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House of Commons Hansard #77 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was investment.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is exactly the issue. We have to sit down and have a conversation, put parameters and make definitions to this net benefit to Canada. Right now it is the whim of the Minister of Industry or the whim of the Prime Minister, depending on the day and the corporation that is asking to buy a Canadian corporation.

There ought to be parameters on maintaining the head offices in Canada and should they leave suddenly, perhaps they should be responsible to return the benefits that they have received from our country through SR&ED writeoffs or other loans and benefits, but we need to have the conversation.

The Conservatives said that they would change the legislation and they have not done it. They will not get the job done.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Vancouver Quadra, Tourism Industry; the hon. member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, National Defence.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Cape Breton—Canso.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to join in the debate today on the NDP motion. The principle and intent of the motion is something that our party has no problem supporting. Hopefully, the way it is presented is seen by the government as a call to action.

It has been a strange day of debate. When we come to the House and wrestle with any particular issue, it is a political environment. When we look at what is taking place, with the severity of the closures and loss of jobs in both the plant in London and at Papiers White Birch, we would hope that the debate would rise above political rancour and that we would deal with what we could do better as a country to ensure Canadians would not lose jobs.

Nobody in the House wants to see Canadians lose their jobs. The political parties may have a different approach and a difference sense as to how best to ensure that most Canadians are able to work on a steady basis, provide for their families and grow in their communities.

The situation is London is not foreign to me. We had a plant close down just recently in Port Hawkesbury, the NewPage pulp and paper operation. It was a little different situation. It was owned by an American company and the operation in the Port Hawkesbury area was actually profitable. It made both newsprint and super calendar paper, the glossy paper used in catalogues and high end magazines. The mother company in Wisconsin filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy and subsequently we lost the operation in Port Hawkesbury. It was truly unfortunate.

There were 600 jobs there, plus wood lot owners and spinoff jobs. The real sad part is those who were receiving pensions and approaching pension age lost their pensions. The pension at that particular plant was underfunded. I know the regulation of pensions is a provincial responsibility and it would fall under the realm of the province of Nova Scotia. Hopefully, the province of Nova Scotia will embark on a full review of the regulatory regime to ensure that if there are closures in the future, and inevitably there will be, that those pension plans are fully funded. They need to have enough in them so people who work in those industries, after working for 25 or 35 years, when it comes time to retire they will have what they planned and hoped to draw as a pension. That is the reality we face.

The situation in London is obviously different. When we see a company like Caterpillar reporting record profits, when its senior management and shareholders all benefited from record sales over the last number of years and when the revenue lines at the corporation continued to grow, we would have hoped that it would be able to share some of that success with its employees, and they were unionized employees.

One that did not make sense was Papiers White Birch. We knew that company was trouble. We knew the newsprint industry had certainly fallen off over the last number of years, and it had asked the workers to make concessions. It was a completely different set of circumstances in London. The business was in good shape, the company was making money, yet it asked its workforce to take a 50% reduction in wages. When the negotiations were going nowhere, the company locked the workers out and inevitably shut the plant down. Based on that decision, those jobs are going south to Indiana.

It is not just the loss of jobs but the loss of the technology as well. Much of that technology was developed here in Canada. It was developed over a number of years through incentive programs that prior companies would have benefited from, programs that were put forward by Liberal governments. Certainly the companies benefited from the approach on tax reduction. The workers did not benefit much, but the companies benefited from the tax approach the current government embarked on.

The loss of the technology, the loss of the jobs is certainly a devastating situation for those directly impacted. However, even more broadly, these are not just jobs for individuals but good-paying jobs within the community, jobs that certainly have spin-off effects. This will be felt all the way through that community.

I am a little disappointed with the response from some of the government speakers. The couple that have been up today have done infomercials, saying what they have done for the people of London. They talked about investments in parks and here, there and everywhere. That is unfortunate because the intent of this going forward is to help Canadian industry so that we can continue to grow the jobs here in Canada. When government members dismiss it as just a labour dispute, I think that is a disservice to the debate taking place here today.

