A Liberal government would establish a $1-billion fund to help manufacturers move into green technologies, Stephane Dion pledged Friday.
The Liberal leader said his proposed Advanced Manufacturing Prosperity Fund would help pay for research and development projects aimed at boosting the hard-pressed manufacturing sector.
He told a Hamilton Chamber of Commerce meeting he has met business and union leaders, premiers and environmentalists over the last year to discuss the troubled manufacturing sector.
"They all bring different viewpoints to the table, but there is consensus on one thing: they all want to see Canada's manufacturing sector become a world leader in green technologies,'' he said. "The . . . fund is designed to help accomplish precisely that''.
Thousands of factory jobs have disappeared in recent years and Dion says it's time to go beyond simple tax corporate breaks.
"Tax cuts alone are not enough,'' he said. "The federal government must partner with the manufacturing sector as it adjusts to recent economic shocks. That requires strategic investment''.
In addition to the prosperity fund, the Liberals would provide tax credits to support private research which doesn't translate into immediate profits.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper further dampened expectations of a similar boost for Canada, warning in his bluntest language yet not to expect major tax or spending measures in the 2008 budget.
Mr. Harper said he delivered the bulk of new goodies in October's mini-budget, which offered annual relief worth up to $6-billion for corporations, $1.5-billion for income tax filers and $6-billion for shoppers.
"We are not anticipating taking on in the spring any kind of significant, ongoing additional tax or expenditure commitments," he said yesterday, referring to the budget expected in late February or early March.
A one billion dollar package is hardly enough to solve the problems, but it demonstrates a recognition of the need to intervene. Contrast that with the Conservatives relative indifference, and it is pretty easy to accesss which approach will play well with voters. Dion's commitment isn't large enough to justify the howls of fiscal irresponsibility, but enough to send a clear message. The fact that the fund is in keeping with the overall theme of modernizing the Canadian economy gives the Dion message a consistent thread. The Liberals are clearly winning the battle of appearances, when it comes to the economic concerns in central Canada.
The other day, I posted on Dion's Afghanistan comments. While the details of Dion's statements needed to be fleshed out, it seemed pretty clear to me what Dion meant. If Pakistan can't deal with insurgents coming across the border, then NATO would. Pakistan is already under tremendous diplomatic pressure, from all quarters, to deal with the tribal regions, eliminate the sanctuary for terrorists. I'm quite certain that the NATO high command is already in constant contact with Pakistani authorities to try and deal with the problem. I read Dion as understanding the need for a military component to deal with the situation in Pakistan. If Dion meant moving Canadian soldiers from the south to help seal the eastern border with Pakistan, that is a proposal that may have merit, something worthy of debate. If Dion meant moving forces into Pakistan, then that is an entirely different animal.
I heard Dion today on a talk-radio show, discussing the controversy over his Pakistan comments. I must admit, Liberal membership aside, there seemed an element of backtracking from statements which seemed fairly transparent. Did Dion mean "diplomatic"? I suppose, but Dion didn't specify at the time, and if so, his declaration was really a given. To be frank, I find the revisions somewhat confusing. Whatever your opinion, this issue was handled badly and doesn't achieve much on the "leadership" front.
One step forward, one step back.