Welcoming Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace to London

Mayor Anne-Marie DeCicco-Best, the London Economic Development Corporation, and Prime Minister Harper along with London MPs Ed Holder (London-West, Conservative) and Irene Mathyssen (London-Fanshawe, NDP) were among the local leaders on hand to welcome Kongsberg Defence and Aerospace to London this week.

Kongsberg is the Norwegian Defence and Aerospace company which produces the weapons, communications, and survelliance platform on the Light Armoured Vehicles (LAV III's) produced by General Dynamics Land Systems in Mathyssen's riding. The LAV III's are used by the Canadian Forces as well as other NATO military forces. Kongsberg announced Thursday that it will open a facility in London this year, which will employ 100 people once fully operational.

"I know there may be some people surprised that I am welcoming a Defence contractor to London, given my opposition to the Afghanistan mission. However, the products developed by Kongsberg help keep our troops safe in the field. While I may oppose particular mission deployments, I support our troops and want to give them every chance possible to come home to their families safe and sound, and Kongsberg's products increase those chances," Mathyssen said. "We must also be realistic, Canadian troops will be deployed abroad again in future missions. Certainly I want those missions to be focused on peacekeeping efforts, but equipment such as our LAV III's have a role to play in peacekeeping deployment as well."

Although welcoming Kongsberg's decision to come to London, Mathyssen said it was inappropriate for Prime Minister Harper to turn this announcement into a platform to sell Budget 2010 and the Conservative's corporate tax cut agenda.

"The Prime Minister used this announcement as a soapbox to preach his ideology of corporate tax cuts. Kongsberg did not choose London because of the Conservatives tax cuts. Kongsberg already has other operations in Canada which pre-date the Conservative government. Kongsberg chose London because of the existing business relationship with General Dynamics, the high skilled workforce available here, the quality of life in our city, and because of the efforts of local leaders. It was less than honest to insist that the corpoprate tax cuts that jeopardize investment in Research and Development, post-secondary education, training and social infrastructure like affordable housing, health care, adequate pensions and childcare, are a benefit that build strong communities. The investments we need to make in people and community are what draw in businesses and create opportunity."

Mathyssen said the Kongsberg jobs are extremely important to the London region, but the Conservative government has no plan to help the thousands of families in the area who have lost jobs during the recession and are only weeks away from running out of Employment Insurance with no hope of employment opportunities arising any time soon.

"We don't need to look any further than the USA to see the incredible corporate costs of employee benefits in terms of health coverage and pensions, but you need these benefits to attract quality employees. Canada already has a competitive edge which could be increased by addressing infrastructure needs, improving healthcare and providing pharmacare, and pension security. Instead of pursuing a race to the bottom in terms of corporate tax rates, we should be focused on strengthening public programs like Medicare and CPP, shifting those costs away from the corporate sector to the benefit of all," Mathyssen said.

"I welcome Kongsberg's arrival. This means a 100 new, good jobs, the kind of jobs people can support a family on. But we cannot play 'let's pretend' and credit the Conservatives corporate welfare agenda for this because it simply isn't true. I intend, however, to continue to work with the LEDC, the Mayor, and my fellow London MPs to do what we can to attract more sustainable employment opportunities to London."