That this House acknowledge that the Canadian economy is facing unprecedented risk and uncertainty; recognize that many regions and industries across Canada have already suffered significant job losses in recent years; urge all levels of government to work together to build a balanced 21st century Canadian economy; and insist that Canada's Prime Minister meet with his counterparts in Halifax this November at the National Economic Summit being held by the Council of the Federation.
Mr. Speaker, thank you for reading the motion we are debating here today. As the official opposition, we feel it is important to remind the House that the central theme of our campaign during the last election can be summed up in two words: working together.
The major recession of 2008 taught us that it is crucial that we begin working with our partners, such as Europe and the United States, but of course within the context of the Canadian federation, that is, in co-operation with the provinces and territories.
So, imagine our surprise yesterday to hear the mock the idea of meeting with the provinces and territories to discuss the economy.
Immediately after the general election of October 14, 2008, I looked at the list of measures mentioned and I highlighted them in yellow. I would like to offer the this important tool so he can use it to highlight the appropriate parts of our platform the next time he wants to read it.
What did the Conservative have to say following that general election? He had a six step program. Four of those steps were to hold meetings. Let us read them together. Step number two was about discussing the global financial crisis and strengthening the Canada-European Union economic partnership at Friday's Canada-European Union summit. We would be meeting with the European Union. Number three was about summoning us to meet that fall and tabling an economic and fiscal update before the end of November. Number four was about participating in the G20 finance ministers meeting November 8 and 9 and calling for a further G7 finance ministers meeting to build on progress. The final one was about convening a first ministers meeting on the economy to discuss with the premiers and territorial leaders a joint approach to the global financial crisis.
He is obviously in no way a stranger to the idea of working together. In fact, there was a time when our Prime Minister found that so important that four of his six proposals involved working together.
What has happened since then? He now has a majority in the House. The Conservatives have such little need for others that they do not even convene the cabinet. When was the last time there was public notice of a cabinet meeting?
They get together in small groups and then inform the ministers about decisions that were made regarding their portfolios. That is his way of doing business.
Let us look at some of the bare economic facts that we think militate in favour of holding and attending that meeting in Halifax with the provinces and territories.
One would be the trade deficit. Right now the current account trade deficit in Canada is $50 billion. That is goods, services, investments and cash transfers. That is a record high. That is the number given to us by the Toronto Dominion Bank.
Another would be unemployment. This is worth noting, because we always hear the expression “net new jobs”. Here is the real number: there are 319,000 more people unemployed today than prior to the 2008 recession.
Let us consider manufacturing job losses. I was in southwestern Ontario on a jobs tour last week. I spent four days meeting with municipal officials, meeting with unemployment groups, meeting with chambers of commerce. Let us look at the manufacturing job losses in the last 10 years. In November 2002, there were 2.33 million manufacturing jobs in Canada. In August 2012, there were 1.80 million manufacturing jobs. Some 530,000 manufacturing jobs were lost in the last 10 years.
Under this government, it is worth noting that despite the rebound since the 2008 recession we are still at a net loss of 316,000 manufacturing jobs, almost exactly the number of additional people unemployed today over 2008.
We now have the highest household debt in Canadian history. Over the past 10 years, household debt in Canada has risen by 135%, while disposal income and nominal gross domestic product have risen by 54%. The average Canadian now has a record high debt load equal to 154% of his or her disposable income.
Finally, productivity is another key indicator. Under this , labour productivity has grown by an average of 0.5% per year. These are the worst six years of productivity growth since Statistics Canada began tracking the statistic in 1961. That is the Conservatives' record. That is what they are hiding from when they start making stuff up about our policies and our positions. That is why they do not dare go and meet the provincial premiers and those responsible for the territories. It is because they have nothing to put on the table except this lamentable record. That is what they have done to the Canadian economy.
Canadians used to be able to count on a decent job with good benefits and a pension they could rely on, but those jobs are disappearing fast. More often than not, they are being replaced by part-time precarious work in the service sector.
When Canadians look at the statistics and the facts coming out of Ottawa, they see that we have lost 500,000 good jobs in the manufacturing sector. Those jobs came with pension plans, but have been replaced with precarious jobs in the service sector without pension plans.
This is another debt the government is bequeathing to future generations, a social debt because future generations will have to look after retirees who do not have enough money to live with dignity.
In a country as rich as Canada, it is scandalous to have so many seniors living below the poverty line. The NDP is focused on working to ensure that no Canadian senior lives below the poverty line.
