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In fact, the Premier of Ontario recently called on the Prime Minister to review Canada's outdated foreign investment legislation.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.