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Mayor asks for federal help for Essar Steel Algoma

Sault Ste. Marie Mayor Christian Provenzano has sent the following letters to Amarjeet Sohi, Canada's new minister of infrastructure and communities and Chrystia Freeland, minister of international trade.

Sault Ste. Marie Mayor Christian Provenzano has sent the following letters to Amarjeet Sohi, Canada's new minister of infrastructure and communities and Chrystia Freeland, minister of international trade.

Copies of these letters were sent to Essar Steel Algoma President Kalyan Ghosh, United Steelworkers Local 2251 President Mike Da Prat, Local 2724 President Lisa Dale and Sault MP Terry Sheehan.

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November 16, 2015

Dear Minister Sohi:

Congratulations on your success in the recent federal election and upon your appointment to Cabinet.

I am sure you must be excited about your new role and the challenges that lie before you.

Among your new responsibilties as minister will be directing the delivery of the Government of Canada's promised intrastructure investment plan.

As a municipal leader, I am keenly aware of how this important investment in infrastructure can benefit Canada's cities.

However, I also submit to you that investing in infrastructure can also be a sound way to provide support to Canada's domestic steel industry and many other manufacturing sectors.

One of the policy-level initiatives that could benefit our steel industry and many other domestic manufacturers would be to include a vigorous "Buy Canadian" component in the forthcoming infrastructure plan.

The advantages of a "Buy Canadian" policy would allow hard-hit steel producers partial respite from difficult global market conditions.

It would also allow our domestic industries the opportunity to contribute to positive nation-building projects for the benefit of all Canadians.

Obviously Canada is party to a number of trade agreements with other nations and these would have to be respected.

However, I am sure there is the latitude to implement a "Buy Canadian" approach while still adhering to the spirit of our trade agreements.

I recall that the United States made "Buying American" a core component of their stimulus program during the economic downturn of 2008-2009.

Sault Ste. Marie's largest employer is Essar Steel Algoma (ESA).

Many of our other local employers also do business with ESA.

Despite being recognized as a high-quality, low-cost producer, ESA's business health has been severely hampered by exceedingly difficult market conditions and illegally dumped steel imports.

While not a cure-all, being able to sell products for use in federal infrastructure projects would be a definite boost for ESA and other Canadian manufacturers facing similar circumstances.

In closing, I am optimistic that your ministry - through its mandate and programs - will make a positive and meaningful impact on communities and businesses across this great country.

I look forward to working with you and your government to build a stronger Canada.

Sincerely,

Christian Provenzano, mayor

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November 16, 2015

Dear Minister Freeland:

Congratulations on your success in the recent federal election and upon your appointment to Cabinet.

I am sure you must be excited about your new role and the challenges that lie before you.

I understand that you will have many files to address as you acclimate into your new position.

However, as you do so, I respectfully urge you to turn some of your attentions to the situation facing the Canadian steel industry.

There is no question that recent market conditions have been exceedingly difficult for steel producers in Canada.

In Canada, this has been exacerbated by the prevalence of illegally dumped steel entering the country.

The currently lengthy process to prosecute unfair trade practices has led to Canadian steel producers enduring significant damage and loss of market share before remedies can be put in place.

Sault Ste. Marie's largest employer is Essar Steel Algoma (ESA).

Many of our other local employers also do business with ESA.

Despite being recognized as a high-quality, low-cost producer, ESA's business health has been severely hampered by the flood of dumped steel entering the country.

My sense from talking to company representatives from ESA is that enforcement bodies such as Canadian Border Services Agency and the Canadian International Trade Tribunal are doing their best to be responsive to the concerns of domestic manufacturers.

However, to achieve truly measurable improvements will require legislative and policy-level changes.

In that regard, it is my hope that the Ministry of Trade and the Government of Canada will be open and receptive to suggestions and concerns brought forward by steel producers and by Parliament's steel caucus.

Personally, I would like to see fewer onuses placed on domestic manufacturers to prove that unfair trade practices are taking place.

I would also like to see less forbearance shown to offshore manufacturers and nations that have proven to be serial offenders of illegal trade practices.

And in general, I would like to see the trade dispute and remedy system function more expeditiously than it does at present.

The steel industry has been one of this country's manufacturing cornerstones for decades.

Many other industries also rely on a healthy Canadian steel industry for their operations.

It is imperative that Canada retain and wherever possible strengthen this vital capacity.

I am optimistic that there is much that can be done to address the situation facing our Canadian steel producers, in Sault Ste. Marie and in many other communities around the country.

I look forward to working with you and your government to find solutions and policies that will address the concerns facing our domestic steel industry.

Sincerely,

Christian Provenzano, mayor

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David Helwig

About the Author: David Helwig

David Helwig's journalism career spans seven decades beginning in the 1960s. His work has been recognized with national and international awards.
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