Labour Leaders Make Joint Call for Buy Canadian Policy

    TORONTO, Feb. 10 /CNW/ - CAW President Ken Lewenza and USW National
Director Ken Neumann jointly criticized the Harper government's insufficient
stimulus spending and called for the establishment of a Buy Canadian policy
for publicly-funded purchases at a press conference held in Ottawa today.
    Both labour leaders said a Buy Canadian policy is a long overdue and
necessary measure that would ensure Canadian workers receive maximum benefits
from government purchases, including the $12 billion budgeted for
infrastructure spending. A Buy Canadian policy would also help level the
playing field on international trade with many countries that already have buy
domestic policies, including some of Canada's biggest trading partners like
the U.S., Mexico, China, Japan and most member states of the European Union.
    The rare joint statement between the two unions followed the latest round
of bad economic news as labour market statistics showed Canada lost 129,000
jobs in the month of January, three-quarters of which were in the
manufacturing sector.

    The CAW and USW are the two largest industrial unions in Canada, together
representing nearly half a million workers.
    The full text of the joint statement is available below:

               CAW/USW Joint Statement on a Buy Canadian policy
                              February 10, 2009

    Canadian workers are facing unprecedented economic challenges as the
global financial crisis deepens. Hundreds of thousands of workers have already
been thrown out of a job in recent years, including nearly half a million
manufacturing workers. And there are more job losses on the horizon as
Canada's industrial base continues to weaken.
    On behalf of members of the United Steelworkers and Canadian Auto Workers
unions, representing half a million workers across the country, we believe
that the federal government must do everything in its power to protect the
economic and social well being of Canadian citizens and their communities.
This is a fundamental responsibility of government; both in times of economic
prosperity, and economic crisis.
    The Harper government showed its true colours when it tabled an economic
update in 2008 that entirely ignored Canada's economic troubles. Only on
threat of defeat did the Conservative government show a willingness to provide
some assistance to the Canadian people - assistance that still fails to
address the size and scope of the economic problems we face. This half-hearted
and opportunistic approach to governance is unacceptable; Canadians can, and
must, demand more from their elected leaders.
    Over and above budgetary spending, the federal government has a variety
of policy tools at its disposal to steer Canadian workers, their families and
communities through this economic storm. One such tool is to establish a
Buy-Canadian procurement policy to ensure that the majority of public funds
are spent on goods and services made in Canada. This would allow Canadians to
receive the lion's share of economic benefits from government spending,
helping to create and protect jobs and spur economic development. And,
critically, such a move would put us on a level playing field with our major
trading partners.
    As our governments are poised to spend billions on rebuilding much-needed
infrastructure, we believe that Buy-Canadian policies are long overdue and
necessary to ensure that Canadians receive maximum benefit from public
purchases, including the $12 billion infrastructure stimulus funding outlined
in the recent budget.
    But rather than prove to Canadians that his government can rise above
partisanship to establish smart policies during a time of crisis, Stephen
Harper remains blinded by his failing free-trade and deregulation ideology,
and has dismissed the use of Buy-Canadian policies outright. And in an effort
to quash public debate on this issue, his government has consistently
threatened that a domestic purchasing policy would breach international trade
rules and would be condemned by our international trading partners - possibly
sparking an international trade war. We do not accept this position.
    We were deeply disappointed to hear government officials publicly
criticize the inclusion of a buy-domestic provision in the American Recovery
and Reinvestment Act. The criticism levied by the Harper government
exaggerated the impact that such provisions would have on Canada's economy. It
ignored the fact that Buy American rules for federal purchases have existed
since 1933 and that Buy America rules for state and local transport
infrastructure have existed since 1982 - long before the American Recovery and
Reinvestment Act.
    In fact, buy-domestic policies are in place in many developed and
developing countries around the world and clearly accepted within the terms of
international trade agreements, including the NAFTA and WTO. Japan, South
Korea, Mexico, China, and most member states of the European Union have
domestic purchasing policies. Adopting similar Buy-Canadian policies would
simply level the playing field.
    Government must act responsibly and do all that is necessary and in their
power to protect working families and communities in these difficult times.
The evidence is clear that not only is a Buy-Canadian policy for public
purchases a viable option to help kick-start Canada's industrial sector, it
will also have spillover benefits for the broader Canadian economy.
    In the midst of this crisis Canadians are looking for leadership and
demanding immediate action from Ottawa, not political gamesmanship. The time
to act is now.

For further information:

For further information: CAW Communications, Angelo DiCaro, (cell) (416)
606-6311; USW Communications, Pat Van Horne, (416) 544-5990, or Peter D. Birt,
(416) 544-5966

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