Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to also address the motion put forward by the Bloc on the textile industry, or perhaps I should say the lack of said industry due to the government's just in time policy that it seems to have adopted.
I will be referring to letters and statements from experts within the industry, experts such as Mr. Harvey Penner and Mr. Marcel Thibeault.
I have stood in the House and demanded action from the government, from the Minister of Finance, on this industry's struggles, problems that, in my opinion and many of the opinions of members of the House, were created by the government's inability to see the collateral implications of its poorly thought out so-called solutions.
I emailed the Minister of Finance and I sent notes to him during question period. I organized members of the House who, for the most part, supported me and helped put pressure on the government, which had been, along with the old member of Parliament from my riding, sitting aimlessly and carelessly on this file for years. The Minister of Finance himself admitted that the file had been sitting on his desk for months. That is shameful conduct from a government that professes to be a job creator.
In this case we have an industry that was disadvantaged by its own government. When the Liberal's program started to cost Canadian jobs, what we saw was not an action plan to solve the problem, but instead an obvious lack of concern for jobs we already had. Eight hundred jobs were lost In Huntingdon, Quebec, and almost 200 jobs in my riding of Cambridge due to the government's inability to get on the ball in time.
Just in time is an automotive industry success story. It is not and should not be a government policy. The original idea was sound and the objective of helping countries that require our assistance is very important, but the manner in which the government implemented the program has not only caused a dramatic decline in outputs for Canadian textile producers and apparel manufacturers but it has had questionable results in terms of the intended effect of helping the truly poorest of countries.
Under the rules of origin, up to 75% of x factor price of garments made in less developed countries can be of non-LDC materials from countries such as China, Korea and India, countries with huge and sophisticated textile and clothing industries. These countries hardly need Canada's help in their exports.
Another result is that these rules of origin deprive the less developed countries of any incentive for foreign investors to establish textile manufacturing facilities in their countries, investment that would lead to long term employment and advancement opportunities for the people who need it the most.
The Minister of Finance said on December 14, 2004, that these were issues of competitiveness, of market access, of new technology and that these were issues he believed the government had to address in cooperation and partnership with the industry.
That statement alone confirms a complete lack of knowledge of this incredibly competitive industry in Canada.
I toured John Forsythe Shirt in my riding of Cambridge where hundreds of thousands of dollars have been reinvested to keep that plant at the leading edge of technology. I strongly suggest that the minister get his facts correct and I would offer him the researchers on our side of the House.
The facts are that this industry in Canada is innovative, capital intensive and has continually invested to the tune of more than $1 billion in the last five years alone simply to survive an increasingly competitive international trade environment. It is as modern and efficient as any textile industry in the world.
However increased efficiencies, enhanced productivity, modern high tech equipment and skilled workers will not do the industry any good if it does not have customers and markets in which to sell. That has been obstructed by government policies.
Let me repeat that it will take good government policies to make this happen. The government cannot blame this problem on someone else. It must accept the problem in this industry full face. The industry is and always has been at the plate. The government has not stepped up to the plate yet.
The government's decision to provide duty free and quota free entry for textiles and clothing from at least 48 LDCs as of January 1, 2003, has had a profoundly negative impact because Canadian apparel customers switch to importing and price points fall to impossible to sustain levels.
The program could have been, and I believe it still can be, very successful if given a little more thought.
Thanks to Brian Mulroney, the textile industry has in the past been a FTA and NAFTA success story. Textile exports grew from $0.8 billion in 1989 to $3.3 billion in 2003.
However, most of that growth preceded 2000 when the U.S. government embarked on a series of bilateral agreements with third parties. Those agreements effectively cut Canadian textile producers out of the picture. The industry is losing export business because of these U.S. measures and they have contributed to several recent bankruptcies and closures in our country. Again, the government appears to have no action plan on this front either.
I will talk a little about what I see is a very simple solution, either not thought of or ignored. I am sure the House can achieve what again appears to have been overlooked by a government that appears to be too lazy to solve the problems that it has created.
I will talk a little about outward processing. In 2003, $5.6 billion worth of apparel was imported into Canada, which is double the amount only 10 years, but all of that apparel was 100% foreign content. These imports represent approximately one billion square metres of equivalent fabric, a massive loss of opportunity for the Canadian textile manufacturers. If we were able to repatriate even a small portion of that foreign content Canadian production and employment would benefit significantly. Providing duty free entry for imported apparel made from Canadian fabric would enable the Canadian textile industries to grow. They could grow export business with foreign customers who would now have an incentive to buy from Canadian textile manufacturers.
Outward processing may be the missing link. By replacing an imported garment made of foreign fabric with an imported garment made of Canadian fabric is a very good idea in my opinion.
Contrary to the finance minister, who was recently quoted as saying that the industry needs to be more competitive and modern, I say strongly that this industry is not dying. It is an industry with a future in Canada if the proper framework for investment and job creation is in place.
Textile manufactures provide high quality, well-paying jobs that contribute to the high standards of Canadian living. This industry is modern, dynamic and innovative and textile firms have been proactive in adopting new technologies and developing new products to be successful in an increasingly competitive world. What they do not need are further roadblocks, potholes, dead ends and destructive policies.
On that note I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the honour of speaking once again for the jobs in my riding of Cambridge.