The trade deficit is $50 billion, and household debt is higher than it has ever been. Yet the government is giving the richest corporations tax cuts to the tune of $50 billion. Clearly, the Conservatives have their own priorities. These tax cuts are not for ordinary people. They are for the rich, particularly those with preferred access to the Conservative trough. We live in a time of unprecedented risk, and as I said yesterday, we are entering a period of extremely dangerous turbulence.
We are not making the most of our experience, our credibility and our expertise. But we are running a very large country, and we know how to work with regions that are in difficulty. We also have an equalization formula, and we know how to work under those circumstances.
When the serious crisis began in Europe, Canada could have offered to be at the table to give advice and assistance, and to share its experience.
No one, especially not me, ever spoke about cutting a cheque, but that is how the Conservatives like to twist reality: as soon as they were asked why they were not working with the Europeans, they said that the Europeans wanted a cheque for billions of dollars to maintain their extravagant lifestyle. Baloney! What we want is a Canada that is respected on the world stage.
Some of the challenges we are facing are, of course, driven by global forces, but the truth is our fate and our future is still very much in our hands. The greatest challenge we face today is not a failure of ability, it is a failure of leadership.
There are basic principles in public administration. This generation knows that we have to take environmental, economic and social factors into account every time we make a decision.
Basic sustainable development principles such as internalization of costs, polluter pay and user pay need to be applied. But really, the Conservatives could not care less.
It is extraordinary to watch the Conservatives go. Usually, coming especially from a law and order government, one would expect that if a company had practices that did not correspond to and conform to the law, the government would change the practices and order them changed to correspond to the law. What did the government do? It changed the law to make it correspond to the practices. That is what it is doing by gutting environmental legislation and leaving the largest ecological debt in the backpacks of future generations. The cleanup is going to be enormous, the cost insurmountable. That is the Conservatives' legacy to future generations.
Failure to enforce and apply existing Canadian environmental legislation has as a result that we are bringing in an artificially high number of U.S. dollars. That is contributing to keep the Canadian dollar artificially high. Everyone, whether it is the OECD, the Coulombe report prepared for Industry Canada, or Mark Carney, admits it is the high Canadian dollar that is the principal cause of at least 50% of the manufacturing job losses, and the Conservatives are not doing anything about it.
Slowly but surely, the Conservatives are dismantling the balanced economy that we built up in Canada since the Second World War. The difference between us is we know that governments played a role in establishing that balanced economy. The Conservatives refuse to acknowledge that. They believe that there is a pristine market that arbitrates all of these things on its own.
We know and understand that in a country as large as ours with a population of only 34 million, we have been able to hold ourselves together because government has always played an active role. That is what the Conservatives are trying to dismantle. That is why we are here to stand up and say they have to change their ways. They have to start talking with their partners across Canada and come to results that favour the Canadian economy for the future instead of dismantling it the way they are doing it.
After 50 years of constant economic growth in Canada, how is it possible that the government is now telling Canadians that we can no longer afford the types of programs that have always identified us? We can no longer afford old age security, employment insurance, and health care.
With such economic growth in Canada, how is it possible that the government has suddenly discovered that we can no longer afford old age security and employment insurance programs, and universal and free health care? Because they are draining the government's economic capacity. It is not surprising that we cannot afford these programs when the government gives away $50 billion in corporate tax cuts. Thus, the government has created the problem, which it proposes to remedy by cutting services. That is absurd and shows a lack of vision. That is another reason they are refusing to meet with the provincial premiers.
Young people are already paying the price.
Young people in Canada are being told by the government that they have no choice, that they have to accept less. If this continues we will be the first generation in Canadian history to leave less to our children than what we ourselves received from our parents. We find that totally inadmissible.
We believe that economic stability is dependent upon the ability to work together. The business world, of course, and also the workforce and government must work together to build a strong and balanced economy for the 21st century. That is our vision.
We can build an economy that creates wealth and prosperity for generations to come. Sadly, working together has not been the government's strong suit. Rather than invest in our workforce, the Conservatives trample on the collective bargaining rights of our workers. Rather than making the investments in infrastructure, research, and education that will allow businesses to thrive, they hand out billions in corporate tax breaks to well-connected industries.
I urge people to go to southwestern Ontario. When we think of people losing their jobs in a closed factory, we think first and foremost of the families and the effect that has on them. I urge people to meet with members of the chamber of commerce, meet with people at city hall. They will tell us that the plant is no longer part of their tax base. The city no longer has the money to take care of its basic infrastructure. It is a vicious circle that is being installed now, a vicious spiral downward for many of those municipalities.
