Evidence of meeting #97 for Industry, Science and Technology in the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was contract.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Joël Lightbound

Thank you, MP Vis.

We'll go to MP Williams.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Williams Conservative Bay of Quinte, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to all colleagues for the discussion right now.

The member from Windsor had a really great line at the end. He said there was far too much on the line. I don't think that could be further from the truth right now. We have the largest investment ever for a Canadian manufacturing plant. It's $15 billion. We have, at the same time, reports coming out that say that of all the things promised for this plant—and let's talk about what the economic output of this plant was—we're not producing the stuff that goes into the batteries.

We are not producing cars in Canada. We're assembling batteries in Canada, so the output is assembled batteries, which will be subsidized by taxpayers. Jobs are being affected. When the minister pushed this initiative and its benefit to the Canadian car manufacturing industry in Windsor, the output was supposed to be jobs. We've heard certain quotes like thousands upon thousands of jobs, but the member from Windsor verified the facts today. He said 2,500 permanent jobs. Some 2,500 jobs would be temporary, because the plant is being built; there are 900 now, but he said 2,500 jobs. The reports from Windsor police and from the ambassador of South Korea said that 1,600 of those 2,500 would be from South Korea.

When we look at $15 billion being invested in this plant, we see that it's the first time in history we have spent this much money on a plant that already exists. Volkswagen and other plants will be coming, so we have to get this right. There is too much on the line.

Looking at this right now, I know we have an economic update, and I really imagine that we're going to still have a deficit. Does anyone say differently? Did the government balance the books?

4:25 p.m.

A voice

No, I don't think so.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Williams Conservative Bay of Quinte, ON

We're running a deficit, so that is why we say there's too much on the line. Canadians right now are struggling with heat costs, struggling to pay their rent and mortgages and struggling to pay for groceries. The first number, based on this $15 billion, is $1,000 per family at home. It's $1,000 from your taxes that's going into a plant. If we want to see this replicated in Quebec, B.C., and other areas across this country.... We can't afford to see what's happening with SDTC right now, which amounts to hundreds of thousands of dollars, or millions of dollars, being wasted and misused. We need to make sure this money is well used, meaning that it's going towards Canadian workers.

The member from Windsor talked about looking at what we've taken this model from, which is the IRA, the Inflation Reduction Act in the U.S. It's subsidizing production of batteries and other things for a green economy. I can tell you right now, and I know for certain, that in the IRA, when it comes to jobs and when it comes to sourcing material for batteries or otherwise, the Americans do one thing that we don't do in Canada: They put America first. They put it on everything in the U.S.

When we look at our investment in Canada, the biggest question that comes to mind is whether Canada is coming first. Is Canada making sure it gets the output? If the only thing we're getting from this deal is jobs, why aren't they all Canadian jobs?

I'll give you an example for the committee, because this was noted today. The federal employment department has already granted permission for a temporary foreign worker to fill an administrative role. This is a job that was put out. The question for the committee is, are you telling me that we couldn't find, in the whole city of Windsor, someone who was qualified to fill an administrative role? This has already been filled by a foreign worker.

Are you saying to the committee right now that we shouldn't be studying this with $15 billion on the line, with 2,500 jobs that were promised, and with reports from the South Korean ambassador that 1,600 of those will be filled not by Windsorites or by Canadians, but by South Koreans?

If the argument that the member from Windsor gave was that every plant brings in workers to install equipment, sure. I'm in a food processing manufacturing cluster in the Bay of Quinte, and all the time... This is a problem of the government too. We bring in foreign workers, and they can't get permits for six months, but they have to come in. They come in for three weeks to install equipment. If we're looking for accommodations for housing, how long are these 1,600 workers going to stay? We don't have an answer to that.

I know that in the House today there's been talk about disinformation. Great; let's get the information on the table. Let's see the contract. One thing we want to see that's in here is the labour market assessment. We want to see where the labour gaps were, because when it comes to labour, when it comes to unions, when it comes to Windsor itself, we want to see manufacturing in Windsor.

