The Cornwall and Area Chamber of Commerce is coming out swinging after learning a local business has been shelved in favour of overseas competition.
Chamber president Rick Shaver says the decision by the federal government to go with a European company instead of Columbia Finishing Mills Inc. needs to be revisited.
Columbia has produced the cover material for Canadian passports for 30 years and has been working for the last two years to ensure its prices are competitive. It was two years ago when the government told Columbia its prices were too high.
The government then opted to go with an overseas printing firm - cutting as much as 30 per cent of the Columbia business.
Shaver has penned an open letter to local MP Guy Lauzon and the federal government, voicing his displeasure.
This is an open letter from the Cornwall & Area Chamber of Commerce to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Guy Lauzon, MP for Stormont - Dundas - South Glengarry.
The Cornwall chamber is writing to express its concern over your government’s decision to award the contract for Canadian passport cover material to a foreign country. The chamber’s concern focuses on three issues with respect to the passport: Canadian pride, economic impact, and job erosion.
The Canadian passport is a document respected around the world and is carried with pride by millions of Canadians. While many of these passport holders will likely be unaware of the government’s intention, the chamber believes they would be deeply troubled to learn that the document’s cover has been ‘sold-out’ to a foreign country where it will now be manufactured. Your government claims there will be savings but, in the broader scheme of things, the chamber wonders how much these savings will be — and at what cost to Canadians.
Your government continues to stress that the Canadian economy remains in a fragile state and that Canadians must all work together to ensure economic growth. You will recall that in January of this year, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty took part in a pre-budget discussion, an event focused on how best to ensure Canada's economy continues to produce jobs and growth in a difficult global economy. Your intention to outsource the passport covers appears to contradict the intent of those discussions.
From a local perspective, the City of Cornwall and its department of Economic Development have worked diligently to attract industry with the accompanying employment opportunities. Many of our citizens speak well of our community as a favourable place to work and live and Team Cornwall’s sole purpose is to promote the city and its many attributes.
With all of the efforts put forth by various sectors of the community, Cornwall’s economy, while growing, remains in a tentative state. Your government’s decision to terminate its contract with Columbia Finishing Mills will do little to support Cornwall’s efforts. Moreover, reports from the company indicate the loss of the contract will have a damaging effect on its revenues and the chamber is concerned it may also result in an erosion of jobs.
In response to your government’s fiscal concerns, company President Brian Lynch reported he has taken steps to enhance competitiveness and has provided that data to the appropriate officials. He further reports that your government has failed to respond. The chamber views this as irresponsible. Columbia has clearly demonstrated its willingness to work towards an equitable solution and it should expect nothing less from the government.
The Cornwall chamber, speaking for the business sector at large and Columbia Finishing Mills in particular, urgently requests that your government take the necessary steps to rescind this foreign contract and invest instead in Canada, Cornwall, and the local firm.
President - Cornwall and Area Chamber of Commerce