Masse Demands Answers on Government's Buy Canadian Procurement Policy

Mr. Brian Masse (Windsor West, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to add to a question I had asked in the House of Commons with regard to a buy Canadian procurement policy.
It is important to recognize is that what we have been suggesting is that Canada investigate and bring forward a policy that complies with our international agreements and also mirrors some of our partners, including the United States, which not only has a policy in place for defence procurement but has the Jones Act for shipping and also has a buy American policy for stimulus package announcements that will be forthcoming. We are suggesting that Canada examine this to not only open the door to potential and better trading relationships but also to support Canadian workers.
I have used the example of the Navistar truck plant which is located in Chatham, Ontario, often, where this government has provided a $300 million contract to Navistar and Navistar decided to move that operation or to actually invest in the Texas facility as opposed to Chatham, Ontario, which is a plant that we helped support and bring back from the brink just a few years ago.
What is interesting in this development is that this government has decided to support the Texas workforce versus the Chatham workforce, especially when it comes to military vehicle procurement of which the people in the Chatham-Kent area were very proud to be participants.
I think it is important to recognize the latest chapter on this as a result of this decision of the government saying no to the workers of Canada .Analysis is coming in and it is going to cost around $19 million in unemployment insurance benefits. So, we are actually going to have to pay out, as this facility closes and people are thrown out into the streets of Chatham and surrounding areas, around $20 million in employment insurance. Ironically, the cost to actually retool the facility is estimated around $800,000.
Today, at industry committee, we had another breaking component of this story. When I asked the Minister of Industry whether the government had done any analysis of the cost of retooling could be done, he said no. He did not know about the other departments, but his department said no, which is the responsible department at the end of the day.
So, how could we have a $300 million project to produce military vehicles and, it is important to recognize, the way it works in the United States is if the Americans decide they need more of those trucks they can actually bump the Canadians down the line. So, we may not even get our vehicles in the fashion that we are supposed to because under American legislation the Americans can bump other types of production for other countries, and that has happened in the past before.
We have a workforce that is capable, willing and wanting to do the job here that is being shunned and, on top of that, we have a defence procurement policy that is actually putting our procurement at risk and giving us less control.
I would argue that this government work toward a buy Canadian strategy. When we look at the steel industry--and this discussion in the United States is what really led to the whole buy American explosion in the media--we actually are a net importer of steel. We actually a waiver on that back in 2002, when the United States moved forward on a similar initiative. Instead of actually working out our own strategy, the government has decided to turn its back on the Canadian force and I say shame to that. The people of this country can build and be part of the solution and our partners will respect that because we will not be doing anything different than they themselves.
Mr. Brian Masse: Mr. Speaker, with all due respect to the member, we all know that the Great Depression was caused by deregulation and then the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act came in later. It was after the fact. That is a protectionism element that was added after the Great Depression started and it made it worse. It is different than today. Today is an economic stimulus package that is going forward.
What is important for people to understand too, is that nothing changes in the United States. Right now it still has the buy American act, established in 1939 and revised several times. It also provides, and there are no changes to this, state and local governments have percentages of procurement. That is going to continue no matter what. Nothing changes. They are going to continue to have these policies and by us having our own policy is not protectionism. It is a tool that we can have that the United States uses to create local economies. It is also important for the environment. I believe that we can move forward and it is not protectionism.