Mr. Speaker, I will pick up at jobs in the economy because I think since I was elected in 2008, it is consistently what our government has actually talked about.
Indeed, with the global economic recovery so fragile, as demonstrated by the ongoing events in Europe, keeping Canada's economy on the right track must remain our priority. While Canada's economy has created nearly 600,000 net new jobs since July 2009, the strongest job growth in the G7, too many Canadians are still looking for work.
That is why we are working hard to implement our prudent, low tax plan to support Canada's economic recovery and help create jobs through the next phase of Canada's economic action plan.
Indeed, our Conservative government remains focused on ensuring Canada continues to offer the right environment to attract investment necessary to create more and better paying jobs, thereby improving the living standards of Canadians.
Ironically, one of the most proven ways to that end is an action opposed by the NDP, to give job creators the means to hire more workers by lowering their taxes, which is exactly what our government is doing. It is also exactly what we have done since coming to office and what we told Canadians during the election that we would continue to do if we were returned to government.
Given the results of May 2, it is safe to say that Canadian families prefer our low tax plan over the tax and spend plan of the NDP. Families know that our Conservative government is acting on what matters to them as we steer them through this turbulent global economic period.
Indeed, unlike what the NDP would have Canadians believe, our Conservative government has a strong and proven record on the economy, one that Canadians can look to and trust.
In the words of Bank of Montreal deputy chief economist, Doug Porter, appearing before the finance committee this week:
||--compared to policy making in the rest of the world, Canada's economic policy-making has been exemplary. I don't think there's been a significant misstep in recent years.
That is very high praise.
Let us listen to the IMF:
|| Canada is actually matching up quite well on a relative basis...the recession was not too deep, they haven't had a financial crisis to the extent that the U.S. has had or the Europeans are having it. And so all in all Canada is actually doing quite well.
However, it is vitally important Canada maintains our hard-earned fiscal advantage that underpins the confidence that investors around the globe have in Canada and which encourages job growth.
That is why our stimulus spending was temporary and targeted, without jeopardizing Canada's long-term fiscal advantage.
In budget 2010 and 2011, we started the process of returning to balanced budgets by doing such things as closing tax loopholes and launching a comprehensive review of government spending to improve efficiency and effectiveness.
Our Conservative government has been very clear and consistent that we will not raise taxes or cut transfers to other levels of government in support of health care and social services, like the shameful record of the Liberals in the 1990s.
As the member for , the current Liberal finance critic, nonetheless publicly declared, the Liberal government balanced its books by slashing transfers. Provinces have been put in serious fiscal peril because of this irresponsible slashing.
Unlike the tax and spend NDP, our Conservative government is focused on creating the right conditions for jobs and long-term economic growth. Budget 2011, the next phase of Canada's economic action plan, will invest in the key drivers of economic growth: innovation, investment, education and training. It will seek to foster an environment in which all Canadians contribute to and benefit from a stronger economy.
Unfortunately the NDP voted against the next phase of Canada's economic action plan and its important investments.
Let us take some examples: investment in innovation, education and training. Let me expand on that because it is important that the NDP understands just exactly what it voted against. The NDP has a motion here today, but it does not know what it actually voted against.
In looking to the future, it is important to help develop and attract talented people to strengthen our capacity for world-leading research and development, and to improve the commercialization of research.
Since forming government in 2006, each successive budget we have tabled has demonstrated our Conservative government's commitment to implementing our science and technology strategy and our ongoing determination to invest significant amounts in research and development, while encouraging the partnerships with the private sector that can turn promising concepts into groundbreaking applications.
In my own riding of , for example, the Thompson Rivers University received almost $900,000 from our government last month to purchase a low-temperature incubating facility. It is a very long and complicated piece of equipment, but it is really focused on meat research and development. It will help many local small and medium-sized enterprises that are closely linked to the agriculture, bioproduct and natural resource sectors in the B.C. interior and beyond.
Programs such as the Vanier Canada graduate scholarships, the Canada excellence research chairs, and the recently announced Banting post-doctoral fellowships program cover the full spectrum in attracting, retaining and developing world-class talented researchers in Canada. We had the brain drain not so many years ago, and that is reversing.
The research these programs support, and the researchers they develop, will help sustain Canada's economic advantage well into the future.
However, we understand more needs to be done to ensure Canada is the leader in research and innovation to succeed in the global knowledge economy.
That is why the next phase of Canada's economic action plan will build on earlier investments by providing significant new resources to advance a digital economy strategy, strengthen Canada's global research leadership, and support the commercialization of research by fostering business innovation.
Some examples are $80 million to support collaborative projects between colleges and small and medium-sized businesses that accelerate the adoption of information and communications technologies; $53.5 million to expand the Canada excellence research chairs program; and $60 million to promote increased student enrolment in key disciplines related to the digital economy.
The Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences praised these investments, declaring they will “substantially boost Canada's capacity for research and innovation”. Amazingly again, the NDP voted against every one of those investments in research and development.
This takes us to another area, support for industries and communities. In planning for the future, we should not overlook the traditional industries working hard to adapt to an increasingly competitive global marketplace.
The next phase of Canada's economic action plan gives significant support to the long-term competitiveness of vital sectors in regions and communities across Canada.
