Masse in the House on Auto Policy and South Korea

From Hansard

Mr. Brian Masse (Windsor West, NDP): Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to follow up on a question I asked in the House of Commons on October 25 in relation to manufacturing.

Ontario and Quebec have witnessed a massive loss of manufacturing jobs. The auto industry in my riding has also suffered some critical losses in everything from assembly to parts. A series of different businesses involved in mould making have also gone under in the past number of years.

At the present time, the Conservative government is pursuing a free trade deal with Korea but it is not acting on an actual policy.

My question on October 25 was for the Minister of International Trade because, in the previous government, he was the Liberal minister of industry who had promised on a number of different occasions to table a national auto policy in this chamber. The flip-flopping, floor-crossing minister then joined the Conservative Party and now sits as the Minister of International Trade. Somewhere in this vortex, the file the minister had on auto policy has disappeared. I do not know whether it was left in his brief case or in a drawer, whether it fell on the floor or whether the Minister of Industry killed it.

When I asked another question in the House of Commons, it became quite clear that the Minister of Industry had killed the aeronautics file, which was something that was supposed to be brought forward.

I would like to find out whether the minister actually talked with his colleague. The public should understand that the two ministers sit together in cabinet. A document was supposed to be out there. Either the previous Liberal and now Conservative minister misled Parliament, this House and the people of Canada, which could be a possibility and he could own up to that possibility, or alternatively, the present minister could talk with his colleague. They go to work together and they sit together. They could actually roll out what was done before.

I would like to find out from the minister what happened to that auto policy. Did it ever exist like the minister in the previous administration said it did or is the current Minister of Industry out to kill any programs or services for the auto industry? I know the minister met with CAPC recently but that is not enough. We have been fighting for specific things for years and I want to see them tabled in this chamber.

However, the first step is to find out whether or not the Minister of International Trade, when he was the Liberal minister of industry, misled this Parliament and, as he sits now as a Conservative, did he ever have that policy? Is the current Minister of Industry killing those files?

Mr. Colin Carrie (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry, CPC): Mr. Speaker, Canada's new government has a deep understanding and appreciation of the Canadian automotive industry. I am from Oshawa where the people and the community depend greatly on the auto sector, so I know how vital the industry is to the economic well-being of a city and a country.

We are aware that the auto industry in Canada faces significant challenges. Some of these challenges are global, some of these are specific to certain manufacturers and others are common throughout the industry here in Canada. It is clear that no one stakeholder can address all of these issues. Each has a distinct role to play. Only through collective action can we ensure the continued strength of the auto industry here in Canada.

That is why two weeks ago the Minister of Industry met with the Canadian Automotive Partnership Council to discuss how we can collectively address the industry's needs. It was a very successful meeting, which included senior industry representatives, representatives from the Quebec government and the minister's counterpart from the Ontario government.

The minister was impressed by the high level of enthusiasm and commitment to the CAPC process. The auto industry representatives around the table were pleased with the CAPC meeting, with the minister's commitment to the CAPC process and with the efforts the government has made to support the industry.

We know there is more work to be done. CAPC working groups will identify priority areas where action can be taken to help the industry grow. Together, we will develop clear, focused and measurable actions to effectively support the Canadian automotive industry.

The Minister of Industry has committed to CAPC to working with his cabinet colleagues to advocate for and support the industry. The CAPC discussions were an important step and the minister looks forward to the next meeting in May 2007.

We know that many of the challenges faced by the auto industry are shared by other manufacturing sectors, which is why this government is committed to creating an overall business climate that leads to greater manufacturing investment, innovation and jobs. This includes a more competitive tax system.

Budget 2006 introduced 29 tax cuts for businesses and individuals, including the elimination of the capital tax, reduced corporate taxes and the elimination of the corporate surtax. We are also committed to ensuring that regulations are designed to meet their goals at the least possible cost to business. We are working with business groups to cut crippling red tape. Our border and infrastructure measures are helping all manufacturers, including auto, to more easily move their goods and reach their customers.

We continue to work with industry stakeholders to explore measures to support Canada's manufacturers. Canada's new government will work to ensure that Canada remains positioned as one of the best locations in the world for manufacturing.

I am looking forward to seeing the final report from the industry committee.

Mr. Brian Masse: Mr. Speaker, we still have no answer to the specific question of what happened to that auto policy that was supposed to be there.

It is interesting that the parliamentary secretary seems to have the speaking notes of the former administration but he does not have the actual answer to the specific question.

The constituents of Oshawa and other automotive communities need to understand that there was supposed to be an auto policy. Taking nine months to meet with CAPC is completely irresponsible, especially going cap in hand and not offering a single thing to the industry during some of the most difficult times. That is unacceptable.

We have a series of different automotive struggles in this country. One of the most recent struggles has been in my constituency with Ford where we could have actually had something rolled out, some type of a program, an incentive or at least a carrot, something that would get things started in a positive way. We have not seen that. I have resolutions from the Corporation of the County of Essex and its municipal politicians who are calling for federal and provincial intervention.

It is not good enough for the government to wait nine months to call a meeting and actually bring nothing to the organizations that, at the end of the day, affect Canadian jobs.

The parliamentary secretary should answer the question. Did the auto policy come over from the previous minister or did the current minister kill it? It is unacceptable to not have an answer on that question.

Mr. Colin Carrie: Mr. Speaker, the new government is looking at this sector very responsibly and the member even mentioned Korea. A free trade agreement with South Korea has the potential to deliver significant commercial benefits across a wide range of the Canadian economy, from agriculture, to high tech services, to investment.

We are aware of the concerns of certain sectors, including the automotive sector, about the potential impact of a free trade agreement with Korea. The government has studied the impact on the Canadian automotive sector of a free trade agreement with Korea. Our studies indicate that any impact will be very limited.

It is important to note that the Canadian auto industry has been a major beneficiary of trade liberalization through NAFTA and it currently exports 85% of its production.

The Government of Canada consulted extensively with Canadians, including the auto sector, prior to launching these negotiations. We continue to work with stakeholders to ensure their interests and concerns are reflected in the negotiating positions.

The government has not set a deadline for the conclusion of negotiations but we will continue to take the time necessary to ensure the best deal for Canada and that a good deal is made.