There was a comment made that this particular deal, this particular acquisition, did not meet the threshold that would trigger an ICA review. Maybe that is something we should be looking at, whether or not the threshold is too high or too low. That is something that should be brought forward and discussed, and it could be looked at in committee.

Whatever the government might say, one thing for sure is that there are still 450 people out of work in London as a result. The jobs and technology have just moved south. No matter what the government says, that is the reality of the situation.

I would hope that the government would see the sense in this motion and maybe support it. We know that this problem has been identified before. We can look at what transpired over a year ago in Saskatchewan with the potash situation there. We know that at the time the then-minister, who is currently President of the Treasury Board, said that the situation warranted a full review of the act by a parliamentary committee. That is what he had promised at that time.

The act is 35 years old. Certainly the economy has changed. The business world has changed. Where we are as a nation has changed. After 35 years, it should be reviewed. The then-minister had committed to that at the time. Since then, he has done nothing. The current minister is saying “No, the legislation as it stands is adequate”.

We are not going to solve all of the problems here in the debate today, but there is one thing that I hope this debate will do. The government has the full intellectual horsepower of the bureaucracy, the federal bureaucrats. Hopefully it will be able to tap them to come up with some type of a plan or strategy that would make sense, so that going forward Canadian jobs and technology will be protected, so that we will not see this happening again to these workers, communities and industries.

I hope the government supports the motion today and sees it as a call to action so that we can get some movement and some action on this particular issue.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault NDP Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, during the first few minutes of my hon. colleague's speech, he said something that really caught my attention, that no one in this House wants to see another Canadian lose his or her job. We all have different ways to talk about that and different ideas, which is what the debate is about. However, what the member said at the end of his speech is what we are talking about today.

This started in the last Parliament when BHP was seeking potash. Unfortunately, my community was the one that started all of the discussion about the Investment Canada Act with Vale and Xstrata taking over Inco and Falconbridge.

What we need to do today is to have the government support what we are trying to accomplish. If we read the motion, it calls on the government to do this:

—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.

I think we should all support that and I would like to get the member's comments on it.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, a similar question was posed in the House today and I would like to read it back into the record. In the wake of “the government's about face on foreign investment in potash more than a year ago, the former minister of Industry promised a new policy, a definition of “net benefit”, greater transparency, enforceable conditions, quick remedies, reciprocity and commercial behaviour by state enterprises”. However, the new Minister of Industry no longer subscribes to that view. It strikes me as a little strange that a year and a half ago the government seemed to grasp and understand this.

We believe in investment and we believe in foreign investment. However, I think there has to be a set of conditions applied here so that Canadian jobs and technology do receive some type of protection.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Bryan Hayes Conservative Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to bring to the member's attention that in my riding of Sault Ste. Marie, Essar Steel Algoma is owned by an Indian company and TenarisAlgomaTubes by an Argentinian company. These companies were going to go out of business. No Canadian company stepped up to the plate to make the huge investment required. There are 3,900 unionized Canadian jobs in my riding of Sault Ste. Marie because of foreign investment.

I would like to ask the member opposite what he would say to the hard-working residents of Sault Ste. Marie who are working for majority foreign-owned companies.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, that is good news. From my remarks I would hope that the member for Sault Ste. Marie would never think the Liberal Party is against foreign investment.

We are not against corporate tax cuts either. There is a time and a place for corporate tax cuts, but I do not think it is the time and place for those when the government is running a $45 billion deficit. Certainly, when we were in a position to offer corporate tax cuts, we did.

Foreign investment is something we welcome as long as there are provisions and parameters to protect Canadian interests, technologies, jobs and communities. I think that is in everyone's best interest. Hopefully the motion today will move the government to look at this 35-year-old legislation so that Canadian interests will be protected.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Mylène Freeman NDP Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to inform you that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Sudbury.

I am proud to speak today to support the motion moved by the hon. member for London—Fanshawe. If the House were to adopt this motion, the government would finally be taking a significant step toward ensuring that the interests of corporations and the interests of our constituents are not in conflict. This motion might be the first long-awaited step toward enabling the Canadian economy to work as it should. This would create wealth for all Canadians, not just for the owners of foreign corporations. Imagine an economy that all Canadians could count on for their future and their family's future. What a pleasure it would be to visit the workers in my riding to tell them that the government is doing something to protect jobs and strengthen the local economy.