If this is going to go forward in the future, we want to see it be successful in Canada. Everyone wants Canada to win. We talk about team Canada, and Canada has to win, but more importantly, if this is going to be replicated with Volkswagen outside of Windsor for other parts of this country, we need this one to be successful. I can tell you right now that if this is not successful, if we don't see the jobs that were promised, if this is a waste of taxpayer dollars, then how can we justify going forward with any of this? It will be a failure to this government. If this committee doesn't study it, it will be a failure. Certainly we want to see this go forward as a success, and we need the answers for that.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Chair, I have a quick point of order, please.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Joël Lightbound

Go ahead, Mr. Masse.

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

I didn't want to interrupt Mr. Williams. I just want to be clear here, though, that I'm the member for Windsor West and I represent three-fifths of the city of Windsor. The other member is Windsor—Tecumseh. I just want to be clear, because I don't want to be confused with the other member.

Thank you very much.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Williams Conservative Bay of Quinte, ON

Mr. Chair, I will clarify that all of my comments were to the member for Windsor—Tecumseh. I know the member from Windsor West represents his region very well.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Joël Lightbound

Thank you for this clarification, Mr. Masse.

We will now turn to MP Turnbull.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Ryan Turnbull Liberal Whitby, ON

I have quite a few things to say, but I appreciate the debate.

We're in a situation here on the day of the fall economic statement, which is fine. Members have chosen to call a meeting under Standing Order 106(4), which is normally meant to apply to an emergency meeting. Obviously there are enough members who feel that this an urgent debate that should take precedence over government legislation, which is Bill C-27, which I think we've all agreed is a really high priority for this committee.

I have quite a few concerns with some of the assertions that members opposite have made, which I don't feel are factual, and I will say why.

This feels to me like another delay tactic on Bill C-27, which I think again we have all....

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Perkins Conservative South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

[Inaudible—Editor]

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Ryan Turnbull Liberal Whitby, ON

Mr. Perkins, thank you for asserting something else that's untrue, but listen: The key here is that you are using Standing Order 106(4)—

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Perkins Conservative South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

I have a point of order.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Joël Lightbound

Mr. Turnbull, I'm sorry to interrupt, but I have a point of order from Mr. Perkins.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Perkins Conservative South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

If I could ask, what assertion did I make that wasn't true?

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Ryan Turnbull Liberal Whitby, ON

I don't know. You didn't have the floor. You were speaking out of turn. Do you want me to repeat what you were saying?

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Perkins Conservative South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

You made a comment. You said it in the record—

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Ryan Turnbull Liberal Whitby, ON

I know you want me to repeat what you were saying that wasn't supposed to be said because you weren't supposed to be speaking because you didn't have the floor—

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Perkins Conservative South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

I had the floor. It was a point of order.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Joël Lightbound

Thank you, MP Turnbull.

Mr. Perkins, this was not a point of order. It's a point of debate. As I've said many times before, this is not a place where we heckle and we shout across the floor. If you want to speak, I will recognize you and you will have your time to speak.

Go ahead, MP Turnbull.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Ryan Turnbull Liberal Whitby, ON

Just to get back to what I was saying, we know there are some facts here that the Conservatives have conveniently left out, one of which is that only one temporary foreign worker has been approved so far. I think everybody knows that a labour market impact assessment is required for every single temporary foreign worker. There's no way to get approval without having a labour market impact assessment.

I know that Conservatives on other committees—in particular the agriculture and agri-food committee, which I sat on for over a year—regularly advocated waiving LMIAs or their extension for temporary foreign workers within the agricultural industry, which is interesting, because it's in direct conflict with what they're saying today, which is that they want to preserve local jobs. They have no problem waiving LMIAs when it comes to the agricultural industry and regularly advocate admitting more temporary foreign workers.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Vis Conservative Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon, BC

[Inaudible—Editor]

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Ryan Turnbull Liberal Whitby, ON

Thanks, Mr. Vis. I know you don't have the floor either, but I appreciate your response. Maybe when you get the floor, you can respond.

