1,500 Layoffs by U.S. Steel Test of Investment Canada's Teeth
Federal Industry Minister Tony Clement says he's "surprised" by U.S. Steel's decision this week to indefinitely close operations at plants in Hamilton and Nanticoke, leaving ,1500 steelworkers jobless and uncertain about their futures. It was just 18 months ago the U.S. company purchased what was formerly Stelco, making commitments to the federal government through Investment Canada. Usually such commitments are for guaranteed capital investment in Canada. Said Clement yesterday: "We take the position that any company that has made Investment Canada undertakings has to live up to those undertakings. So we will be reviewing the situation."
However, neither Clement nor officials at U.S. Steel will release those undertakings, claiming privacy provisions. Given the track record by a succession of federal governments in failing to enforce Investment Canada deals, there's no reason to believe the government will keep U.S. Steel's feet to the fire this time. Layoffs like this are what occurs when governments allow critical sectors of the economy to be bought out by foreign companies who always protect their own workers first. Rules for foreign ownership have been so relentlessly watered down in this country, they appear superflous. Still, U.S. Steel undertook commitments with Investment Canada and there's a very easy way to judge whether they are living up to these commitments: release the documents. If the minister is suprised, chances Canadians will be too. Privacy should be a moot point if an agreement has been broken. Leaving it Tony Clement and teams of timid federal lawyers to decide hardly seems an ideal solution for 1,500 workers who are hurting now.