Liberal stimulus plan a chance to reinvigorate Canadian steel industry – by Bill Missen (Globe and Mail – November 3, 2015)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

Bill Missen is former senior vice-president at Stelco Canada.

Even before it is formally installed, the newly elected Liberal government faces the pressure of high expectations – especially when it comes to infrastructure spending. It’s a platform promise with the potential to provide much-needed economic stimulus by doubling the public works budget to $125-billion over the next decade.

By implementing this spending plan, the new government has an exceptional opportunity to extend a lifeline to Canada’s struggling steel industry. But it is an opportunity that could easily be squandered.

Before the first dime of public money is spent, a strong made-in-Canada supply policy needs to be firmly in place. Without that, new jobs will not be created and existing ones will not be preserved. That policy needs to be paired with a review of a domestic playing field that leaves many Canadian companies at a disadvantage to cheap, subsidized imports.

At the same time, the government needs to reinvigorate the federal steel caucus, including MPs from all ridings where steel is manufactured.

It should also introduce a mechanism that adjusts import levels based on domestic capacity utilization. When Canadian steel production falls below a certain threshold, companies would be stabilized by the trigger of variable duties.

Canada’s domestic steel producers are being forced to compete with low-cost imports from countries that do not have the same fixed costs and are often directly subsidized by their governments.

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