That is where the government can and should be playing a role, but it would have to be at the table with the province to find those solutions. That is why it is so unacceptable that it is absent from these discussions. It prefers to finger wag and lecture. That is its only approach.
Canadians have the drive, talent, and ingenuity to compete with anyone in the world. However, prosperity does not happen overnight and it does not happen by accident. The challenge we face is not the failure of ability, it is the failure of leadership. We all recognize that government cannot do everything. Of course, a strong and vibrant private sector is always going to be the backbone of a vital, thriving economy, but there is also a commonsense role that everyone understands for government in shaping our economic future. The economy we have today took decades to build, decades of investment by business and government on behalf of all Canadians, and investments in education. The only way to create wealth is to create knowledge.
Our infrastructure is falling apart. Municipalities have the responsibility for 40% of infrastructure spending and 8% of the tax base in Canada. It is not going to happen. There is a deficit of over $100 billion in infrastructure. That is something else that the federal government can and should be playing an active role in if it is willing to talk with the provinces and territories.
Of course, investments in energy have also laid the groundwork for our economy to thrive in the last century. I was very proud in the last election to stand up, and I was only the Quebec politician to do so, in favour of loan guarantees for Newfoundland and Labrador to develop green renewable hydroelectric energy on the Lower Churchill. That is the type of vision we could have in Canada. Can everyone imagine the partnering opportunities? The places in Canada with the most consistent wind currents are often the latitudes with the largest concentrations of first nations. We see tragedies like Attawapiskat and the failure of the federal government to fulfill its responsibilities. Instead, it attacked, finger wagged again and blamed the victims.
Look at the opportunities we are missing to put in place a green renewable energy infrastructure across Canada and partner with first nations. That would be a vision for the future and the Conservatives do not believe in any of that. With the right leadership and the right choices, our economy could reach greater heights in the years to come.
But that will only happen on one condition: we must work together. The government must stop going on the attack, reprimanding, lecturing, believing that once a decision is made there is no other pertinent information that can be brought to bear on the issue or produce a positive outcome.
I am pleased to re-read today's motion.
That this House acknowledge that the Canadian economy is facing unprecedented risk and uncertainty; recognize that many regions and industries across Canada have already suffered significant job losses in recent years; urge all levels of government to work together to build a balanced, 21st century Canadian economy; and insist that Canada's Prime Minister meet with his counterparts in Halifax this November at the National Economic Summit being held by the Council of the Federation.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to respond to the NDP leader's motion this morning, because I do not actually entirely disagree with its premise. Indeed it is true that the Canadian economy is facing unprecedented risk. I simply take issue with where that risk is coming from, because I and most Canadians know that the real unprecedented risk here to the Canadian economy is the NDP leader himself.
The NDP leader and his risky economic schemes would ruin the Canadian economy and threaten the jobs of thousands of Canadians. He admitted it only moments ago, as he was encouraging us to highlight measures like his carbon tax in his platform 2011. I took his advice. I highlighted it as he encouraged, revenues by year. It is a $21 billion carbon tax on our Canadian families, and that would be an absurd thing to do. It is a regressive carbon tax plan that means a $21 billion increase in absolutely everything including gas, groceries and electricity.
I also highlighted the NDP leader's massive $33 billion corporate tax increase in platform 2011. Again, he is the one who encouraged it. He is the one who has admitted it. Canadians need to know the truth. His destructive plan to hike taxes on job-creating business by nearly $10 billion a year would mean that Canadians and their employers would be crippled as they try to cope with the ongoing economic turbulence.
However, what about his unprovoked attack on the natural resource sector, which we just observed? He labelled this a disease, which if successful, would bring one of the key economic drivers of the Canadian economy to a halt. Even worse, his embrace of dangerous economic protectionism and his rejection of expanding Canada's trading relationships would close the door on Canadian exporters looking to grow in the global marketplace.
No matter what plank of the NDP leader's economic platform we examine, the objective is the same: take more money out of the pockets of hard-working Canadians through higher taxes, grow bloated bureaucracies through uncontrolled government spending and watch Canada's deficit spiral absolutely out of control. The NDP leader's economic policies would return Canada to the failed and tired big government experiments of the 1960s and 1970s that nearly bankrupted western governments and sent unemployment skyrocketing. Canada cannot afford such risky and costly economic experiments from the high tax and big government NDP, especially during today's global economic turbulence. Indeed, global economic challenges and uncertainties remain.
Outside our borders, the global economy remains fragile, and any potential setbacks would clearly have an impact on Canada.