Unfortunately, we are seeing the opposite. Canadians are being told that the unemployment rate is going up and that the economy is recovering too slowly from the crisis. We learn that economic inequalities are increasing and forcing seniors and children to use food banks. We learn that housing is becoming less and less affordable, which is forcing honest workers, often parents, into homelessness.

When we learned that the unemployment rate had reached 7.6%, the highest it has been since the May 2 election, the people of Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel began feeling really and truly afraid. The average annual household income in my riding is about $20,000. This motion would force the government to take action to protect manufacturing jobs and other jobs. This would give my constituents greater financial security, strengthen the local economy and, basically, ensure the economic survival of the region.

Here is what we need to do. We should begin by strengthening the Investment Canada Act. We need to keep in mind that the purpose of that legislation is to ensure that foreign investments deliver a net benefit to Canadians. This legislation must ensure that the businesses that come to Canada give more than they take. This legislation was implemented in 1985 under the Brian Mulroney government to protect our collective interests. Although the intentions behind the legislation were extremely noble, it lacks the teeth, strength and leverage needed to achieve the desired results.

It is time to amend the Investment Canada Act to enable it to do what it was meant to do. We have lost 400,000 manufacturing jobs in Canada since this government came to power. This year alone, we have lost 40,000 of those jobs. Economists and several studies tell us that if the Conservatives continue on the same path, Canada could lose another 68,000 full-time jobs because of the reckless cuts this government plans to make.

Offering tax cuts to business with no strings attached is the main way in which this government has responded to the crisis. Our corporate tax rate is already very low. It was 21% in 2008 under the Liberals and is now 15%. This is much lower than the tax rate in the United States, which is approximately 40%. Companies enjoy extremely low tax rates, but they have no obligation to create jobs.

Over 12,000 takeovers by foreign companies were not even reviewed under the act because they came below the very high investment threshold stipulated in the act. The NDP would reduce this threshold to a responsible level of $100 million. This would ensure that foreign companies take us seriously when we say that Canada's natural resources and extremely low tax rates do not come without strings attached. Investments must truly provide a net benefit for Canadians. This legislation does not even define the net benefit for Canadians. This omission, I fear, will result in the legislation being ineffectual. The New Democrats are working on addressing this serious shortcoming.

We want to describe in detail what a net benefit means. The key elements of this definition will be that workers are guaranteed a job and a pension and that communities benefit from investments.

The Conservatives want us to believe that the only thing that creates jobs is ill-considered tax cuts. This is quite simply not true. The vast majority of my constituents work in small and medium-sized businesses. Their employers are often fathers and mothers, just like them, who work hard to keep their businesses afloat.

As I said earlier, the Conservatives have lowered the tax rate for big companies to 15%. Unfortunately, more often than not, these big companies have disregarded the welfare of workers and surrounding communities, which is quite the opposite of small businesses, which have solid roots in their communities. The tax rate for these small and medium-sized businesses remains at 11%, which is very high for the businesses in my riding. The New Democrats are calling for this tax rate to be lowered to 9%. Helping small and medium-sized businesses must be a priority in order to keep our communities vital.

My riding of Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel is the perfect example of a place where small businesses, SMEs, create jobs that families can count on.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

February 9th, 2012 / 4:45 p.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault NDP Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for her speech and to talk specifically about the importance of her constituents. She was talking about how many of them work in small and medium-size enterprises. We have seen the abject failure of the Investment Canada Act to truly protect Canadian jobs. We have seen from the Conservatives corporate tax giveaways that have no direct benefit to these small and medium-size enterprises where her constituents work.

Maybe the member would comment specifically on what she would like to see the government implement and what a New Democrat government would do.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Mylène Freeman NDP Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, New Democrats would strengthen the Investment Canada Act by reducing the threshold for investments subject to review to $100 million, and providing explicit and transparent criteria for the net benefit to Canada test, with an emphasis on the impact of foreign investment on communities, jobs, pensions and new capital investments.

