Mr. Speaker, as a member representing the great area of London in southwestern Ontario and as a small businessperson, I am happy to take part in today's discussion.
First I want to say how disappointed I am with the decision by Progress Rail and its parent company, Caterpillar, to close the London facility, and I express my sympathy and empathy for the families involved at that workplace.
I am going to attempt to discuss a couple of areas today and would like to share some thoughts about my home and paint a picture of London and southern Ontario, a picture that is far different from the doom and gloom of my colleagues opposite. I would like to set some records straight also, because in this place and back home some stories have been told that do not reflect reality. I would also like to share a vision of positive actions that are taking place and the support for jobs that this government has brought to London and southern Ontario. Southern Ontario is my home. I grew up in London and my kids went to school there.
This motion, much like everything else the party opposite has done, is pretty negative. If we were to listen to the rhetoric coming from the other side of this House, we would think that London had a great big grey cloud over top of it and it rained all day long, every day in London. That is just not true. My Canada, my Ontario, my London, my area of southern Ontario is often full of sunshine. It is full of smiles and hard-working people and full of people who go to work every day and are happy to do so. Unlike the member for London—Fanshawe, I believe in thinking positively toward solutions. London smiles. Londoners are proud of the job they do. Yes, the global economic recession has had a significant impact on southern Ontario, including London and the area where I live. However, southern Ontario has been there before.
I was a small business owner in bad times in the early 1990s when an NDP government caused a provincial recession in Ontario. It made being an employer and a job creator very difficult, but we grew. We put an effort into economic growth and passed into one of the greatest times of prosperity my province has ever seen. We have done it before and we are doing it again. We have people who are well trained in our work force. We have great skills training for those who still need it. We have land and facilities for businesses to grow and new enterprises to locate, and many are doing just that. Kongsberg, a company from Norway, through its great relationship building, decided it would come to London. Dr. Oetker, a food processor from Germany, has decided to locate in London. It is not all doom and gloom; there is sunshine out there.
We have infrastructure, great roads and highways, water and energy. We have close access to the United States by land through both Windsor and Sarnia within an hour or two of London, with the Great Lakes surrounding us and rail services and air cargo facilities available. Thanks to a forward-thinking city and to the help of this government, the London airport has a new air cargo facility to facilitate new enterprises looking to locate in London.
I would like to move to some of the mistruths and misinformation that I suppose my opposition friends feel they must use, because if they stick to the facts they cannot make the same political points or grandstand.
This government has helped business in many ways during this world economic downturn. Just a few examples are its lowering of corporate taxes, creating retraining opportunities and effective work-share programs and trade. The Prime Minister is out of Canada right now, doing some great things on trade with another country. We are looking for new customers because our largest customer, the United States, is suffering too. When a customer who purchases about 80% of everything bought in southern Ontario is hurting, we hurt too. These are just a few examples of what we are attempting to do as a government.
This government has also invested in London's infrastructure. Why? Because it creates immediate jobs and gives our area lasting assets for our children and my children's future.
The member for London—Fanshawe was all too quick to grab a great big cheque and stand in front of a construction site and say, “Hey look at me, this is great, my city is getting great jobs”. In true hypocritical fashion, when the cameras were off, she came back to Ottawa and voted against all of those things for London. That is just not right. When looking through some old photos last night, I found a picture of that event and discovered people celebrating London's growth under the economic action plan. The member for London—Fanshawe was right in front, funnily enough with a Caterpillar loader in the background. Apparently it is okay to use Caterpillar when it is about her job.
Speaking about being hypocritical and misleading, we continue to hear stories from the party opposite about some phantom investment given to Electro-Motive Diesel. Again New Democrats just cannot make points on the facts. They just twist them until they work for them.
Here is how the practices with the capital cost allowance work. First, in 2008 the entire industry committee, including the NDP member for Windsor West, unanimously recommended an increase in the capital cost allowance rate for rail equipment. This change was effective for new locomotives acquired on or after February 26, 2008, as well as for reconditioned locomotives and the refurbishment costs incurred. This benefit went to the customers of Electro-Motive, not to Electro-Motive. My office received no calls during that time demanding that we stop getting more customers for the plant.
Let me now move to another piece of truth that will just not make the story if told correctly. When I grew up on Fairmont Avenue in east London, I remember the GM diesel plant. I remember the big, brown buses it made for the City of London. GM Diesel from 1950 on was a very fine employer in London; it employed a lot of people. GM Diesel, just for those who are not catching on yet, is General Motors Diesel, a fine American company operating in London since 1950.
The myth involved here is maybe best explained by Andrew Coyne in the National Post. He stated:
It’s a compelling story—foreigners buy “our” plant, steal “our” technology, and all with our money! Except:
EMD is not a Canadian company, and never was. Caterpillar bought it from a pair of American private equity firms in 2010; they bought it from General Motors in 2005, who bought it from its Ohio-based founders in 1930. Since 1935 it has been headquartered in La Grange, Illinois. The London branch plant was opened in 1950.
Caterpillar didn’t buy the London plant. It bought the whole company, including its La Grange operations, which is where EMD does its design and engineering work, as well as making parts. It seems unlikely it would have stashed its most valuable intellectual property at a far-off final assembly plant. (Incidentally, as the economist Michael Moffatt points out, GM moved all final assembly work to London from La Grange shortly after the Free Trade Agreement went into effect. The jobs we’re worried about losing to the States are jobs we took from them.)
Even if it were a Canadian company, and even if it possessed a Valhallah of patents, it still wouldn’t belong to “us”. It would belong to them: its Canadian owners, who shelled out good money for it, presumably in anticipation of selling it one day. Caterpillar didn’t steal the company: it paid for it. If its proprietary technology had any value, its previous owners would be just as capable of realizing this—
In every labour dispute, the answer lies with two parties getting together for a solution. As I have said before, I feel that Progress Rail and its parent company did not play the role of good corporate citizens in this, but it appears that very little attempt was made to negotiate a solution to this and save the jobs and keep them in London.
I would love to go on to explain all of the things that our government has done and will continue to do to bring those new industries to London. We have made investments in London with many jobs, including the startup of FedDev Ontario, an organization that my party started to look at economic development in southern Ontario. We have been asked many times by the members opposite, and it seems like it is always a one-off, about what we are going to do about something or why can we not do this or that. The one thing this government has been able to prove over time is that it can multi-task: it can do all of those things. It can create trade when our trading partners go away. It can create new jobs and help retrain workers.
I again want to say there are smiling people in London and it is not all doom and gloom. There is sun shining.