For example, in recent years, the forestry sector has taken important steps to embrace innovative technologies and transition to higher value activities.
Government investments are helping the forestry sector to accelerate its transformation and to enhance its long-term future, a goal that is particularly important for many of my constituents.
The next phase of Canada's economic action plan takes additional action to support the transformation of the forestry sector by providing $60 million to help forestry companies innovate and tap into new opportunities abroad. This funding will support the development of emerging and breakthrough technologies for the forestry sector through the transformation technology program.
It will also help forestry companies to diversify and to expand their markets through the value to wood program, the Canada wood export program, and the North American wood first initiative. Little wonder the Forest Products Association of Canada said of the next phase of Canada's economic action plan:
|| This Budget continues the process of developing a policy framework aimed at fostering innovation and the type of strategic investments needed for the Canadian forest products industry to lead the world. This will bolster rural communities and protect jobs, strengthen the economy and advance Canada's environmental reputation.
Stunningly, again, the NDP voted against helping the forestry sector.
With regard to agriculture, our government is taking important steps to support a strong and competitive agricultural sector. It is important that it remains on the cutting edge of innovative science and technology.
Effective management of plant and animal diseases serves to reduce the likelihood of future outbreaks, which can have a significant economic impact on production and the livelihood of producers. We just have to look at BSE and what happened there.
The next phase of Canada's economic action plan proposes measures that will support innovation and the long-term profitability of this key sector. Here are some of the things we are going to do.
We will provide $50 million for an agricultural innovation initiative to support knowledge creation and increase commercialization of agricultural innovation;
We will extend the initiative for the control of diseases in the hog industry and provide $24 million to complete initiatives directed at national biosecurity standards;
We will provide $17 million for a management and monitoring strategy to contain and prevent the spread of the plum pox virus, and much more.
It should not come as a great surprise that organizations like the Canadian Cattlemen's Association were supportive of budget 2011. It stated that it:
||--appreciate[d] the Government of Canada's focus on research and innovation in the agricultural sector--
It went on to say that these are areas that are:
||--crucial to the long-term competitiveness of the Canadian cattle industry.
Again, the NDP, disappointingly, voted against helping Canada's agricultural sector.
I would like to speak now about the Canada-India research centre of excellence. For these and all sectors, the trend toward globalization and foreign investment provides many benefits to Canada and it is important to adopt policies that encourage trade and investment.
Emerging economies such as India, for example, are increasing their capacity to undertake advanced research that can make important economic and social contributions around the world. Canada is going to benefit from stronger links with researchers and institutions in India by partnering to produce new ideas that create economic opportunities, while developing and attracting highly skilled personnel.
The next phase of Canada's economic action plan proposes $12 million to help establish a new Canada-India research centre of excellence. This centre is going to lever the considerable relationships that already exist between post-secondary institutions, researchers and students in Canada and India for the benefit of both countries. As the University of Alberta president, Indira Samarasekera, asserted, this investment supported “the goal of reaching the world, of promoting Canada's international brand”.
Unbelievable as it might seem, although no surprise, the NDP again voted against it.
As I have already demonstrated, our government responded quickly to the global economic downturn with our economic action plan by taking decisive steps to protect incomes, create jobs, ease credit markets, and help workers and communities get back on their feet. Part of this plan was an investment to improve infrastructure in the communities across the country.
Now, with the next phase of the economic action plan, we are proposing targeted investments in infrastructure.
The plan includes working with the provinces, territories, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and other stakeholders on the development of a long-term plan for public infrastructure, and that is beyond the building Canada plan and legislating a permanent annual investment of $2 billion in the gas tax fund to provide predictable long-term infrastructure. Again, that was in the last budget. My municipalities are absolutely delighted with that secure investment into infrastructure. Providing up to $150 million to support the construction of an all-season road between Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk that completes the Dempster Highway, connecting Canadians from coast to coast; and providing $228 million to fund repairs and major maintenance on federal bridges in the greater Montreal area to ensure that the bridges continue to serve the needs of the commuters while meeting the highest safety standards.
A more local example was $4 million to build the new transit centre in Kamloops and over $900,000 to the Kamloops airport to improve safety features. Again, that is very important in my riding.
The list just goes on. As the Federation of Canadian Municipalities stated, budget 2011 “makes it clear: strong communities--with quality infrastructure--are essential to a strong economic future”.
Yet again, the NDP voted against it.
Just as planning by our Conservative government before the recession meant a softer landing than many other countries have faced, so too will the low-tax economic policies we are now taking enable us to have a strong economy well into the future.
In every region of Canada, families and businesses are paying less tax and unemployed workers are receiving better support and new training. Major job-creating infrastructure projects are improving the quality of life in communities while creating new jobs. Colleges and universities are benefiting from new investments.
Canadians can rest assured that our Conservative government believes that encouraging investment and economic growth is the best way to create jobs and a brighter future for Canadians. It is what Canadians expect of us and it is what we must deliver.
Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to mention that I will share my time with my colleague from . You will no doubt be happy to know that I will not be reading from a newspaper today, so I should not have any problems with this speech.
I know that this debate has to do with the economy and job creation. I am going to assume that our colleagues on the government side are interested in creating jobs. We are as well. However, what we hear a lot from the government is rhetoric, slogans or mantras claiming that there is a direct correlation between tax cuts—particularly corporate tax cuts—and job creation.