I was on that committee, and it's my experience that Conservatives are being inconsistent with the arguments they have made on other committees.

We also know that this particular conversation isn't really about temporary foreign workers at all, because only one has been approved so far. What's interesting, though, is that one of the facts you've conveniently left out of your arguments is that an article today on the CBC has basically elucidated a fact about the trade agreement under Stephen Harper. When your current leader was in power as the employment minister—or I think it was just before that—there was a trade agreement negotiated with South Korea that included labour mobility provisions, which essentially opened the door for South Koreans to work in Canada under those labour mobility provisions. The free trade agreement that the Conservatives set up actually allows individuals to do that.

Now, I'm not saying that this is a bad thing, because I think what you need to understand, as my colleague PS Kusmierczyk said very eloquently, is that a battery manufacturing facility in Canada, the first of its kind, is going to require some specialized skill sets to get it up and running.

I think that's common sense. Conservatives talk about common sense. Where's their common sense today? Do you not understand—

That's through you, Chair. I mean to be respectful.

I think common sense says that when you haven't run one of these facilities, you're going to probably have some intercompany transfers at the beginning to help to install equipment and train local workers to run that facility. I think that's what we're seeing here.

The key here is that the job numbers that have been quoted are solid. There are 2,300 local jobs during the construction phase and 2,500 local jobs in the operational phase of the facility. Those are significant numbers of local jobs. We've heard Mr. Kusmierczyk speak to how important that is to his community, how much that represents a truly substantial growth in the local economy and gives people hope.

I think we have been saying all along during our mandate as the governing party that really building the economy of the future.... I get it that Conservatives don't agree on this. They don't see the economy of the future as fighting climate change and drawing in local jobs and investment. In fact, I keep hearing that they don't want direct foreign investment.

We heard today—we heard the finance minister repeat this, and the minister for innovation repeated it as well—that Canada is number one in the world in foreign direct investment when you adjust per capita. It's number three when you don't make that adjustment, but we're number one when you adjust it per capita.

I don't understand why the Conservatives want to kick up dirt on this and try to create the misperception that somehow this is bad for Canada or local jobs. This is not bad for local jobs. I think we know that it's good for local jobs.

The other point that I'll make is that a tweet is not a report. I find it strange that this Standing Order 106(4) emergency debate is the result of a tweet from the Windsor police department. My dad was a detective and inspector for Peel Regional Police, so I don't have anything against police. I would just say that it doesn't make sense to me that you would consider that as factual, versus the very clear job numbers that our government has provided.

I guess the only other thing I want to say is that it feels that Conservatives are opposed to everything. They're opposed to the offshore wind industry in Atlantic Canada. They're blocking the sustainable jobs act, which puts workers at the centre of the energy transition. They're opposed to legislation banning replacement workers, and we saw today in the House that they're opposed to a free trade agreement between Canada and Ukraine.

I don't understand they can oppose all of these things so frequently, things that are good for workers and good for our country, things that bring in investment and are part of that vision of building a stronger, sustainable economy that is prosperous and creates all kinds of good-paying jobs.

I wish we could get to a point here, based on facts, and understand that the work of Bill C-27 that this committee has before it is imperative to getting the legislation through. I just hope we can come to our senses here.

Thanks, Chair.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Joël Lightbound

Thank you, Mr. Turnbull.

Mr. Masse, you have the floor.

November 21st, 2023 / 4:45 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Listen, I don't want to be here. I don't want to have to deal with this issue. I wish it wasn't happening. The reality is that the importance of this is not just for the Windsor area. It's also for the Volkswagen plant. It's also for Quebec, later on, and British Columbia. This is about getting it right. We're doing a massive subsidization for the right reason: to keep up with our challenges from the United States and the challenges of an industry that's transitioning. I'd rather have Canadians trained through this process, so they can be used as specialists in the future.