Canadian businesses must also face ever-increasing competition from emerging fast-growth countries, as well as challenges associated with the aging population and demographic changes.
Fortunately Canada is facing these challenges from a well-established position of strength and with a comprehensive and forward-looking agenda that will deliver high quality jobs, economic growth and sound public finances. Economic action plan 2012 will allow Canada to meet these challenges and emerge from them in a stronger position than ever.
This action plan will further improve our record of achievement by helping even more Canadian workers, businesses and entrepreneurs unleash their potential to innovate and thrive in the modern economy, benefiting all Canadians for generations to come.
Because they are focused on the drivers of growth and job creation—in other words innovation, investment, education, skills and communities—the new measures in economic action plan 2012 will strengthen and catalyze the talents of Canadian workers, entrepreneurs and job creators, who will be the engine of our economy.
In today's motion, the NDP leader claims he is urgently concerned about the state of the economy and Canada must have an economic summit to talk about it. However, the NDP leader goes on to suggest, in his motion, that the talk does not have to be held for a few months. Is that what we call urgent?
As an aside, I hate to break it to the NDP leader, but the and the interact quite regularly with their provincial counterparts to discuss major economic issues. The NDP leader himself acknowledged in his speech moments ago that meetings have been planned. I am here to tell him that they have also taken place. In fact, the finance minister, as he does every year, will convene an in-person meeting in December with all provincial and territorial finance ministers to talk about the state of the Canadian economy and other related issues.
On the other hand, apparently the issue of the economy and jobs only recently dawned on the NDP leader. He is a bit late to the game and needs a few months to draft yet more ways to help the economy, to go along with his carbon tax and his plan to hike taxes on job-creating businesses by $10 billion a year. What other ideas will the NDP come up with? A GST hike? A new tax on everyday financial transactions? A new personal income tax hike? Maybe it will be all of them and maybe even more. When it comes to the NDP and its high tax agenda, the sky is the limit and the pockets of Canadian families are the target.
However, do not worry. We will be spared all these tax hikes and all these ideas for a few months, until we have that economic summit to talk about the urgent economic issue. That is just ridiculous. Imagine if we were to wait for months to hold a summit on an urgent issue. Imagine a family faced with an emergency like a sudden and unexpected need to fix its roof. Instead of dealing with it right away, would the family wait for a couple of months and schedule a meeting to talk about what it might or might not do to fix it? Of course not. It is clear the NDP leader does not understand how busy Canadian families deal with their problems. They do not sit around. They role up their sleeves and they get the job done.
That is exactly what our Conservative government has been doing in response to the ongoing global economic turbulence with economic action plan 2012. Economic action plan 2012 is a positive, forward-looking plan to help build a stronger economy and a better life for all Canadians, their families and their communities. Unfortunately, it is also a plan that the NDP leader rejected mere seconds after its release, for no other reason than ideological partisanship.
First, our economic action plan includes a new approach to supporting entrepreneurs, innovators and world-class research.
As a world leader in post-secondary research with a highly skilled workforce, Canada has strong fundamentals for innovation.
In order to take advantage of these fundamentals, we set up an expert panel led by Tom Jenkins of Open Text in Waterloo. We asked this panel to determine the reasons why Canada is lagging behind in terms of innovation. And now, we are responding to the panel's recommendations in order to create high-quality jobs through investments in the following areas: education and training; basic and applied research; funding opportunities for businesses with the potential to become globally competitive; and better linkages between public research and market needs.
Among other things, this includes doubling the industrial research assistance program to better assist research and development by small and medium-sized companies. It will support innovation through procurement by connecting small and medium-sized companies with federal departments and agencies to build their capacity to compete in the marketplace. It will help high-growth firms access risk capital by committing significant funds to leverage increased private sector investments in early-stage risk capital, including by making available $400 million to help increase private sector investment in early-stage risk capital and support the creation of large-scale venture capital funds led by the private sector. It will also support private and public research collaboration through internships for graduate students and funding for business-led research and development networks.
Unbelievably, these and many more positive job-creating measures were summarily rejected and opposed by the NDP leader within mere minutes of their announcement.
However, there is more that the NDP leader has shockingly opposed.
To compete effectively and succeed globally, Canadian job creators need more than bright ideas. They must be supported by a modern regulatory environment that promotes competition, business investment and economic growth.
That means a competitive and effective tax regime, a financial system that works well and access to global markets. That is why economic action plan 2012 includes key commitments in all these areas that will make it possible to improve conditions for business investments and fuel the next wave of job creation.
