisions that require content assembly in parts manufacturing in the United States. In fact, Canadian companies had to go into the United States and open up assembly plants so they could bid and win contracts for those.
As well, the United States has a buy American clause that is part of its overall procurement policy and always has been. It reached some feverish discussion in recent months but the reality is that it has been in American law for a number of years. The clause has been part of its ordinary procurement policy and has been part of the state and municipal procurement policies.
The request that is being made here is part of negotiation tactics. Unfortunately, we have a history of bad negotiations when we look at the past Liberal government and the Conservative government. This deal here was arranged by David Emerson, a Liberal minister for the Martin administration who crossed the floor after an election and continued with his policies. One of the policies was with regard to European trade and another one was with Colombia. Another deal that has not seen the light of day, thankfully, is with Korea.
If one looks at those policies, the government offered up a significant number of different iconic Canadian industries as bait to bring in trade negotiations and then it caved and gave them away later on.
One of the reasons I have been opposed to the South Korea trade deal, which some bureaucrats will admit, is that something had to be offered up. In this agreement, the government has offered up the automotive industry. It is a terrible position to start with because one knows right away where one's negotiating strength is. Unfortunately, the government comes back with deals that really sell out certain segments of Canada's industrialized capacity.
It is important to note, for example, that the United States has its own defence procurement policy and we do not begrudge it that. We know the United States has certain aspects it wants to continue to have in its country as part of its overall strategic way to deal with civil society, as well as international affairs, which is why it has the capacity to ensure it can respond to certain things.
Sadly, Canada has done the exact opposite. We have basically abandoned any type of sectorial strategy approach and only through a budgetary process year by year scrambles around to try to find some programs or aids that come and go for the aerospace, automotive or shipbuilding industries. The government does not really create concrete plans of action.
We are looking at Norway for particular reasons in this debate because it spent over a dozen years building a shipbuilding industry through heavy subsidization and a national policy. It had over a generation of public policy geared to design and build ships. not only for its domestic industry but also international industry. When Canada enters into an agreement like this with no terms and conditions to protect Canadian industry, it is at a natural disadvantage.
I have had a chance to see some of the work that has been done with shipbuilding. I have been at the Irving yards in Halifax and have spoken with the workers. Interestingly enough, the government's position has always been the issue over labour mobility. It says that if workers cannot build ships because there is no work, then they need to go out to Alberta or somewhere else to find a job.
The first thing one may say to that, even I as a young parent, is that people will do what they need to do, there is no doubt about it. However, when we have thriving communities that will continue to be there, it is important for families to be held together, which is the creation of a bond the community requires to deal with everything, including social programs, crime, education and innovation.
It is not just about workers going away for a couple of months and returning. Canadians will do those things if they need to, as they have done in my riding, but the preference would be to have a job in their own community, especially communities that historically have been around and will be around for the foreseeable future. We should be looking at building that capacity. It is about those communities with a high industrialized component for shipbuilding, for example, as we are talking about today specifically, to be part of a program and plan to create stability. We are going to win from that.
Other organizations or other countries will not be complaining about Canada being protectionist because this is done in other countries, and that is why it is important to have this component carved out and move forward with the rest of the trade agreement that would be more balanced. It would be progressive in the sense that shipbuilding would be removed, but it is not, which, unfortunately, is why we are back here today.
I will again talk about the Navistar truck plant in Chatham, Ontario, where a $200 million defence procurement offer went out to International Truck, which is located in Chatham and in Texas, and it decided to put all the work into Texas. That is not acceptable because a number of years ago International Truck was having problems and it was given a $35 million loan guarantee and for the last several years it has been producing trucks and doing quite well. In fact, when it tried to move production to Mexico, the trucks had to come back to Chatham to be audited and repaired because the quality was not up to what the client needed.
As a Canadian politician, I do not get upset when the United States buys its trucks from Texas for its military. I understand that it has a plant with people working there. If it were going to buy trucks, it would be a good idea if it were to buy them here in Canada. We are always hopeful to gain that type of business. However, I can understand that it wants to have certain segments of its military protected to be able to do procurement there because it actually gets it. It also understands that having development capacity gives it control over who gets those at what time. It actually has that in it its contracting, which means that the United States can cut the line whenever it wants, which would reduce our capability to have our own sovereignty addressed.
It is interesting to note that the plant can produce that truck for around $800,000. With the layoff of workers about to take place, we are looking at about $17 million to $19 million in unemployment insurance benefits. This makes no sense whatsoever on an economic scale. If we were actually going to have that investment, the retooling would be done by Canadians, the equipment allotted would be Canadian and the people doing the work would be Canadians. We would have the next future base of taxation policy from those who are making money in that area contributing back to the coffers of Canada. We would have a net win. Why we would send our truck development to Texas and basically backhand Chatham, Ontario, which is struggling right now, does not make any sense.
It goes to a deeper issue that ties with the essence of shipbuilding and the history we have with the water. Canadians know we have been a maritime nation serving ourselves quite capably during the first and second world wars where we had one of the largest merchant marines and navies by the conclusion of the war. We has a real sense of pride and dignity when we were able to procure much of our own development and had the capacity to do it.
People having the type of work where they actually produce something of net value and that they can relate to is such a value added component to our society. It is an extra added benefit to those who are part of the actual experience. In terms of shipbuilding, there is that element. Similar to that, in Chatham, Ontario, it is what the Conservative government has said, which is that they will not be producing ships for our men and women serving in the military, that it will be done by someone else.
Canadians miss out on that relationship of getting up every day, going to work, getting a paycheque and contributing to the Canadian development experience. It is important for people to have a job because it gives them a meaningful sense of worth. However, the Conservatives have told them that they are not good enough, that the work will be done somewhere else.