Let us be clear. There are a number of ways to create jobs. There are a number of ways for the government to stimulate the economy and create jobs. Tax cuts may be one way, but there are also other ways, such as investing in infrastructure, redistributing wealth or making direct investments to benefit low-income households or the unemployed. All of these measures will have very different effects on economic recovery and economic stimulus. These are effects that can be assessed, and this has been done by the Department of Finance, so by a government department.
A few of these measures were evaluated based on their multiplying effect on the economy. For example, the Department of Finance determined that for each dollar of corporate tax cuts, approximately 30 extra cents would be added to the GDP. That is the least effective measure of the six evaluated by Revenue Canada. One of the most effective measures involves direct help for the poorest households or the unemployed; for each dollar invested this way, $1.70 is added to the GDP. In terms of infrastructure investments, $1.60 is added to the GDP for each dollar invested.
And for measures related to housing investments, $1.50 in economic growth is generated for each dollar invested. These measures have very different effects. Some are more successful and promising than others. Corporate tax cuts are the least promising and successful.
This is easy to understand. Direct measures to help low-income families and the unemployed generate so much economic growth because the money is immediately invested in the economy. Households need this money to invest directly because they have no money to save. It is invested directly into the economy. Investing in infrastructure or housing is just as easy to understand. It creates direct jobs and allows private businesses to benefit from infrastructure to make the economy work.
These three measures have direct, positive impacts on the economy. When it comes to reducing income tax, the impact is extremely weak. Can corporate tax cuts help the economy? In certain cases, yes. Take, for example, a private business that does not have the cash needed to make investments. It wants to invest in the economy but does not have the money to do so. At that point, income tax and corporate tax cuts will generate the money it needs to be able to invest.
However, that is not the current reality. The liquid assets the private sector currently has available, in dividends, investments or funds set aside, have increased, going from $157 billion in 2001 to $477 billion today. Let me be clear: Canadian companies are currently sitting on a mountain of $477 billion. That is money they could be investing. It is an increase of $320 billion in 10 years. Of that $320 billion, I would like to specify that roughly $120 billion comes, once again, from the Canadian public purse through the corporate tax cuts enacted by the previous Liberal and Conservative governments.
What are the corporations doing with this $477 billion? They are not investing it right now. Why not? There are a number of reasons that we will not necessarily get into at this time, but the economic context is such that they have decided not to invest.
What impact will corporate tax cuts have on the Canadian private sector? They will not lead to more investment. If the profitable corporations are currently not investing, if they find the current context not suitable for investing the $477 billion they have today, not to mention the additional revenue they will earn, then they will see no additional reasons to invest.
That is why corporate tax cuts are not the best approach in the current Canadian economic context. However, it is the only significant way the government has found, with what it calls the low tax agenda, to stimulate the Canadian economy. The Department of Finance has clearly stated that corporate tax cuts have no impact on job creation. The proof is in budget 2009, budget 2010, but not in budget 2011. We can presume that the government was too embarrassed to add those cuts in budget 2011. Budgets 2009 and 2010 clearly show that corporate tax cuts have no impact on job creation. I repeat: they have no impact on job creation. And the government has no proof that a single job has been created as a result of its corporate tax cut initiative.
What impact will this have on the Canadian treasury? We are talking about a loss of $4 billion to $6 billion this year. That is a loss of approximately $10 billion to the Canadian treasury over two years. That $10 billion was not invested; rather, it has helped to build the mountain of cash on which private companies are now sitting. In the past 10 years, we are talking about a net loss of $120 billion to the Canadian treasury. This money could have been invested in infrastructure rather than transferred to companies where it is not doing any good.
We are currently talking about an infrastructure deficit of approximately $100 billion. The hon. members for Quebec know that there are striking examples in Montreal. We need to invest to replace the Champlain Bridge. This summer, we saw the news about the Ville-Marie tunnel; this is symptomatic of the state of our infrastructure. This type of problem exists in the larger centres and in my riding of Rimouski—Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basque, where I spent the summer meeting with municipal councils. I have 39 municipalities in my riding and most of them need infrastructure, whether it be recreation centres, new municipal offices, road infrastructure or water systems. There are pressing needs. We are talking about $100 billion for Canada.
According to Revenue Canada's figures, the money that is currently being given to companies so that they can add it to their mountain of cash—the money that is not being used for anything—could be invested in a more beneficial manner.
Let us be clear. If companies want to invest, they can do so. They are currently in a position to invest but they choose not to do so. They are not going to choose to invest more and create jobs if they are given tax breaks such as the ones the federal government gave them in previous plans.
According to the Department of Finance's figures, the NDP's program is much more effective in terms of stimulating the economy and creating jobs. We are talking about investing in infrastructure and providing direct support to low-income households and unemployed workers. These are measures that will help to increase employment. The direction that the Conservatives are taking and their failure to act are putting us in an increasingly perilous situation, as demonstrated by the warnings from financial firms, banks and the International Monetary Fund, among other things.
By adopting the NDP's plan, we would be going in the right direction; we would be creating employment and stimulating the economy. I would like to invite the government to go in this direction, specifically by voting in favour of the motion put forward by my colleague, the finance critic.
Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the motion presented this morning by my colleague from . I would like to thank her for her excellent work. I represent a riding which is a perfect example of the need for immediate action on the economy. The Conservatives say that they have a jobs plan and that it is working. That is just not true, and is nowhere more evident than in my riding.
The riding was once the proud home to much of the Canadian manufacturing industry. As we have heard this week, Ontario has lost 300,000 manufacturing jobs in the recent years. York South--Weston had: Canadian Cycle and Motor Company; Moffat stoves; McClary appliances; Massey-Harris; de Havilland; Fruehauf; Scott-Woods; Canadian Gypsum; MacMillan Bloedel Limited; A.P. Green; Dominion Bridge Company; Ferranti-Packard; Kodak Canada; Levis; Crosley Radio and Television; Schnier; Carl Austin; Acme Screw and Gear; Pepsi-Cola; and lots more. They are all gone.
Tens of thousands of good manufacturing jobs are now lost. Some companies went out of business, some went elsewhere in Canada and some began manufacturing in the U.S. or overseas to take advantage of cheaper labour. No one in the government did anything to try and stop them. Therefore, with all these jobs lost, what remains are service sector jobs at minimum wage or unemployment.
My riding has 25% higher unemployment than anywhere else in Toronto and Toronto's unemployment is already higher than the national average, currently at 8.9%. Cuts to Service Canada offices in such a needy area will make the difficult task of accessing employment insurance and other services provided by these offices even more so.
In addition, my riding is home to a population which is nearly 60% immigrant and over 10% of the people in my riding are not yet Canadian citizens. Immigrants have a much more difficult time finding work, as language and other barriers are more difficult to climb for them. Recent cuts to immigrant services by the Conservatives has had a devastating impact on settlement service agencies and other community agencies that assist these immigrant populations. Further cuts by the government would make an already intolerable situation much worse.
The government frequently points to its record in infrastructure spending as having successfully reversed the recent recession. It is not so in York South—Weston.
First, there was virtually no infrastructure spending in my riding. Most of the projects were for the city of Toronto to replace some water mains. The total spending was well under $5 million and well under the $50 million spent in . We received perhaps 100 temporary jobs, no permanent infrastructure jobs. That did not make much of a dent in the 7,000 or so people who are currently unemployed in the riding.
The spending spree is over but the problem persists. The unemployed in my riding sometimes are lucky enough to find jobs outside the riding. However, without investment and transit infrastructure, these folks spend as much as four hours each day commuting to work. Plans for a new light rapid transit system were recently shelved and the federal government did not offer any contribution toward its construction.
Here is a great example of where the government could be creating local employment and helping the economy of Canada generally. I have long advocated the use of electric trains for regional rail services in Toronto. The government could both contribute to greenhouse gas reduction and economic development by providing infrastructure funding for electrification of rail services. The current plans for diesel trains, some of the money coming from the federal government, has neighbourhoods angry. Provincial leader Andrea Horwath of the NDP has made electrification of rail services a part of her strategy for carrying Ontario forward. She said:
|| New Democrats won’t put people’s health at risk by sending dirty diesel trains through people’s backyards. We'll take a new, cleaner, greener approach and use electric trains from the get-go.
We would like to see that part of the strategy for moving Canada forward. Therefore, we continue to have productivity sapping road congestion with no alternative and no vision for one.
The national public transit strategy put forward by my colleague from is a way to encourage the Conservative government to take a more active role in helping build the infrastructure we need and create jobs. Cutting back on public transit funding, if that is part of the upcoming austerity plan, is taking Canada backward.
A huge proportion of the unemployed in the riding are young people. For them, the unemployment rate is significantly higher still. None of the measures put in place by the government has helped them secure family-supporting jobs.
These kids are part of a group that service agencies call “the Mike Harris generation”. They are the kids whose mothers and fathers were punished by the Conservative government in Ontario in 1995 with huge cuts to their support systems. These kids have learned that governments are the enemy, that governments punish them not help them. In desperation, some of these kids turn to criminal activities. The government's answer is to build jails. That way at least part of the social housing crisis would be taken care of.
What is wrong with Conservative economic policies is that they are not forward looking. Steady as she goes, doing the same thing we did last year allows other countries the opportunity to leapfrog over Canada in the race to be on the leading edge of economic growth.
For example, we all know that carbon-based fuels are a finite resource. We are all concerned about air pollution and climate change caused by burning fossil fuels in ever-increasing quantities. We all know that creating and harvesting alternative sources of energy as well as becoming more energy efficient will be important activities for any country to move forward. However, the Conservatives will soon end the energy efficiency credits for homeowners yet they have done nothing to spur investment in green energy technology.
There are huge demands for windmills and solar panels but most are built in other countries. We are not investing in Canadian-made electric trains for regional and long distance service. We should be leading the way. That requires decisive action by the government.
Many of my constituents are seniors living on fixed incomes. Their costs keep rising. They would love to make their homes more energy efficient. The jobs that might be created to do this work would be sorely welcomed in the riding. However, the uncertainty of the assistance available from the government makes this another temporary solution.
I recently met with the president of Greensaver, a Toronto-based energy retrofit company that pioneered the idea of an energy audit to show where savings would be best in a home. It assembled a team of trained workers to install solar water heating systems but had to lay them off when the government assistance dried up. Companies need predictable long-term programs not makeshift temporary plans.
