That this House condemn the decision of Caterpillar Inc. to close its Electro-Motive Diesel plant in London, Ontario, with a loss of 450 jobs, and that of Papiers White Birch to close its Quebec City plant, with a loss of 600 jobs, and call on the government to table, within 90 days, draft amendments to the Investment Canada Act to ensure that foreign buyers are held to public and enforceable commitments on the ‘net benefit’ to Canada and on the protection of Canadian jobs.
Madam Speaker, it is truly my privilege to introduce this motion on behalf of Electro-Motive Diesel workers of London, Ontario. This motion seeks to highlight the recent plant closures in my community of London and in a second community, that of my colleague, the MP for Beauport—Limoilou, with whom I will be sharing this speaking spot.
The motion also seeks to offer some remedy to workers across the country by calling on the House to draft amendments to the Investment Canada Act, amendments which most desperately are needed to ensure there are good paying jobs in Canada so that our families, communities and country can thrive. We need to protect Canadian jobs now. We can no longer allow the government to simply watch while good jobs disappear across our borders.
Many of the members across the aisle on the government benches have shrugged off any suggestion that this country is in the midst of a manufacturing sector crisis, but the figures from Statistics Canada do not lie. Canada has lost nearly 400,000 manufacturing jobs since the government took office in 2006. We have lost 40,000 manufacturing jobs in the last year alone. We are currently at a historic low in terms of manufacturing jobs going back to when these statistics were first gathered in 1976. I would like to note that this low is quite significant because both our labour force and our population have grown significantly over the same period. In other words, there are fewer manufacturing jobs in Canada now than there were in 1976.
Of particular note, the textile and clothing sector, which according to Statistics Canada has long been one of the largest manufacturing employers in the country, was the hardest hit among the manufacturing industries. From 2004 to 2008, clothing manufacturers and textile and textile product mills saw almost half of their jobs disappear. Manufacturing jobs are declining at a rapid rate in this country and most of these jobs are landing in China.
A Statistics Canada report found that China has become the world centre of manufacturing employment. In fact, the number of workers in manufacturing in China was estimated to be at 109 million in 2002, which represents more than double the combined total of 53 million in all the G8 member countries. The same report paints a dismal picture for the Canadian automotive industry, which is concentrated mainly in Ontario. In fact, my communities are still reeling from the effects of the closure of the Ford plant in Talbotville.
I would like to quote from the Statistics Canada report:
Automotive parts manufacturing lost more than one-quarter of its employees from 2004 to 2008, while motor vehicle manufacturing lost one-fifth. Parts manufacturers saw their jobs go from 139,300 to 98,700, which completely cancelled the strong growth from 1998 to 2004. For their part, motor vehicle manufacturers lost 15,900 jobs between 2004 and 2008, following a rather modest job growth of 5.0% from 1998 to 2004.
Just a quick reminder that most of these job losses have occurred under the watch of a Conservative government led by the Prime Minister. It is very clear that tax breaks to big businesses do not keep or create manufacturing jobs in Canada. We need a new strategy. We need an intelligent strategy.
The first step of the NDP strategy would be to make changes to the Investment Canada Act. We want to reduce the threshold for investments subject to a review to $100 million. We want to provide explicit and transparent criteria for the net benefit to Canada test. We want an emphasis on the impact of foreign investment on communities, jobs, pensions and new capital investment. We want there to be a required public hearing that allows for communities to have input into decisions on both the assessment of net benefit and conditions to apply to the investment. Last, we want to ensure public disclosure and enforcement of all commitments undertaken by potential investors. We also need to investigate and close the loophole in the Investment Canada process, whereby a takeover of a foreign company operating in Canada may not be subject to the act.
These changes would be the first step in the right direction for our manufacturing sector. A plant such as White Birch in Quebec City, when it was sold off to Black Diamond Capital, would have benefited from a requirement in the sale to provide a net benefit to Canada.
My own community of London has been particularly hard hit. The city's manufacturing sector has been shrinking at a rapid rate, and the auto sector jobs have all but disappeared.
Electro-Motive Diesel was one of those few plants offering good jobs that was still in operation. They were good paying jobs, jobs that helped support a family, jobs that helped support an entire community.
I have heard from the families of the workers who lost their jobs, from people such as Michele, who wrote:
My husband is one of the workers and he is devastated by the closure....How would people go about trying to attract a company like GE to come to Canada. It wouldn't be hard to line up a work force for them. How do you get government to offer incentives that protect the jobs of Canadians. There must be something that can be done for these workers....I hope the government does something about Cat doing business in Canada and makes them give back the money that the company received or provide good compensation packages to these workers.
The London community has been very supportive. I have heard from many people who have offered encouraging words to workers and their families, supporters such as Gary, who wrote:
First of all I give them credit for standing up to Caterpillar the way they did & for keeping a peaceful demonstration.
They deserve any penny they earned while working to build the best locomotive plant throughout the world & yet Caterpillar didn't appreciate all that these workers have done for them to build an excellent product & give Caterpillar fantastic profits, which would have continued if the workers had only been treated with respect.
Another London resident, Carl Campbell, headed out to the picket line and handed out 1,000 dollars' worth of $50 bills to locked out workers.
The loss of the Electro-Motive plant will impact our entire community. I heard from the local United Way just this week. The workers at EMD were very generous. They had raised over $100,000 in donations and payroll deductions for the United Way during its most recent fundraising drive. Sadly, the majority of this money will not be donated. Those jobs have been lost. The EMD families can no longer afford to support our United Way.
Canadians are recognizing what is happening to our communities. It is a crisis not just in my community but in many others. They have written to me and pointed to the obvious.
For example, Beth from Stratford, Ontario wrote to the Government of Canada to say:
The situation in London, Ontario with Electro-Motive and similar incidents in many communities across the land is destroying our country.
I urge you to review the June 2010 purchase of Electro-Motive by Caterpillar, under the Investment Canada Act. If it does not adequately protect Canadian jobs and workers then an overhaul of the act itself must be made and applied directly and immediately!
The EMD closure has been a hard lesson. What we have learned with the depletion of our manufacturing sector is that tax cuts to corporations are not a job creation strategy, nor do they keep good paying jobs here in Canada.
We have also learned that there are serious flaws in the Investment Canada Act that need to be addressed if we are to protect the remaining manufacturing jobs in Canada. We need to take action now. Communities across our country are begging the government to keep our jobs here. The families hurt by the loss of Electro-Motive Diesel do not wish that any other family suffer in the way that they as well as all of our community have suffered in London, Ontario.