More than just improving the Investment Canada Act, New Democrats would govern in a much fairer way. We would take care of our small and medium-sized businesses that create about half the jobs in Canada. The Investment Canada Act is only one lever among many available to the government to help protect and create jobs. However, the government is failing to use them.

We need to take immediate action to address the job crisis in Canada.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague a question and congratulate her on a very passionate speech that conveys the opinions of the people in her riding of Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel.

My question pertains to Caterpillar's profits in recent years. In 2011, this company had record profits of $5 billion, an 83% increase over 2010. It is surprising that this company then asked its employees to accept a pay cut or have their jobs shipped to the U.S. It is hard to understand the Conservatives' logic. They give tax breaks to these companies, which then turn around and ask their employees to accept a pay cut or else lose their jobs.

Should we not instead be giving small and medium-sized companies tax breaks because these companies, like the ones in my riding, actually create jobs? I am certain that, in my colleague's riding, the SMEs create the most jobs, not the big companies that end up moving to the U.S. or Asia. I would like to hear what she has to say about this.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Mylène Freeman NDP Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives' no strings attached corporate income tax cuts should be cancelled immediately and the rate returned to 19.5%. Meanwhile, small businesses should have a tax rate of 9% instead of 11%.

The NDP prefers tax breaks in return for performance, not just throwing them at companies that are not even creating jobs. Small businesses create jobs. We should be rewarding the businesses that are creating jobs in Canada and not those that are pushing unions and workers into a corner, forcing them to take a cut in their salaries or move to the United States. That is not the kind of behaviour we should be rewarding.

I can assure the House that New Democrats would do things differently and in a way that would create jobs in this country.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault NDP Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to assure the member here that the member can ask me questions in the next round. I would also like to thank my colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel for sharing her time with me.

I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to a very important motion put forward by the very well-respected member for London—Fanshawe.

Let me begin by stating that I could use this opportunity to exclusively reiterate how the failure of both this government and the previous Liberal government to modernize the Investment Canada Act has directly impacted my community of Sudbury through foreign takeovers of Canadian industrial icons, Inco and Falconbridge.

However, I think it is more appropriate to focus on the broader narrative of the repeated failure of both Conservative and Liberal governments to implement a sound industrial policy which would put the middle-class Canadian family ahead of corporate greed.

Whether we are talking about Inco, which is now Vale, or Falconbridge, which is now Xstrata in Sudbury, U.S. Steel in Hamilton, White Birch or Mabe in the province of Quebec, or Electro-Motive Diesel in London, it has become abundantly clear that the Investment Canada Act is broken and needs to be fixed immediately.

The Act has been broadly criticized by economists, industry observers and the provinces for its lack of transparency, consultation, effectiveness and enforcement.

In fact, the Premier of Ontario recently called on the Prime Minister to review Canada's outdated foreign investment legislation. He noted that the government has acknowledged the need for change, but has done nothing tangible to rectify this. This was made clear by witness testimony from Industry Canada officials at the standing committee on industry in October.

One specific aspect of the Investment Canada Act, which is inherently problematic, is the extremely rigid confidentiality provisions. These have made disclosure under the Act difficult. From my experience, dealing with the Inco and Falconbridge takeovers in Sudbury, it is clear that the transparency of these takeover agreements is paramount for enforcement of the Act. The terms of the takeover are still not publicly available, further allowing foreign companies to keep secret the terms of the sale of the agreement.

My colleague from Nickel Belt has introduced legislation to remedy this issue, so have no fear. I would encourage those on the other side of the House to examine these bills and get behind the proposals contained therein.

To bring this back to the broader narrative, this is about economic choices made by the Conservative government. For instance, on January 1, the latest round of new Conservative tax giveaways to profitable corporations came into effect. These Conservative tax cuts helped pad the margins of already profitable corporations that have failed to create jobs for Canadians.