The Conservative government has made quite a few comments about how raising taxes on big businesses would kill jobs. That is not true. We are not asking for a raise in taxes, just to reverse the tax breaks. Tax breaks given to large corporations by the Conservatives have gone directly to increase the profits of those already profitable corporations. They are not creating jobs. In turn, these excess profits are used to line the pockets of the directors and shareholders of these corporations. These tax breaks are not linked to job creation but to increasing profits. If members do not believe me, here is a quote which backs up my assertion:
|| The Leader of the Opposition has called for an increase in taxes on these very same enterprises from 15% to 19.5%. That means that the after tax profits, which come from these companies and go directly into the pension fund of the workers the member purports to defend, would be reduced.
It does not state that jobs would be lost. Rather, it states that profits would be reduced.
Who said that? It was the .
As my colleague from has stated, the NDP does not wish to raise taxes. We merely wish to reverse the Conservative tax giveaways to already profitable corporations. The government has admitted that its tax giveaways went directly to profit levels not to creating jobs.
Mr. Speaker, before I begin my speech, I would like to say that I will be sharing my time with the member for .
Throughout the country, growth is slowing down, jobs are being lost and there is record unemployment among youth. A government's main task is to ensure prosperity, not only for our country, but also for every Canadian. No one should be forgotten.
The believes his plan to rebuild our economy is very easy. It involves cutting corporate taxes and reducing the government's role. This means cuts and job losses, but the government should be focusing on preserving and creating jobs.
As the party that put the Canadian economy back on track on the heels of poor Conservative fiscal management, we know what it takes to deal with a debt crisis and a deficit. It takes fiscal discipline along with growth and healthy revenues. In other words, people need to be working.
How do the Conservatives respond to all of this? They cut corporate taxes and the government's role. If you are worried about losing your job, the government thinks it is your problem. If you have already lost your job and cannot find another one, the government thinks it is your fault.
Unlike this government, the Liberals are focusing on policies that ensure prosperity, growth and jobs. We are here to say, as has been said in other eras when unemployment was high and times were tough, that it is the government's responsibility to work with companies, large or small, to increase business opportunities, give hope, and provide more opportunities for change and development.
Canada's economic prosperity has always depended on strong international trade. Under the Conservative government, Canada is now seriously lagging behind on the international scene. A significant rise in job creation will not come without a serious effort focused on international trade.
Canada's trade deficit with the rest of the world was $753 million in July 2011. That was our fifth consecutive month with a trade deficit. Since January 2009, Canada has only had nine months of trade surpluses, but 22 months of trade deficits.
The Conservatives' failure to act has led to a contraction of the Canadian economy at a time when we simply cannot afford it. Our real gross domestic product fell by 0.1% in the second quarter. This latest decline in the GDP is a good indication of the ineffectiveness of the Conservative plan, which focuses too much on corporate handouts that are not reinvested, instead of focusing on Canadians and their needs, such as job creation, education, professional training and health care.
Young people are especially affected by the government's failures and its inaction when it comes to the things that matter the most. Statistics on the high youth unemployment rate this summer prove that this government did nothing to create the jobs students needed precisely when they were trying to save money for the upcoming school year.
This summer, for instance, the average unemployment rate for students aged 15 to 24 was 17.2%, up from 16.9% in the summer of 2010. As a point of comparison, the unemployment rate in the summers from 2006 to 2008 was below 14%.
Another sector that suffered this summer was tourism, which this Conservative government consistently neglected. Worse still, this government even made decisions that were extremely detrimental to the tourism industry. We are already going through very tough economic times, and the Canadian industry cannot survive if this government brings in policies that undermine entrepreneurs.
From eliminating the GST visitor’s rebate, to hiking the air travellers’ security tax by 55% for foreign flights, to refusing to send a Canadian pavilion to Expo 2012, this government has done nothing but hurt Canada’s tourism Industry. Foreign tourism is a very lucrative source of revenue on which the various levels of government in Canada and hundreds of Canadian communities rely, and those communities deserve federal leadership to help bring tourists to our shores.
But the Conservatives' attack on employment extends far beyond tourism and young people. Small businesses have also been completely ignored by the Conservative government. Small and medium-sized business owners and municipal leaders are absolutely shocked that Canada will not have a presence in South Korea for Expo 2012, when South Korea is such an important trade partner for Canada. Our 2010 Expo pavilion in Shanghai saw over 6.4 million visitors and facilitated 46 high-level business meetings that generated many agreements and partnerships.
The Conservatives prefer to ignore all that because making cuts is more important to them than maintaining and creating jobs. The lack of skilled workers, the need for more investment in infrastructure and the increasing burden of red tape are a constant source of frustration for small business owners. The only thing holding a number of them back from expanding is that they cannot find the skilled labour they need. What is more, after three years of promising to cut red tape, all this government has done is conduct another study. We need measures right now because Canadians need jobs right now.
Since this government is more concerned with its ideological beliefs than the needs of Canadians, it is not surprising that the Conservatives have completely shirked their responsibilities in a number of recent developments with our trade partners, which could have an adverse effect on Canadian businesses and workers.
