Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to join in the debate on Bill C-2. First, let me pay tribute to the member for Burnaby—New Westminster for carrying this debate on behalf of our party.
I come from a shipbuilding province, but I do not want to be parochial about this. We are a shipbuilding nation. My part of the country has been building ships for hundreds and hundreds of years for the fishing industry, going back 400 and 500 years.
We are building ships now. We have a modern shipyard in Marystown that is capable of terrific work. It was selected, in fact, for the joint supply ships for the Canadian navy, one of the two final bidders that were ready to roll and go to build these ships. What happened? At the last minute, or 72 hours before the election was called, the government cancelled the contract. The Canadian navy was about to issue a contract that was worth some $2.5 billion, which would have provided work, if Marystown was the successful bidder, and lot of people in my neck of the woods had every reason to believe that it would have been, to build those ships for six, eight or ten years of work and another fifteen or twenty years to provide the maintenance of them.
While Newfoundland and Labrador is part of the historic fishing, maritime, shipbuilding, boat building nation, we cannot forget that shipbuilding is a modern 21st century industry today. It is not part of the rust belt. Yes, ships are built of iron and steel, but they are also built with the most modern telecommunications and navigation facilities. They are built to rigorous standards. It is an industry of the future, requiring the highest degree of skill, technology and knowledge. It is a knowledge-based industry as well as part of the industrial base of our country.
It is something that requires the support of government to keep us in the game. What has happened is that other countries such as Norway have done that for their industry, for their people, for their prosperity and for their participation in the future of industry in the world, but we have not done that for ours. That is the reason why this should be out of this deal.
There are other problems with this deal too. The premier of my province has mentioned some of them. We are not using this opportunity to negotiate a free trade agreement to ensure that we remove the tariff, for example, from shrimp, which has been crippling the shrimp industry in the east coast for many years. This non-tariff barrier is being promoted now in the European Union by an attempt to ban seal products from a humane, controlled industry in the east coast.
We see no effort by the Government of the Canada to use these negotiations as an opportunity to extend our fishing jurisdiction outside the nose and tail of the Grand Banks. We still have to deal with an ineffective regime there.
Therefore, there other disappointments, but the big one, for which we are looking for support from both sides of the House, is our shipbuilding industry. We are trying to get some sense into the government, but we are also hoping that others on this side of the House will support our efforts. We are looking to the Bloc Québécois members who may be supportive, but we are also looking to the Liberals. So far I have not heard the Liberals participating in this debate and saying how they feel about this.
That was not always the case. I have in my hand a report that was produced, with the support of Brian Tobin, a former premier of Newfoundland and former industry minister. It is called “Breaking Through: The Canadian Shipbuilding Industry”. This report came out with a whole series of recommendations produced through a consultation process led by a number of individuals called the National Partnership Project Committee. Part of that was the president of the Shipbuilding Association of Canada, Peter Cairns, Les Holloway, the executive director of the Marine Workers Federation, Philippe Tremblay from the Fédération de la métallurgie CSN and Peter Woodward from the Woodward Group of Companies. They made a very good presentation with a lot of recommendations for the shipbuilding industry, which would have assisted this industry. However, we have not seen those recommendations implemented.
I would ask the Liberals, both nationally and from my own province, to support the amendment that we put forward because it would be important, not only to our own province of Newfoundland and Labrador but to the whole country. We have heard of the importance of shipbuilding on the west coast. We know it is important in the Thunder Bay area and in the province of Quebec. We see shipyards struggling to maintain their place in the modern world.
One important recommendation for this shipbuilding project was to ask the Government of Canada to eliminate the peaks and valleys of procurement for the navy and the Coast Guard through more effective forward planning and thereby keeping order books and employment levels more consistent over the long term.
That is extremely important because we do need to maintain a significant plan and a significant capital investment. According to an article in the Ottawa Citizen a couple of weeks ago on the estimated demands and needs for the navy, it stated:
One area that could provide significant employment for domestic firms in the coming decades is federal shipbuilding. With the navy's warships and Coast Guard vessels rusting out and in need of replacement, there is an estimated $40 billion to $60 billion worth of work over the next 20 years.
Where this work will take place is the question marine workers across the country are asking. With the cancellation of the joint supply ships project back in August, concerns were being raised that the government had plans to go overseas, to go offshore. It went through a tendering process and then it gave up on it.
Now we see the government supplying the Canadian Forces without contracts. It is buying helicopters from the United States without any contracts. There is not even an opportunity for a competitive bidding process. That is shocking. The government acquired C-17s and C-130J transport planes from the U.S. with no contracts and no competitive bidding.
There is a concern that the new search and rescue aircraft will go to a non-competitive bid. Canadian companies have no opportunity to participate because the Canadian Forces, apparently, have their eye on a particular Italian plane manufactured in the U.S. and there does not seem to be any plans to even have a competitive bid for that.
What is going on? Have we lost our way? Every country in the world, when it comes to procurement for their army, navy and air force, look to their domestic industries, except Canada. What is wrong with us? Is there something that I do not know about? Maybe members opposite could tell us what is wrong with us. What is it about us that we cannot build our own ships to ply the seas and look after our air forces, transport and so on? Maybe members opposite have the answers. Maybe there is something going on that I do not know about, but we seem to have lost our way.
For some reason, a bunch of Liberals seem to be going along with the government. I do not understand that. The shipbuilding industry is a modern, 21st century industry in which we should be participating. Why we are not doing so, is absolutely beyond me.
In the minute I have left, I would ask members opposite to get up on their feet during questions and comments and explain to the House and to Canadians why they are not protecting, supporting and expanding the ship industry in Canada. Perhaps some of the Liberals could tell us why they do not care either.
What is the plan for the $40 billion to $60 billion that will be spent by the government alone on the shipbuilding industry over the next coming decade? That could make a big difference to the economy of parts of this country, mostly coastal areas that have been struggling over the past many years for all sorts of reasons, some having to do with the fishery. Why is it that we cannot ensure that this kind of work is being done in this country?