A new free trade agreement with Europe could be a death knell for the local shipbuilding industry, says federal NDP fisheries critic Peter Stoffer.
But at a press conference yesterday, Stoffer didn’t lobby the government, which favours the agreement. Instead he called on the Liberals to support his party’s amendment to exclude shipbuilding from the agreement.
“All that work should be done here. Basically what we’re asking is Canadian taxpayer dollars hire Canadian workers working in Canadian companies in Canadian shipyards,” Stoffer said in a later interview.
“Our fear is if we don’t have this protection for our industry eventually our yards may not have the capacity to build those vessels and we may lose a few more yards.”
Under the Canada-European Free Trade Association’s agreement the current tariff of 25 per cent on foreign-built ships would be phased out over 15 years.
Stoffer said that will open up the doors for other countries to compete against Canadian shipbuilders for local business.
Stoffer said some of those countries, such as Norway, have an unfair advantage from receiving years of government subsidies.
He cited the United States as an example for insisting on keeping its shipbuilding industry out of all the free trade agreements it signs.
But Liberal trade critic Scott Brison dismissed Stoffer’s press conference as merely a political stunt. Brison said trade details are worked out by government staff, not members of Parliament.
“It’s just posturing because governments negotiate trade agreements. Parliaments are consulted but Parliaments do not amend them,” he said.
Brison said Liberals have their own plan for shipbuilding that would ramp up production. It involves increased funding and accelerating procurement of government contracts.
He said he has no problem with removing the tariff as long as it’s done hand in hand with their plan to put Canadian shipbuilders on an equal footing.