The government was asleep at the switch when President Obama announced the provisions of his “Buy American” policy in his economic recovery plan earlier this month. It was taken by surprise even though, in two speeches before the bill was tabled, the President clearly indicated where his administration was headed. The so-called exemption for Canada in 2009 was clearly ignored in the $400 billion plan proposed by President Obama. The consequences for Canada will be serious and the Conservatives' incompetence in this matter is unacceptable.
With the “Buy American” policy promoting the purchase of American products, country-of-origin labelling for agri-food products, and the Canada-U.S. tax treaty, Canadian interests have been systematically ignored by the Americans and the Conservative government has not done its job.
It is high time to focus on what is important: jobs. No miracle will save Canada from the troubling economic situation in which it finds itself. The government must invest in people, in our infrastructure, and in our capacity for research and development. The government must invest in helping needy Canadians rather than wasting taxpayers' money on punitive laws that will not make our streets safer and on fighter jets that Canadians do not need.
Mr. Speaker, it was not so long ago that I was talking about NDP economic policy. I used to use words like, “neanderthal”, “crazy” and “far left”, but I will confess that in the last little while, perhaps since the leadership of Jack Layton, its policies have become somewhat less neanderthal, somewhat less crazy, somewhat less far left and perhaps a little less crass.
I hope that my NDP colleagues will take those comments as a compliment, because that is how they were intended.
However, when I turn from the NDP to the Conservatives, I am afraid I will be a little harsher.
Perhaps before I do that, I should mention that the NDP motion makes a lot of sense and that the Liberals are happy to support it today.
As for the Conservatives, this triumphalist talk about the economic action plan, as if it has created every one of these 600,000 jobs, which is what the said today in question period, “...the economic action plan which resulted in 600,000 jobs”.
Conservative parties usually have the motto “governments don't create jobs, the private sector creates jobs”. Here the Conservatives have put it on its head and claim responsibility that they have created every job. Does that mean that the Conservatives think that Canada's natural resources, the oil and metals in the ground that have helped our recovery, were created by the Conservative Party of Canada?
Do they think that the Conservative Party was behind Mr. Chrétien's measures in the 1990s?
Do the Conservatives think that Mr. Chrétien balanced the books and reduced the debt because of them? Do they think that Mr. Chrétien refused to deregulate banks and refused to allow bank mergers because of them, when they in fact were urging deregulation, which led to huge problems in the U.S. and the U.K?
There are good mergers and bad mergers.
Hon. John McCallum: It is crazy to be witness to Conservative Party members saying that the private sector, history and natural resources have absolutely nothing to do with the recovery, but that every job is due to them.
I will get more to the point in today's situation. The budget was introduced in February of this year. We should think back to those long six month and how things have changed. It is now almost October, and even if the economic action plan in that budget of February 2011 was the right thing to do at that time, although I do not accept that, but even if it were, the whole world has changed in the last six months. Therefore, what was right in February 2011, is not right today in late September 2011. We should think back to February of this year. What was happening? The stock market was going up nicely. Now it has tanked by close to 20%.
Everybody thought the U.S. economy was proceeding fine in those days, but now we see what has happened to the U.S. Every indicator points to bad news. We have dysfunctional politics south of the border. We have the crazy situation about the debt limit and the incapacity in the United States to act politically. Therefore, what was one thing in February is totally different and far worse, both economically and politically, today.
Let us look at Europe. Nobody was talking about the eurozone ending. Nobody was talking about Greece defaulting. Nobody was talking about European banks defaulting. However, that is exactly what they are talking about now. It seems that the European leaders cannot get their act together, cannot agree on what to do, so we have a real possibility of a really dangerous situation, both in Europe and in the United States.
I will quote from an article in The Economist that came out just today. It is entitled “Be Afraid”. It states:
|| But governments are not just failing to act; they are exacerbating the mess.
My point is that if the government does not adopt something like what the NDP motion calls for, it will be not just failing to act, but exacerbating the mess.
I will proceed further to talk about three people and institutions that agree with what I have just said, and they can hardly be regarded as raving socialists.
First, the IMF went into countries, forced them to cut spending and were really mean to the small countries, et cetera. It is fiscal conservative. What does the IMF say? The new head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, recently, in her opening speech to the annual meeting, said that what governments today should do is that they should have a medium term plan to balance the books and pay down debt, but, in the short run, they should take action to support jobs and the economy.
She is the head of the IMF. The government should do what she said. We certainly have the room. We should take action to support jobs and the economy in the short run, while having a plan to balance the books in the longer run.
We also have Sherry Cooper, the chief economist at Bank of Montreal. I used to be the chief economist at the Royal Bank and the golden rule for chief economists is to never ever criticize the federal government or the boss will get mad. Maybe her boss is mad at her but she spoke truth to power and said what was right. She said that the actions of the government were like the actions of Herbert Hoover during the Great Depression. We do not raise taxes or cut spending when times are super tough. That is what Herbert Hoover did and it caused the Great Depression. That is what the government seems to be poised on doing, unless it follows the advice that it is receiving today.
I will talk about The Economist. Everybody would agree that The Economist is a small “c” conservative magazine. It is not raving socialist. It is fiscally very conservative most of the time. It understands that times are different, times are tough, times are extremely dangerous, so it has been urging for a number of weeks now the same thing as the head of the IMF and the same thing as Sherry Cooper.
