Irene Calls on Government to Protec Manufacturing Jobs

Ms. Irene Mathyssen (London—Fanshawe, NDP):  Mr. Speaker, what we most desperately need are good paying jobs in Canada so our families, our communities and our country can thrive. What we need to do is to protect those jobs now. We can no longer allow the Conservative government to simply watch, while good jobs disappear across the border.

Many of the members across the aisle on the government benches have shrugged off any suggestion that we are in the midst of a manufacturing sector crisis in our country. However, the figures from Statistics Canada do not lie. Canada has lost nearly 400,000 manufacturing jobs since the Conservative government took office in 2006. We have lost over 40,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector in the last year alone. We are currently at an historic low in terms of manufacturing jobs, going back to when these statistics were first gathered in 1976.

I would like to note that this low is quite significant because both our labour force and population have grown significantly over the same period. In other words, there are fewer manufacturing jobs in Canada now than there were in 1976.

Just a quick reminder that most of these job losses have come under the watch of a Conservative government led by the current Prime Minister. It is clear that tax breaks to big business do not keep or create manufacturing jobs in Canada. We need a new strategy. We need an intelligent strategy.

The government cannot continue to ignore the fact that manufacturing jobs are declining at a rapid rate in our country. Most of these jobs are landing in China. A Statistics Canada report found that China had become the world's centre of manufacturing employment. The number of workers in manufacturing in China was estimated at 109 million in 2002, which represents more than double the combined total of 53 million in all the G7 member countries.

My community of London has been hit particularly hard. The city's manufacturing sector has been shrinking at a rapid rate and auto sector jobs have all but disappeared. Electro-Motive Diesel was one of those few plants offering good jobs that was still in operation. They were good paying jobs, jobs that helped support a family, jobs that supported an entire community.

The EMD closure has been a hard lesson. What we have learned with the depletion of our manufacturing sector is that tax cuts to corporations are not a job creation strategy. Nor do they keep good paying jobs in Canada. We have also learned that there are serious flaws in the Investment Canada Act that need to be addressed if we are to protect the remaining manufacturing jobs in Canada.

We need to take action now. Communities across Canada are begging the government to keep our jobs here. The families hurt by the loss of Electro-Motive Diesel do not wish any other families to suffer.

I would like to know what the government plans to do to protect manufacturing jobs in Canada? It is very clear that what the government is doing, or not doing, is not working.

Ms. Kellie Leitch (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour, CPC): Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to express my disappointment in the company's decision to close the plant in London and I sympathize with the workers affected by this closure. Let me be clear. The decision to close the facility was taken by the company alone. The federal government does not get involved in the day-to-day operating decisions of private companies.

The manufacturing sector in our country remains a vibrant and important part of the Canadian economy. Canada is a highly competitive country for investment and business.

Our government has taken significant actions to create jobs in manufacturing and improve the business climate. In the last 12 months, more than 200,000 full-time jobs were created economy wide and employment has returned to pre-recession levels.

We have reduced production costs for companies, encouraged innovation and enhanced our ability to compete in global markets. We are providing tax relief, enacting a 50% straight-line capital cost allowance rate for machinery and equipment. We eliminated tariffs on machinery and equipment and industrial inputs. We have invested in skills training and infrastructure. We continue to support research and efforts to commercialize innovation.

In budget 2011 our government took further action to help Canadians stay in the workforce, including providing a temporary hiring credit for small business to encourage hiring and extending training and employment programs through the targeted initiative for older workers program.

Through these and other actions, almost 610,000 more Canadians are working today than when the recession ended in July 2009. While we remain concerned about the number of Canadians who are still out of work, we are one of only two G7 countries to regain more than all of the output and jobs lost during the downturn.

Our government will continue working to attract investment and open new international markets and will improve Canada's regulatory and marketplace frameworks, promoting competition and reducing the administrative burden faced by businesses.

We are moving forward. We encourage our colleagues opposite to follow our lead and support our upcoming budget and all the initiatives that will support manufacturing in our country.

Ms. Irene Mathyssen:  Mr. Speaker, I am sorry but temporary measures and sympathy will not do it. We need a government willing to act to protect jobs. The figures I quoted from Statistics Canada show very clearly that there is a crisis in the manufacturing sector in Canada. The numbers speak for themselves.

Canada has lost nearly 400,000 manufacturing jobs since the government took office in 2006, and it is no surprise that we have lost this many jobs. In Canada we have government policies and practices that allowed a Caterpillar to disregard workers, grab patents, close up shop and ship those good jobs out of the country. We have nothing in place to protect workers in this country and the government has made it very clear that it intends to do nothing to protect jobs and pensions.

We need only look to the insult the government paid to the workers at EMD in London and the insult to the workers at Canada Post all across Canada to see where its priorities lie and it is not with the average Canadian.