Ontario Finance Minister: Manufacturing Sector Needs Federal Help

RICHMOND HILL, Ontario (CP) - The federal government has the tools to help the manufacturing sector in the wake of a rising Canadian dollar and it must react, Ontario's Finance Minister Greg Sorbara said Saturday.

Sorbara said he hasn't seen a federal government response to the dollar's climb and it must do something. ''So far we haven't heard anything from (Federal Finance Minister Jim) Flaherty, we haven't heard anything from (Prime Minister Stephen) Harper, and I think it's high time that they stepped into this debate,'' he said at a provincial Liberal party gathering.

Sorbara said the federal government has ''national levers'' that are not available to the provinces, although he would not say specifically what the federal government could do.

''Even though the manufacturing sector is facing these challenges, the economy in general is creating new jobs at a pretty rapid rate,'' said Chisholm Pothier, a spokesman for Flaherty.

The silver lining in the situation, Pothier said, is that manufacturers can take advantage of the stronger dollar to invest in new technology that is built outside of Canada.

He said the last budget included an accelerated capital cost allowance write-off, which allows manufacturers to write off their equipment and technology entirely over the next two years.
The federal government is aware of the challenges faced by manufacturers because of the stronger dollar, Pothier said.

Flaherty will meet with provincial finance ministers this month and they'll likely discuss the challenges facing manufacturers, Pothier said.
Sorbara said he intends to lobby ''vigorously'' for assistance when he meets with the federal government.

Canada's manufacturers have asked the federal government for tax and regulatory measures to help the struggling industry.

The Canadian Auto Workers union says 400,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost since the dollar began to appreciate in August 2002.

In the most recent unemployment report, Statistics Canada said the manufacturing sector had shed 18,600 jobs in April alone, 13,000 of them in the manufacturing heartland of Ontario.

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