Canadian Industry Minister Brian Tobin unveiled the federal government's plan to revive Canada's moribund shipbuilding business, promising improved loan financing programs and action to convince other countries to cut back subsidies and protectionism. The plan does not include tax breaks or special tariffs on foreign ships — measures recommended by a federally commissioned report in April. "It is time to focus on opportunity, growth and innovation in niche markets where Canada can compete. That is why the Government of Canada's policy framework is pro-innovation and pro-market. Furthermore, the Government of Canada understands that unfair trade practices abroad are deeply hurting the Canadian industry. Actions will be taken to reduce illegal subsidies and protectionist practices," Mr. Tobin said.
Mr. Tobin's plans come in the wake of the April report, which said the industry has been crippled by widespread subsidies of 20 to 40 per cent on vessels built in countries such as South Korea and Brazil. Shipyards in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland that only a few years ago employed thousands of workers building Canadian Navy frigates and offshore petroleum modules are now working with skeleton staffs, doing primarily ship repairs. There are about 3,000 Canadians working in shipbuilding. That compares with more than 70,000 during the Second World War.
The new measures include $150-million worth of loan insurance and interest breaks over the next five years to both foreign and domestic buyers of Canadian-built vessels and supporting technology and research. Mr. Tobin also promised that the government's Export Development Corporation would continue to offer competitive export financing, and that the government would look at ways the industry could concentrate on making the most of Canada's offshore oil and gas business. The plan met with approval from the shipbuilding sector. “This is a very great step forward for the industry,” said Peter Cairns, president of the Shipbuilding Association of Canada. “It's not a giveaway policy. No one is throwing money at this industry.” Mr. Cairns was part of the industry committee that had recommended, among other things, tax breaks and new tariffs.
Full article: The Globe and Mail, 20 June 2001