Perth manufacturer welcomes potential steel industry help

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Perth manufacturer welcomes potential steel industry help

A Perth, Ont., manufacturer of stainless steel wire is welcoming the federal government's study of emergency protective measures for the steel industry as it faces pressure from American tariffs and foreign "dumping."

Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced Tuesday a 15-day public consultation on seven steel products that have seen a sudden increase in foreign imports.

Paul From, president and CEO of Central Wire Industries, has been advocating for safeguards for the steel industry. 

"We're thrilled. We were hoping this announcement was going to come," From said.

"From our perspective, it means that anyone who is thinking about just moving large quantities of material into the Canadian market, there may be some ramification to that and to think twice before you do it."

Jobs at risk

He said he's seeing large quantities of cheap steel from Asia coming to the market, driving down prices and making Canadian producers less competitive.

On top of that, his clients in the U.S. have to pay a 25 per cent tariff to bring in his products.

"If this market gets flooded and inundated with products it just makes our business next to impossible to run," he said.

"If we can't compete, it would just mean jobs — for this company and Canada — that would leave."

Central Wire Industries employs 85 people in Perth, producing a stainless steel wire for uses from medical tools to oil and gas extraction.

The plant has been in operation since the 1950s and is also the headquarters of the company, which has plants in the U.S. 

Last year the company closed a plant in Erin, Ont., because of a combination of market issues, including the high cost of electricity in the province, From said.

Ed Mulville and his wife both work at the Perth plant.

Ed works as a machine operator and has been with the company for 37 years.

He said it's hard to express what losing the plant would mean.

"I'm in my mid-fifties and with two teenage children, it would be … I don't know what we'd do," he said.

National issue, mayor says

Perth mayor John Fenik ​has been helping From take his case to the federal government. 

"This needs national attention, it needs national support from Parliament Hill [to support] our manufacturing base," Fenik said. 

"If it doesn't happen — and it's gotta happen real soon — things are going to go real south, real quick not only for Perth but I think for the entire nation."

The mayor said he's worried about the spinoff losses that could come if manufacturing jobs leave the city.

In a news release Tuesday, Fenik said he welcomes the investigation into possible surtaxes or quotas to protect the domestic steel industry and supports the public consultations.