A case in point is the recent lockout and resulting shutdown of Electro-Motive Diesel in London, whose owner, the American-controlled Caterpillar, proverbially took the money and ran. Unfortunately, this situation is not a catchy pop song from the Steve Miller Band. Instead, it represents a disastrous state of affairs for the families of employees of Electro-Motive and employees of small and medium-sized businesses in London who rely on good jobs like those at Electro-Motive to stimulate growth and make ends meet for families as well.

The most shocking aspect of Caterpillar's decision to shut down the plant is that the company posted a record profit of nearly $5 billion in 2011, accounting for an 83% increase over 2010 profits. According to Reuters, these earnings blew away Wall Street expectations.

Meanwhile, the companies outlook for 2012 is similarly strong. This begs the question: If profits remain at record levels, why is the company taking the Conservatives' gift in the form of blind corporate handouts and immediately turning around and killing Canadian jobs without a second thought? Sadly, the Electro-Motive example represents a broader trend of failed industrial policy exacerbated by Conservative inaction on this file.

In contrast to blind corporate handouts, which the Conservative government is advocating, New Democrats believe that instead of tax giveaways to big oil and profitable multinational corporations, we should implement targeted tax savings for companies that actually create Canadian jobs.

In the case of Caterpillar, if these tax breaks had been tied to job creation or part of a better Investment Canada Act review, we might not be in this position. This would have meant that it could not take the money and run, so to speak. Instead, in order to qualify for tax breaks, any financial incentive which companies like Caterpillar receive should be tied directly to job creation.

The Prime Minister consistently prides himself on being an excellent steward of the Canadian economy. However, the real track record in terms of job creation reveals a gaping rhetoric reality gap between the Prime Minister's tough talk and meagre action.

For instance, Canada has nearly lost 400,000 manufacturing jobs since the Prime Minister's government took office in 2006. We have lost over 40,000 manufacturing jobs in the last year alone. In fact, Canada is currently at a historic low in terms of manufacturing jobs, dating back to when these statistics were first gathered in 1976.

Meanwhile, our labour force and population have grown significantly over this period. Obviously the pace of economic growth in this sector is being outpaced by demographic realities, not to mention the direct loss of jobs which has been observed under the Prime Minister's watch.

As I explained earlier, it is these types of well paying, stable jobs in manufacturing and other primary sectors which create spinoff benefits in these industries within a community. Yet the Conservative approach seems unwilling to link support for job creation in primary industries with the spinoff effects that this has on tertiary sectors and ultimately the prosperity of entire communities.

Finally, I find it striking that a large proportion of the communities which have been affected by the failure of the Investment Canada Act have ultimately elected New Democrat MPs in response to the government's refusal to take a stand on approach to building a sound industrial policy which focuses on job creation in primary industries like mining and manufacturing, while also creating spinoff jobs in sectors which thrive as a result of well paying, stable industrial jobs.

From the Sudbury region to Hamilton and Niagara, from Alma to London, these regions now all have strong New Democrat representatives who have consistently stood up for a sound industrial policy in Canada. It leaves one questioning whether the Conservative government understands the backlash and outrage expressed by members of communities affected by the utter failure of the Investment Canada Act to protect Canadian jobs.

As my experience in Sudbury demonstrates, the failure to implement a sound industrial policy can have substantial long-term impacts on all aspects of a community from jobs and a family's ability to make ends meet, to workers' rights, and even to donations to charitable organizations, as the pot of money available to these organizations tends to dwindle when a community suffers an economic downturn.

In closing, I would implore my Conservative colleagues to re-examine their failed approach to industrial policy by strengthening the Investment Canada Act and tying corporate tax cuts to direct job creation for the sake of their communities' long-term economic and social well-being. If factories like Electro-Motive are allowed to be shuttered right across Canada as a result of inaction on this file, I firmly believe that Canadians will turn to the New Democrats to protect their jobs, standard of living and ultimately, the Canada we all deserve.

Finally, as a member of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, I look forward to an opportunity to examine the Investment Canada Act at committee in the future so we can modernize the legislation and begin putting Canadian families ahead of CEO bonuses and failed industrial policy.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Denis Blanchette NDP Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his excellent speech. His comments are always relevant. In his speech, he said that the Investment Canada Act was outdated.

