Last month I pressed the Canadian government to tell us what steps they have taken to require U.S. Steel to fulfil the commitments it made when it took over the former Stelco operations in Hamilton and Nanticoke, Ontario. I am still waiting for a reply from the Harper Government.
Last week I wrote to Stockwell Day, the Minister of International Trade to tell him that the Government of Canada must investigate the surge of offshore steel into the Canadian market and whether it reflects unfair trade practices by our competitors.
To promote more timely investigations and enforcement in the future, I told the government they should enable unions representing Canadian workers to file complaints under Canadian trade laws. Right now we can not do this.
The Canadian Government must get actively involved in the steel industry in Canada. It can not stand by and watch one of the central industries of this country fall apart – as a result of the current economic collapse or government inaction.
Canada's mills are closing partly because offshore producers are selling more steel into our market. Between November and December 2008, offshore imports nearly doubled from 200,000 tons to almost 400,000 tons. By comparison, imports from the US have declined approximately in line with Canadian production, from around 500,000 tons per month before the economic crisis to only 300,000 tons in December 2008.
Increased imports from overseas have fully offset reduced imports from the US. The fact that total steel imports have not declined at all despite significantly lower Canadian steel consumption has depressed Canadian steel production and employment even more sharply.
I wrote to the federal industry minister Tony Clement telling him that our members were shocked by the indefinite closure of almost all the US Steel Canadian operations.
Clement said publicly that he expected the company to live up to its 'contractual undertaking with the government of Canada, with the people of Canada' but we have seen no action from this government. Now is the time for our government to act.