Manufacturers urging action

PUBLICATION: The Windsor Star
DATE: 2006.11.24
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Business
PAGE: B9
BYLINE: Dave Hall
SOURCE: Windsor Star
WORD COUNT: 376

Manufacturers urging action

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Shared-risk financing, enforcement of intellectual property laws, a greater emphasis on research and development, increased spending on training and education, tax credits and a smoother running border were all cited as solutions to the challenges facing Canada's manufacturing sector by industry experts Thursday.

Testifying before a House of Commons standing committee on science, industry and technology, representatives of area industry, the chamber of commerce and the local labour council all said a combination of actions must be taken to secure the future of Canada's manufacturing sector.

Patrick Persichilli, director of administration and corporate affairs for Valiant Machine and Tool Inc., said "the issues facing the industry are not cyclical, they are structural and unless action is taken this crisis will get worse.

"In order to remain competitive, we need government to step in and share the risk by providing financing for research and development and technology upgrades so we can develop niche, high-tech products.

"We're not looking for government handouts or a corporate welfare system but we do need some measure of shared risk financing."

Other panellists pointed to the inability of Canadian companies to protect copyrights and intellectual property when companies from offshore jurisdictions use that technology to produce parts which they sell back into this country, almost always at lower prices.

"Our own customers take our designs and give them to our competitors to see if they can make the products more cheaply," said Ed Bernard, who recently closed his own mould shop. "We're supposed to have intellectual property rights through patents and copyrights but we really don't."

Citing similar protections in place in Japan, China and Korea, Gary Parent, president of the Windsor & District Labour Council, called for an auto policy which would protect Canadian jobs and manufacturers by "stopping the continuous onslaught of dumping products into our marketplace from low-cost countries."

Other solutions offered by the chamber included tax relief for businesses, a decrease in the top marginal tax threshold to attract and retain highly skilled workers and permission for companies to write-off investment in new manufacturing processes over a period of two years.

Panellists were also unanimous in their call for the senior levels of government to fix Windsor's border problems.

The committee, which includes Brian Masse (NDP-Windsor West), has also held hearings in Halifax, Montreal, Toronto-Oshawa and will be in Edmonton today.