Billions in new federal supports for Canadian industry is a partial, but important, step forward in assisting the country’s embattled manufacturing sector, said CAW President Ken Lewenza, in response to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s budget released today.
In his budget, Minister Flaherty outlined the federal government’s allocation of over $3 billion, to fund strategic developments in Canada’s aerospace and forestry sectors, as well as keeping up with incentives to encourage re-investment in machinery (through capital cost write-downs) and advanced manufacturing.
“The future of Canadian prosperity is tied to a vibrant manufacturing sector,” Lewenza said. “These funding announcements are crucial, but they also have to be tied to a full-fledged national manufacturing strategy to be effective. We have to get our factories retooled and our hard-hit communities back to work.”
Lewenza said a comprehensive, national manufacturing strategy would consider the re-investment of public funds back into Canadian industry, through a targeted public procurement strategy that would include everything from transportation vehicles and equipment to new technologies. A sector strategy would also include increasing manufacturing content in Canadian resource development projects, as well as steps to address Canada’s growing trade imbalance in manufactured goods, by tackling the over-valued dollar and lopsided trade agreements.
“Over half a million manufacturing jobs have been wiped out over the past six years, and that coincides with our skyrocketing trade deficit that topped $100 billion in 2012,” Lewenza said. “The federal government has to unite with other stakeholders, including the provinces, business and labour to address these deep-seated, structural challenges, or this critical sector simply can’t survive.”
Lewenza also criticized the government for its refusal to undo the damaging reforms levied on Canada’s unemployment insurance program, as well as Old Age Security. Lewenza also said the recycled job grant funding, much of which will likely be siphoned off to fly-by-night, private training consultants, is not an adequate national skills strategy.
“We need a more thorough, and measured approach to start tackling unemployment in this country and the steady growth of insecure jobs – especially for young people.”
The CAW is Canada’s largest industrial union, representing 193,000 workers in Canada – approximately 80,000 in the manufacturing sector.