Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time today with the member for Nickel Belt. I have never seen such a demonstration of ice-skating in my life as I just saw.
Normally I would like to talk free and easy in my speeches and as relaxed as I can, but because of the nature of this debate and the impact on my community, I have written my remarks down today as I have a significant amount of frustration and anger about what has occurred there.
I am rising to speak to the New Democrat's opposition day motion as we debate and consider the situation facing Canadian companies and Canadian workers who either have been or are subject to foreign takeovers.
Over the last 25 years, since Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney declared that Canada was open for business, thousands of companies have changed hands and tens of thousands of workers have lost their jobs.
My home town of Hamilton has seen these takeovers and the results where so many of my friends have lost their jobs. In many cases, we might say they lost their futures as well.
Since the inception of the Investment Canada Act in 1985, there has been 17,485 foreign investments under review. According to Industry Canada of those 13,516 have been takeovers.
Under the ICA, the Conservative government has turned down only one takeover prior to this one, and that was MacDonald Dettwiler. This happened after considerable pressure led by an NDP MP, Peggy Nash from Toronto.
During the 13 year term of successive Liberal governments, not one single takeover was blocked. In 2009, again according to Industry Canada, the government reviewed only 22 of 338 takeovers.
The United States accounts for over 60% of all takeovers in Canada since 1985 and continues to account for about half today, well ahead of the EU, which is at 27%. In 2007 foreign controlled firms accounted for 21.3% of Canadian corporate assets, 29.4% of total revenues and 26.2% of operating profits.
For the first time since 1999, in the year 2000, foreign-controlled companies operating in Canada held more than half, or 52.8%, of manufacturing assets, up from 46.8% in the previous year. Statistics Canada says that the increases are due largely to foreign acquisitions of Canadian controlled, especially in primary metals, wood and paper industries.
Today, as we talk about a net benefit to Canada, do we mean a net benefit for Canadian workers or Canadian investors and corporate boards?
Last evening on the CBC national news, the network compared two takeovers in Hamilton: Dofasco by ArcelorMittal and Stelco by U.S. Steel. Clearly these are two players in the manufacture of steel products that function with very different business models.
I remember well the enthusiasm in Hamilton when U.S. Steel came into the chase to purchase Stelco, the new-found hope that pensioners had that their pensions would be secure by promises made by U.S. Steel. The workers in the plant felt, at least tentatively, that could begin to plan their futures for them and their families.
Today as collective bargaining has stalled and many employees at the Hamilton plant wonder how it could even have been called collectively bargaining at all. Demands from the company are clearly designed to destroy their defined benefit pension plan and take away the ability of new employees to count on a dignified retirement in the future. That is the single major issue in this dispute.
The former Stelco, now U.S. Steelworkers, clearly remember the situation their brothers and sisters at U.S. Steel's Nanticoke plant faced, with many months on a picket line trying to defend their pensions. Hamilton workers now have to question what lies ahead for them.
United Steelworkers Local 1005 have labelled the situation at U.S. Steel as nation wrecking. It has done so because it has seen what happened to labour relations after Vale's purchase of Inco, when Xstrata laid off hundreds of workers and Rio Tinto closed operations in Quebec.
These companies came to Canada making promises to workers and their families, making promises to the federal government that they would maintain operations and employment. Our federal government said that the propositions put forward by these companies would be a net benefit for Canada. At these plants, workers are still waiting for this supposed net benefit.
Older workers at all of these plants and at U.S. Steel in Hamilton wonder just how bad it can get. Are we actually in a race to the bottom?
Today U.S. steelworkers face what in collective bargaining is commonly called whipsawing. Normally, whipsawing happens when one plant in Canada that has a relationship with a company is played off against another unit in the same company during their collective bargaining process. However, the difference here today in the whipsawing of these workers at U.S. Steel is that they are being whipsawed against plants in the United States under the ownership of the same American employer.
Is it not simply logical to expect that an American company would protect its own citizens ahead of Canadian workers?
In Hamilton's situation, U.S. Steel has closed down the last operating blast furnace and has indicated that it will lock out its employees shortly unless workers accept a decimation of their defined benefit pension plan. Where is the net benefit for these Hamilton workers?
How is Canada a better country because we allowed Xstrata, Rio Tinto, Vale and U.S. Steel to bring their anti-worker labour relations to Canada? I would suggest nation wrecking does apply.
Today workers are not being asked to give up their own defined benefit pension plan. They are being asked to give up the possibility for future generations to retire with security. These Hamilton workers are being coerced into committing a major disservice to their own families future generations.
Canada has built on value-added manufacturing that turned our resources into the products needed around the world. Canadians must ask themselves how we have reached this point, where corporate demands that before had been considered out of the question are now quickly becoming the norm.
How is it possible that we are now faced with importing corporate control of not only our companies but potentially foreign corporate control of our resources? The reason is clear. This has happened as a result of successive governments in this place making terrible decisions in allowing foreign investment deals and company takeovers that clearly have failed to meet the test of net benefit to Canadian workers.
If members hear my voice tremble slightly today, it is because I am angry and I am hurting. I agree with United Steelworkers Local 1005 that nation wrecking is being allowed to take place across Canada.
I will close with a few of questions.
What will the government do to reverse this devastating calamity for Canadian workers?
Will the government take into account the status of existing collective agreements reached between workers and companies over many years and apply an aspect of net benefit to Canada to this part of any foreign ownership deal?
What limits is the government prepared to put on the ability of foreign corporations to roll back collective agreements using whipsawing between Canadian and non-Canadian companies?
When we talk net benefit to Canadians, we must include net benefit to the plant workers at the same time.