The textiles sector has been hit hard by the downturn in the Canadian dollar and the ongoing shortage of imported fabrics, with a number of factories struggling to find buyers.
The textile industry’s biggest weakness has been its ability to adapt to the changing landscape of the global economy, said Scott Smith, president of the Textile Institute of Canada.
“They’re just not as strong as they used to be,” he said.
“It’s a big problem for our industry and it’s a huge problem for the entire economy.”
The institute estimates that Canadian textile production is at about half its capacity before the recession and will shrink to around 15 per cent of its former size by 2030.
The industry is also experiencing the effects of a weak Canadian dollar, Smith said, and the Canadian Consumer Products Association said it would look to reduce imports and increase exports to meet the rising costs of importing textiles.
While the impact of the downturn is felt throughout the textile sector, Smith and other industry experts are warning that there is still a long way to go.
“I think we’re still a ways away from the textile crisis, but we’re going to have to do a better job,” he added.
“The reality is we have so much more work to do.”
The industry has seen its share of losses since the 2008 global financial crisis, which led to the introduction of stricter regulations, tighter controls on the supply chain and tighter rules around foreign buyers.
Smith said many of the manufacturers have already lost money.
“That’s the thing I think is so scary, that the costs of this industry are going to continue to mount,” he told The Globe and Mail.
For a small percentage of workers, the impact can be dramatic. “
What’s happening is we’re just seeing fewer and fewer manufacturers and fewer jobs being created, and I think that’s really scary.”
For a small percentage of workers, the impact can be dramatic.
“If you’re a factory worker, it’s not an economic loss but a social and emotional loss,” said Elizabeth MacLeod, a textile consultant who has been in the industry for more than 25 years.
“You’re seeing a lot of people lose their jobs because of this.”
MacLeod said that, while some companies are starting to come back to profitability, the industry still faces structural problems.
“There are still a lot more companies that have to deal with it than the factories that are going through the downturn,” she said.
Smith and other experts also said the textile industry’s problems will only get worse if a federal government continues to support it.
“Our industry is at a crossroads, it has a lot to lose and a lot on the line,” Smith said.
“[A federal government] is going to be making a really big investment in our industry, so that it can really compete with the best in the world.
And then we’ll see what happens with it.”
The Canadian Press