They are saying that, during these difficult and dangerous economic times, it is not the time for governments to cut. It is the time for governments to support the economy. They are complaining that the problem we have is not just that governments are failing to act but that they are exacerbating the mess.
I would conclude that these are unusual times and they are dangerous times from an economic point of view. I am not saying that the government's plan back in February was appropriate but it can make a case that it was. However, even if it were appropriate in February, it is not appropriate in September. Additional actions need to be taken unless the government wants to be part of the mess rather than part of the solution.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
I am very pleased to stand in the House today to speak to the very important motion put forward by the hard-working member for .
Although my Conservative colleagues continue to boast about Canada's economic recovery, more and more I am hearing stories from members of my community of that times remain tough and that high-quality, well-paying jobs just are not there in the numbers that they used to be.
Under the Conservative's stewardship of the economy, far too many of these family supporting jobs have been lost and Canadian households are increasingly feeling the squeeze of crippling household debt. Meanwhile, global economic instability and stagnation threatens already meagre economic growth in Canada.
I will focus on the issue of Canada's infrastructure deficit and how strategic investment by the federal government can have a real impact on stimulating both short-term and long-term economic growth.
Whether it is the Champlain Bridge linking Montreal with the South Shore or crumbling roads and sewage systems in my riding of , it is clear that Canada is in desperate need of a major nationwide infrastructure-building project.
In Laval, Quebec, in 2006, we saw first-hand what can happen when we allow infrastructure to deteriorate beyond the point of repair. Five people were killed, including a young child, when a highway overpass collapsed. Just last month, we also witnessed issues related to falling debris on a Montreal highway, leading to its closure and ultimately resulting in additional traffic congestion and additional delays for commuters and businesses.
Is the government prepared to wait until we see a major bridge collapse, like the one in Minnesota in 2007, to take action?
This seems to be an extremely opportune time for the government to invest in a national infrastructure project. Interest rates remain at an historic low, making public infrastructure investment less expensive than it would have been in the past. Why is the government not undertaking such an initiative now while money is cheap and Canadians desperately need jobs? After all, the Department of Finance itself has noted that infrastructure investment has more than five times the economic impact of corporate income tax cuts. In fact, it published this fact in the appendix of budget 2009.
Why, then, is the Conservative government pursuing an economic avenue that neglects infrastructure and focuses, instead, on giving corporate handouts to Bay Street executives in the form of corporate tax cuts? Why not strategically focus on infrastructure investment, something that would produce jobs in all regions of the country immediately?
I am also very curious as to how the Conservatives propose strategic review will affect employees in the public sector.
In my riding of , the Canada Revenue Agency is a major presence and is truly one of the vital employers in our region. Staffing cuts at this CRA facility would have large-scale negative effects on the greater community and the economic spinoffs associated with the CRA facility are numerous in my community of .
's economy is still recovering from the year long strike at Vale. I fear that should layoffs occur at the CRA Sudbury site, they will have extremely negative consequences for small businesses that rely on these public sector employees to maintain their bottom line.
I have similarly grave concerns over staffing levels at the Sudbury Service Canada office, which is another important employer in the riding that provides vital services to the members of my community.
I, therefore, urge the to immediately reconsider all actions that reduce the public sector contribution to the economy. The government should be taking a more flexible approach than it has been. Myself and many hard-working Canadians believe that the government should, therefore, reconsider its planned spending cuts, in light of global economic instability.
More and more often I am hearing from seniors who are unable to stretch their pension cheques to meet the inflationary increase in the cost of living. This is because the real value of the Canadian pension plan--the CPP, as most of us call it--is not keeping up with the cost of living, and many individuals who have invested in other pensions are seeing their value slip away as pension funds lose money in stock markets or try to change payout rules to shift the risk onto their shoulders.
People who have paid into the CPP and have saved up for their retirement for all of their working lives are now finding that the rules of the game were always secretly stacked against them. The only way to ensure that all Canadians are adequately supported in their retirement is a phased-in increase in the CPP.
Previously, the Conservatives indicated that they may be open to this option, but they have since turned their backs on this proposal. Despite the 's refusal to seriously consider this option, the proposal has a large amount of support, including support from a previous chief actuary of the CPP. Moreover, the CEO of the CPP Investment Board has said that the administrative costs of increasing the CPP would be lower than the private plan the has proposed.
We must now act to ensure that Canadian seniors are able to live without financial hardship. We cannot simply close our eyes to the issue, because it will only get worse as the next generation of Canadians begins to retire, increasing the percentage of Canadians receiving CPP.
In conclusion, New Democrats are not talking about spending but investment: investment in targeted incentives for real job creators; investments in critical public infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, public transit and broadband Internet; and investing in the training of workers for the 21st century global economy.
New Democrats know that now is the time to make strategic investments to promote economic growth and attack the jobs deficit. Now is the time to put partisanship aside and work together on pragmatic, practical policy solutions that encourage job creation, economic productivity and the kind of investment that builds expertise in the Canadian workforce.
I challenge those on the other side of the House to work together with New Democrats to meet the expectations of Canadians struggling to make ends meet during tough economic times by reaching across the aisle to develop concrete long-term economic solutions that will be beneficial to hardworking Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to speak in the House to support the motion from the hon. member for . This motion is particularly important in this economic context, which is so difficult, dangerous and worrying for Canadians. Our fellow Canadians are overburdened with debt and are stuck in low-paying, precarious jobs that have limited prospects for the future. Unlike the rosy world this government repeatedly talks about, the reality is far different for most people. Prospects for the future are bleak for all of us. Here are some powerful examples.