In Quebec City, we are losing the White Birch paper plant, a leader in the manufacturing industry. I would like the hon. member to tell us how we could improve this legislation in order to put an end to the job losses that are occurring right now in Canada's manufacturing industry.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault NDP Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, I can feel for what the member is saying.

In my community of Sudbury, when Inco was bought by Vale, within a few years we saw layoff after layoff. We saw a strike. Xstrata, within its first few years of taking over Falconbridge, laid off 686 workers.

We have started to see those jobs come back, but what we need to do, and it is something all parliamentarians in the last Parliament agreed to, is look at how we can make the Investment Canada Act stronger. We as New Democrats are proposing many things, such as the threshold for investments being subject to review, $100 million. We should get the communities and stakeholders that are being affected by this together at a table to talk with the companies so we know how our communities are going to be affected.

At the end of the day, we need to stop the blind corporate giveaways and the blind foreign investment that takes away Canadian jobs, and start supporting Canadian companies that want to create jobs here.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. member a fairly brief question.

Here are some figures related to the economy. The unemployment rate is 7.6%, which is the highest it has been since the last election. The unemployment rate among young people is 14.5%. The unemployment rate has therefore been on the rise for the past four months. A total of 1.4 million Canadians are currently out of work, and 60,000 full-time jobs have been eliminated since September 2011.

This clearly indicates that the Conservatives' plan is not working at all. The numbers I just mentioned speak for themselves and prove that the Conservatives' plan is not working.

Does the hon. member agree with me on this? Does he also think that the jobs lost at Electro-Motive are the result of a plan that is not working?

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault NDP Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, the easy and quick answers are yes and yes, but there is a bigger picture that we are not looking at here.

Yes, there were 450-plus jobs lost at that plant, but we are forgetting about the spinoff jobs that come from that plant. I can speak directly about the spinoff jobs that occur in my community with Vale and Xstrata. We have 17,000 spinoff jobs in the mining supply and services sector. Some in my community say that number is even higher. If we start to see those numbers decrease as well, the unemployment figures are going to drastically rise.

We need to see the writing on the wall that the current plan is not a jobs plan. We need to ensure that we bring forward an agenda, budgets and ideas that will create jobs. Currently what we are seeing is the opposite.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Charmaine Borg NDP Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am fortunate today to rise in the House and talk about how the strategies of the Conservative Party are not working.

The Conservatives’ economic vision is centred around big business, and only big business. This vision falls short in the eyes of both those who voted for the Conservative Party and those who did not.

Canadians rely on their elected representatives to protect what they have, to promote a responsible environment in the long term, to stimulate the economy and to improve their future. The recent case of Caterpillar, in London, Ontario, is but one example of the many debacles that have affected Canadian workers. The workers are the ones who end up footing the bill when the law does not protect their jobs. The situation of Caterpillar in London is very simple: the US company came to take advantage of the Canadian government investments made possible by the Investment Canada Act. The company developed its technologies and patents, and when it had an opportunity to return to the United States, to a state where employees do not have to be unionized and are not as well paid, it closed its doors and thumbed its nose at its workers and the union.

But the worst part of all this is that the Canadian government did not deem it necessary to take a closer look at the investments made in this company. Today, I realize that Caterpillar used Canadian laws to finance its research before simply throwing families out into the streets, like garbage, families that count on this income to survive. Caterpillar in London, White Birch Paper in Quebec City, AstraZeneca and Mabe in Montreal all demonstrate this clearly: businesses can close their doors without respecting either the unions or workers.

I am disgusted to see that our workers and jobs are not better protected by a government that boasts about creating employment. Keeping jobs should be our greatest badge of pride. The residents in my riding are not fooled, and yet they have to bear the consequences of this government's choices. They suffered after the closing of GM and Electrolux, which are close to my riding. A lot of jobs were created when these businesses were established, but the companies were able to close their doors and leave their employees jobless. This kind of thing occurs despite the Conservatives' tax cuts, which do nothing to protect decent jobs that allow families to live in dignity.

