MASSE IN THE HOUSE: Questions Parliamentary Secretary for Transport on Canada Post Procurement Policies

May 4, 2010

Canada Post

Mr. Brian Masse (Windsor West, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I am glad to be able to raise this issue again. I am sure I am going to get the canned points from the parliamentary secretary. They seem to be unable to even think in this place anymore, as we were handed this speech from the Prime Minister's Office.
I have some very important questions about procurement in this Parliament with regard to Canada Post procuring vehicles from Turkey instead of Windsor, where we have a minivan that would meet the specifications for that procurement. The Canada Post argument was that it is responsible to tender this out under the WTO and NAFTA, which is wrong and a lie.
In fact, I had parliamentary research issue its own report on this. It is independent. It is done for all parliamentarians. It is one of the important pieces our democracy has left. It has told me that the only obligations to nations for procurement on this type of an issue are to the United States, Mexico, Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Korea, Liechtenstein, Aruba, Norway, Singapore, Switzerland, Taiwan, Peru and Chile. It is absolutely false that we could not have had that procurement here.
It is interesting that the government, which claims fiscal accountability, is borrowing billions upon billions of dollars that we have to pay interest on in the future. We are passing that debt on to our children, yet we are not allowed to do procurement in our own country, when it has committed to keep jobs and communities alive.
My community has had the highest unemployment rate for a number of different years. The auto industry has gone through a number of tough years and is re-emerging. This was a perfect opportunity to provide more stimulus to Canadians. Instead, the government is borrowing from the people of Canada and sending the money to Turkey for no reason whatsoever. It is absolutely unacceptable.
It did this to the Navistar as well. Think of the poor people of Chatham. We saved that truck plant and could have produced trucks for our own soldiers. The men and women of Chatham could create the products that our own service people would use. Instead, the government allowed that procurement to go to the United States. Under our national defence procurement, it could do that. What is interesting is that the U.S., in that plant in Texas, can jump the queue on Canadian vehicles. It also mandated its vehicles to be produced there. It was a double standard.
We have seen two specific cases where procurements are going to areas of manufacturing. We have had so many problems. We have a high dollar. We have poor trade relations with other countries. We go by these rules that are made up, in terms of NAFTA and the WTO, that do not apply. The department is propagating an absolute lie.
I asked the minister about that. He decided to not even address the issue. He did not even decide to take this on. This is unacceptable. We are calling right now for a procurement policy that is fair, responsible and done with other similar countries, as they are doing as well. This is not a system that is done independently from Canada. This is one that the United States as well as European countries do in terms of procurement, including Turkey.
I ask this minister to go back and make sure the government switches its decision and buys these vehicles from Canadians.

Mr. Brian Jean (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I will begin by clarifying a few points for my colleague. I will first point out that Canada Post contracting and operations are at arm's length from the government, which means that we do not control it. It is done through a management process and uses best practices.
As the member also knows, the government does not get involved in the day to day operations of any crown corporations. To do so would, obviously, not be in the best interest of Canadians. However. as a crown corporation, Canada Post has a responsibility to perform its contracting in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations in place at that time.
According to what Canada Post has communicated to the Minister of State, it completed an open and competitive request for a proposal to source light duty vehicles earlier this year. The reason for initiating this process on the part of Canada Post was twofold. It was to begin replacing its aging national fleet vehicles and to modernize the way it does business, which is in all our best interests as we pay for it as users of the system.
As we know and as the member knows, Canada Post selected the Ford Transit Connect. I feel it is my responsibility at this time to tell the House a few things about that particular vehicle.
This vehicle is used by a number of post offices around the world and it is one of the best suited vehicles for Canadian roads and winters. It will actually replace the Ford E150 cargo vans in Canada Post's fleet but, more important, it will represent large savings over the life of each vehicle, which means, ultimately, savings for Canadians and people who use Canada Post.
How will this take place? In addition to reduced fuel consumption and lower emissions, this vehicle was named the 2010 North American truck of the year at the Detroit auto show and, in addition to this, it won numerous other international awards.
The world knows that this is a good vehicle and that it is suited for Canadian temperatures and roads.
I will also point out that through the request for proposal process, a number of criteria were evaluated. This included things, which the NDP often talk about wanting: the environmental impact of this particular vehicle; the employee health and safety requirements necessary for this type of vehicle; performance capability and capacity; and total life cycle of the vehicle.
In other words, Canada Post made certain to evaluate the necessary components of the vehicle to ensure that it had the best vehicle for mail carriers and for Canadians, because long term it will affect Canadians and people who use the postal service.
I would also like to clarify a very important point, which is that these vehicles will be purchased through a Canadian dealer. These are actually Ford vehicles and, as we know, Ford dealerships are very prevalent across this country and they will be purchased through them. The regular warranty work and maintenance work, which is also so important for the life cycle of the vehicle, along with other servicing requirements, will be handled at these same Canadian Ford dealers from coast to coast. This is great news, not only for our auto sector but for Canadians and for the mail service itself. They will be able to access these dealers in almost every major city in Canada.
Even more than this, the work to modify these vehicles and prepare them for Canada Post's requirements will also be done right here in Canada.
There are many benefits and this is indeed good news for the Ford dealerships across this country.

Mr. Brian Masse:
Mr. Speaker, it still does not answer the question of why we have a department that is out there lying about something to the minister and to the general public. The fact that it had to be purchased under WTO and under NAFTA is a complete fabrication and a lie and it is being done by the senior management of Canada Post. That is unacceptable.
Second, when the parliamentary secretary talks about the best interest of Canadians, I do not think it is in their best interest to be shipping hundreds of thousands of dollars or millions of dollars over to Turkey to have vehicles procured there when the minivan actually made the qualifications over here as well.
That is very important because we are borrowing this money when we have Canadians who are laid off and are not able to get the things that are necessary for their families and we are sending that borrowed money to a foreign nation to do something that we can do right here at home.
It is unacceptable. We need a procurement policy for Canadians. Everyone else is doing it. Why are we not doing it?

Mr. Brian Jean:
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his time here today and his enthusiasm over this particular issue. I understand why it is important to him.
However, he needs to realize and recognize that this will benefit Canadians. This will benefit many Ford dealers across this country that will be selling the vehicles to Canada Post. It will also be of benefit to the mechanics and the other people who do the work on the vehicles. It will help many Ford dealers across this country. Indeed, it will modernize the fleet and, in the long term, be of great benefit to the taxpayer, which is very important.