The Conference Board of Canada says that the gap between the rich and the poor in this country has been widening for the past 15 years. And it is widening at a faster pace than it did in the United States over the same period, which threatens the fundamental Canadian values of justice and equality in our society.
In addition, Charles Sirois, chair of the CIBC board, and Stephen Jarislowsky, a major Montreal investor, are worried about how dependent the Canadian economy is on the development and export of our natural resources. These two men, who have decades of expertise in global economic issues, believe that our economy—with its lack of diversity—cannot handle the challenges we face from emerging countries.
In the wake of major American investor Warren Buffett's statement, highly respected businessman Jean Coutu also expressed his belief that there is a completely incomprehensible fiscal imbalance and, as a result, he pays too little in taxes as compared to the Canadian public. He is therefore calling on the government to make the tax system fairer and more equitable so that he can do his part.
Contrary to this government, the NDP is advocating an economic approach that has worked for a long time. For a long time, the state has had a key economic role to play; to deny this is to turn a blind eye to the truth. Historically, we can see that periods that were the most economically successful in the long term achieved that success through major state intervention. When the state sets a strong and clear common goal of development, with rules of good governance and fairness on the markets, growth is impressive and sustainable.
The thirty glorious years provide an excellent example of economic measures to adopt when the economy is going downhill. Let us remember that, during that period, taxpayers' dollars were used to rebuild Europe, develop infrastructure, strengthen companies in North America and implement universal social programs that, for a long time, guaranteed a solid education system, health benefits that were accessible to everyone and the opportunity for most to retire with dignity.
All this is threatened by the economic approach of this government, which is irrationally obsessed with its weight, to the detriment of overall economic health. To paraphrase the great economist John Kenneth Galbraith, if it were only money at stake, we would not necessarily have much to worry about, but the plight of the millions of people who will suffer as a result of the action taken by this government is a matter of very great concern. It must be the main focus of our concern. In other words, we see that there are two conflicting visions of the economy in this House: that of the government, where finance takes precedence over the individual, and that of the NDP, where the individual is the centre of the economy. This could boil down to a simple ideological debate but, even then, the inescapable reality supports the NDP's approach.
First of all, one of the founding fathers of economics, Adam Smith, after making a harsh observation about the reality of his time, condemned that reality by advocating a moral approach to economic issues, an approach that took human needs into account. But unfortunately, Adam Smith was taken hostage by a simplistic economic vision endorsed by the Chicago school, which underhandedly did away with Mr. Smith's conclusions, maintaining only the observation and establishing it as dogma.
This sectarian approach has been very costly for many countries, especially in Latin America. Consider the example of Argentina, which went through a many lean years after applying measures similar to those proposed by this government. In addition, many Conservative governments in Canada have gone down paths similar to the one this government is taking, with disappointing and sometimes even disastrous results. To refresh everyone's memories, consider the following examples: the budgetary and economic trials and tribulations of the Diefenbaker government led to his defeat in 1962, when the public deficit had ballooned after a series of tax cuts—what a surprise—and after the value of the Canadian dollar dropped considerably compared to the American dollar; the Mulroney government ended a nine-year reign with an abysmal deficit of $42 billion as the ugly result; some 20 years ago, the Grant Devine government in Saskatchewan left the province's finances in ruins. After that, an NDP government led by Roy Romanow took over and in the early 1990s, despite the burden it inherited, it accomplished the amazing feat of achieving the first balanced budget of any government in Canada, whether provincial or federal.
The damage to the Conservatives' reputation at that time and later was so great that they had to reinvent themselves under another name, the Saskatchewan Party.
But the best example is the Ontario government of Mike Harris, which dismantled social programs and Ontario Hydro to the ongoing and costly detriment of the province's taxpayers. If we heed the debates raging in the current Ontario election campaign, the Harris legacy is still strong. The question is: do we want that kind of legacy?
In another part of the world, in Denmark, where a social democratic government was recently elected after 10 years of a depressing coalition of the right obsessed with austerity and border security, the new left-leaning prime minister is going to invest more than $3 billion in her country's small, rich and egalitarian economy.
Despite the fact that it has few natural resources, and personal income taxes of up to 60% as well as a 25% sales tax, Denmark's per capita GDP is comparable to that of Canada. What is even more interesting is that employment rates for all age brackets are invariably higher in Denmark than in Canada. Denmark invests heavily in education, research and development, and in its workforce, whereas Canada relies too heavily on the abundance of its natural resources as justification for a laissez-faire attitude that puts us at the mercy of economic ups and downs.
According to the Conference Board of Canada, the government must adopt an economic approach that concentrates on specialization, that is the processing of goods, in order to control a larger portion of what is called the distribution chain. In short, our country exports too many raw resources for processing abroad. We recently came to an astounding realization: employment in manufacturing, which was previously significant, is rapidly decreasing. This realization only reinforces the NDP position: Canada's competitiveness requires the diversification of activities and strategic support for sectors that create employment in order to ensure that the Canadian economy is not governed solely by the “invisible hand” of the market.