What the Conservatives have to offer as proof of their accomplishments is a steady rise in the unemployment rate and a 6% tax cut for large corporations, even though it is estimated that the government loses $2 billion for every percentage point cut. I cannot think of a single country that can afford to throw away $12 billion a year, billions of dollars that would really improve the services provided to Canadians and that would create jobs in health care and other social services.

The Conservatives can bombard Canadians with a ton of numbers and try to confuse them, but the reality is very simple: increased unemployment, plants shutting down and families facing huge losses of income. Clearly, lowering taxes is not the way to create jobs.

Canadian taxpayers are fed up with paying for the subsidies given to businesses that can shut down whenever they like. Over the past year, hundreds of thousands of good, high-paying jobs—which Canadian families relied on to survive—have been lost. Those jobs allowed people to invest in the local economy and support their fellow citizens. Our entire social structure depends on this economic health, and entire communities suffer and die when the government acts irresponsibly. The NDP recognized the weakness of the Conservative economic vision a long time ago. We said no to the Conservatives' tax cuts and yes to an Investment Canada Act that would ensure that businesses that benefit from our market invest in long-term Canadian jobs.

In the last election, we made it clear that we recognize and support real job creators. Small and medium-sized businesses support the development of communities and stay in those communities. When large corporations like Electrolux and GM closed, small and medium-sized businesses were the ones that supported the regional economy in Terrebonne—Blainville. My constituents know this. Since they were elected, the Conservatives have made life difficult for small and medium-sized businesses. They benefit from a lower tax rate based on the size of the business, in order to compete with large corporations.

Small and medium-sized businesses used to enjoy a lower tax rate, but since coming to power, the Conservatives have chipped away at that advantage, hindering their ability to grow, to compete with larger companies and to create the local jobs that our economy needs.

I understand that foreign investment is important to our economy. However, as the member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques said, the act requires companies to show that their plan will have a net benefit for Canada and the local economy, but does not define exactly what that is.

When the legislation is not clear and precise, it opens the door to all manner of abuse, as we have seen over the past few years. The NDP has developed a pro-small business platform because it understands that small businesses are responsible for nearly half of all new jobs in Canada. That is why we have been fighting for them since the election.

Our platform includes a commitment to reduce the small and medium-sized business tax rate from 11% to 9%. We want to reinstate the job creation tax credit of up to $4,500 for each new job. This initiative would help create 200,000 jobs every year and would enable families to live with dignity. We want to strengthen the Investment Canada Act by reducing the threshold for investments subject to review to $100,000. We want public hearings that allow for community input into decisions on both the assessment of net benefit and conditions to apply to the investment.

The NDP is committed to supporting the real job creators: small and medium-sized businesses. We know that too many families are suffering because of the Conservatives' bad fiscal decisions. We want to support our local businesses so that they can create jobs for local workers and reflect our values.

In closing, I would like to share what Electro-Motive Diesel employee Ralf Zapke had to say about the social cost of gifts for big business. He said that many people with a family, children, a mortgage and a car loan are simply terrified at the prospect of losing everything, and that nobody knows what will happen.

The Conservative government claims to be managing our economy sensibly and reasonably, yet what it has clearly demonstrated is that its policies do not protect families and their future. It is therefore incapable of governing the country.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Hillyer Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member said that when big business was shut down, it hurt small and medium-sized businesses. How can being hostile toward big business possibly be good for small and medium-sized businesses? Does the member really think that if we had increased the corporate tax rate, Caterpillar would have stayed?

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Charmaine Borg NDP Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for the question. I want to point out that we cannot give tax cuts to corporations and then allow them to slam the door and put workers out onto the street. That is not allowed. We must review how we allow foreign corporations to operate in Canada. We must reassess the situation.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

It being 5:15 p.m., pursuant to order made earlier today, all questions necessary to dispose of the opposition motion are deemed put and the recorded division is deemed to have been demanded and deferred until Monday, February 13, 2012, at the end of government orders.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Conservative Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I ask that you see the clock at 5:30 p.m.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Is that agreed?

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.