What is so important about this debate in terms of the economics behind the shipbuilding industry and how it connects to ourselves as a people is when we see the outsourcing that is going on, which becomes very frustrating. Workers and others are starting to feel the anguish. I worry about the elements that will come next. Being from the auto sector, many of the workers are frustrated that the government is not there for them and that they are having to do things on their own.
In one of the more recent cases that we have had is the issue over Aradco. I want to congratulate Gerry Farnham, president of CAW195, and his workers who fought an American company that pulled out of Canada and left 80 families out of jobs with no severance package. The workers took it upon themselves to occupy the plant and ensure they received a better severance package, which they negotiated by themselves with no help from the government. Those people are working class heroes. They are men and women, some of whom are in single parent families, who took this action to protect themselves and their families livelihoods.
The message the government should take about what happened in that one plant at this particular time is that it must be more responsible when it has the tools and the resources behind it to make a difference in this country.
Those are the reasons we should be carving out this element and protecting our shipbuilding industry and the workers who have the skills and the training, which is important. When we look at the Aradco workers, they were some of the most productive workers but, through no fault of their own, they were usurped. It is the same for the shipbuilding industry, which has some of the best trained and most experienced workers. We will abandon them in some type of an experiment that does not make any sense.
We need to turn this around. People are looking to us and at the examples that we are setting. They are asking what can we do with their taxpaying dollars that will benefit not only just in terms of the immediacy of the tax expenditure that we are doing right now but later on in terms of public policy. That is what a national strategy for shipbuilding and an auto strategy would be and all those other things where there is value and traceable elements of where the money goes to. That is what could be done in this particular element.
Workers will continue to feel frustration as they have done everything right and then they do not have the government behind them.
It is disappointing that we are here by ourselves as New Democrats on this issue. I think we will be looking back later, not only in terms of what we have lost, but in terms of a missed opportunity to reinforce at a time when there is that motivation that should be even bigger to restart an industry and ensure it will thrive. The connection to that is critical, especially when we can look at the incredible opportunities.
We can look at the Great Lakes, not only as a treasure environmentally but also a trade corridor that is significant. The Great Lake freighters will soon need to be replaced but those will all be built in China, Norway or somewhere else when they could be built here.
Sadly, we let the shipbuilding facility at Collingwood go, but we could plan this out to ensure that Halifax, Montreal and other shipbuilding areas where we still have that capacity are preserved. For those who are not aware of it, Collingwood has now become a resort. It is a very beautiful location with a lot of positive things there but we did not plan another deep water capacity port. What we have lost now is the opportunity to have a thriving industry return.
Therefore, we need to think about that in the context of what is happening right now and, with what is going on right now, this is the perfect opportunity.
It is important to look at what the message would be for Canada if we were to carve this out. It would tell the other countries that we are interested in doing this and I do not think we would have a hostile reaction. I do not think any country would challenge us.
When we look at some of the European policies for defence and other procurement, it is quite similar. When we look at the United States, it is very clear that it has decided that it is going to have this at its capacity, and we are very much integrated with the United States.
Ironically, even as we have had some of these elements, the United States has gone to the extreme where, under the Patriot Act and other types of legislation, many Canadian workers are not eligible to work on some contracts in the United States that are defence procurement.
The United States has even challenged the workers who are part of companies that are integrated. This is going to become a bigger issue because we have a number of different procurements that are going to take place over the next few months. We will hear about some of them, including search and rescue planes that need to be replaced. There are concerns already being expressed that the government is going to skew the bidding process basically to give an Italian company the contract. It is sad, because we actually have a number of different consortiums here in Canada, with up to 50% Canadian ownership, that could do that type of work. They should be part of that process.
We are going to continue to see this type of debate emerge. This is not a one-off issue. We are going to see the return of discussion of the South Korean trade deal. That is another one that I mentioned, where the automotive aspect of it is being offered up as an element that basically could be seen as the carrot to bring us in, and then later on we suffer the consequences of that.
It is important to note also that it is not just the New Democrats here on their own who are bringing this issue forward. It is interesting, because we have not only the labour aspect, which is traditionally part of our party and our relations and so forth, but we also have the associations, as well as companies such as the Irvings.
There are some interesting quotes that have come out of this debate that really reinforce the fact that it is going to be costing us as a country a lot of jobs.
One quote is from Mary Keith, a spokeswoman for Irving Shipbuilding Inc. The company has actually put this in a release, so it is not something that was just said off the cuff or thrown out in a media comment. This is an actual release that was put out, so they thought very carefully about what they were going to say.
Ms. Keith said:
The government of Canada is continuing its 12-year history of sacrificing Canadian shipbuilding and ship operators in the establishment of free trade agreements with other nations.
International trade minister David Emerson said at the time that a free trade agreement in principle had been reached with the countries of Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
They were looking at it through a 12-year lens when she made that comment. I think that is significant because a number of different operators or companies out there are seeing this as systemic. When we see something as systemic, we defeat the option of other people who are interested in actually investing or moving into that field.
The people making those comments are indicating that this is not just one-off bad policy from the Conservative government or the Liberals before it. What they are saying is that if people want to get into this business, they'd better buckle up, because the ones who are in it right now are completely dissatisfied with the relationship they have with the government. They feel that not only is it not neutral, it is actually against the flow.
I want to point that out because what we have happening here is a continued pattern of behaviour, the assumption that we can just reduce trade barriers or regulations, whether it be in regard to food or other types of industries such as the airline industry, and we will see natural improvements to the consumer and to civil society. That is not the case. That has not always happened.
What we need is a carrot-and-stick approach. The carrot is good public policy, and the stick is to make sure that the jobs are going to be created here, especially when taxpayers' money is involved.