Like the member from Windsor—Tecumseh, I worked on the shop floor at the Windsor assembly plant. I worked in the tool and die industry and as a job developer for persons with disabilities, placing people in these shops. I know the jobs and how important they are.

There's a serious issue here with regard to the investment we're making and the lack of training opportunities in place. We've had 18 months to get this right. Now we have to get it right. It's falling on the surface here because we haven't put in the time and work necessary. I'd like to know whether anybody knows about the specifics of the jobs we can't actually fill and accommodate. I think it was Mr. Williams who referred to one position that was there, a clerical position. I'd even challenge some of the technical positions.

Lee in Windsor has been building automotive components and vehicles for over 100 years. Facts be told, quite frankly, originally Jim Flaherty was opposed to an intervention on the GM and Chrysler issues of the day. He said he didn't want to “pick winners and losers”. However, the evidence was put in front of him, and he changed. He deserves a lot of credit.

In fact, we made money in the past by doing auto investment for Chrysler in 1985. We invested to save Chrysler at that point in time, and it paid dividends back to taxpayers. I'm not afraid of bringing out some of the highlights in terms of why the investment makes sense and why we have to be in the game, for so many different reasons. If we're going to be in the game and put taxpayers' money on the line, there's every expectation it should be based on transparency and measurables. We've had the Parliamentary Budget Officer in front of us talking about some of those things.

I don't see this as a Conservative witch hunt with regard to a particular issue. I see this as a factual thing we have to bring forward, because it's going to have a pattern that will come after that. Again, would I like to be doing Bill C-27? Absolutely. Do I want to have to deal with this? No, I don't, but the reality is that we don't have a national auto policy that is transparent. We go from Hail Mary pass to Hail Mary pass at the last minute on these deals every single time. That's why people have concerns. I have every confidence that when we shed light on the importance of these jobs and on the importance of the workers who will get these jobs—if they're Canadians—the value will be there for the rest of Canada.

Yes, it's going to be a very difficult thing to go through in some respects, because company officials and others will have to come forward and talk about different things. At the same time, it's responsible of us. We don't need to make other communities go through what we're going through right now. It's not fun for me, as the member for Windsor West—who represents three-fifths of the city of Windsor and comes from an auto tradition—to go through this. However, I still believe in the industry. I believe in the people. I believe in what we're doing. If we can make it better for the other developments and economic investments we're doing, we're all better off at the end of the day, and we're doing our jobs as parliamentarians. Sometimes doing your job is not comfortable. It's not something you want to do, but you have to fight for it.

I'll finish with this: We had to do the same thing with the Gordie Howe bridge. We were building a new bridge in my riding. For years, we were told we couldn't do it and shouldn't do it. It was often put into politics. We faced off against an American billionaire. We faced off against the OMERS company pension fund. We defeated bad proposals to get the right thing done after a lot of work and effort. Do you know what? I'd rather put in some work and effort here, for a few meetings, to make this better for everybody. I'm not afraid to speak about the value of investing in the people of Windsor—Tecumseh and Essex county at any point in time.

We need the support, because it's not our fault that the United States is poaching manufacturing jobs. That's what they've been going after. At the same time, I can't turn my back on my responsibility as a parliamentarian to make sure taxpayers' dollars are being spent in the best way possible.

That's the balance, and that's the balance that I see in the motion that we're looking at and in what we're trying to do. Again, would I rather be doing something else? I would, 100%. Why am I here? It's because we have poor planning and a poor commitment to making sure that taxpayers understand what their dollars are going for.

That's why the NDP has always consistently called for a national auto policy that's also been crafted by the workers. When we get to that point and that day, maybe we won't have meetings like this.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.