This means we are transforming not only how we innovate but also how we regulate. We are supporting responsible resource development that creates jobs and improving the review process for major economic projects to make it more timely and transparent, while protecting the environment and introducing legislation to modernize the regulatory system to realize our objective of one project, one review in a clearly defined time period. These actions are all fundamental to our prosperity.
Ultimately, our success as a nation also rests upon maximizing the power of our greatest asset, our people, and unleashing their full productive potential. With that in mind, economic action plan 2012 invests significantly in training, including job creation by small businesses and opportunities for underrepresented groups in the workforce.
For instance, we are extending the temporary EI hiring credit for small business for one year to reduce the cost of hiring new workers. This will benefit approximately 536,000 employers whose total EI premiums were at or below $10,000 in 2011, reducing their 2012 payroll costs by about $205 million.
To target the labour market more directly, we are also investing $50 million through the youth employment strategy to assist more young people in gaining tangible skills and experience and connect them with jobs in fields that are in high demand.
At the other end of the demographic scale, we are also funding the extension and expansion of the successful third quarter project. That is a product of my home province of Manitoba, which helps employers find workers over 50 who have the skills they are seeking.
Plus, we are investing an additional $30 million to enable more Canadians with disabilities to obtain valuable work experience and ensure employers are aware of the invaluable contribution persons with disabilities can make to their business and to the Canadian economy.
Economic action plan 2012 also recognizes the contribution that aboriginal people can make to the labour market as the youngest and fastest growing segment of the nation's population. To help first nations participate more fully in Canada's economy and benefit from its growth, economic action plan 2012 announces that the government will work with partners to introduce a first nation education act. It also proposes $100 million to support first nations education as well as $175 million to build and renovate schools on reserve.
The action plan includes commitments to help first nations fisheries and to improve incentives for people living on reserves who benefit from the income assistance program in order to encourage those who are employable to take advantage of training opportunities. It also includes $27 million to renew the urban aboriginal strategy in order to improve economic advancement opportunities for aboriginal people living in major urban centres by supporting projects that respond to local priorities and promote local activities, such as job training and initiatives related to skills development and entrepreneurship.
All these pro-growth efforts will be supported by the responsible and sustainable fiscal management that our government has embraced from the outset. It is a prudent approach that will see a return to budgetary balance in the medium term.
In keeping with this fiscal discipline, we will implement moderate restraint in government spending by refocusing government programs, making it easier for Canadians and businesses to deal with their government and modernize and reduce the back office. These actions will yield real dividends for Canadian taxpayers and have already helped make Canada the envy of the world when it comes to government finances with the best fiscal position in the G7.
As noted by Moody's Investors Service when it renewed Canada's leading AAA credit rating, Canada's:
...economic performance and government financial position have held up better than most other top-rated sovereigns to the effects of the global recession.
Listen to the words of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce:
We’ve got a strong example of the positive effects of good policies even closer to home—Canada. Why has our northern neighbor recovered faster and more robustly from the global recession than nearly all other major economies? [It is] due to a series of smart policy decisions.
Canada has transformed its economy while other nations continue to struggle.... [I]t is growing faster than many of its competitors. It has recovered all the jobs lost in the recession....
Let’s take a lesson from the north and tackle these priorities now.
Our government is proud to state that our economic action plan 2012 and our Conservative government's economic leadership have delivered real, positive results for Canadians. Despite what the NDP leader would have us believe with his constant talking down of the Canadian economy, the facts are clear. Since July 2009, almost 770,000 net new jobs have been created. More than 90% of those jobs have been in full-time positions. This is the best performance on job growth among all G7 countries.
As noted by RBC senior economist Dawn Desjardins:
Canada has experienced quite a good recovery in the labour market compared to almost every other area of the globe.
Even better, both the International Monetary Fund and the OECD expect Canada to be among the fastest growing G7 economies over the near term.
These are impressive achievements, especially during a time when the global economy remains fragile. However, our government is not relying on its past accomplishments. We are forging ahead with a responsible and prudent plan to bolster our economic growth and create jobs.
The NDP leader on the other hand is pushing ahead with a dangerous scheme of carbon taxes and a massive business tax hike that would destroy the Canadian economy and kill jobs. The NDP leader is a risk that the Canadian economy cannot afford, especially now. That is why I encourage all members of this House to vote against today's motion and the NDP leader's high tax, deficit spending economic policies.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time today with my colleague from .
To be clear, Liberals will support the motion before the House today. In the context of an increasingly risky situation globally and growing economic inequality domestically, the premiers believe it would be useful to have a national economic summit. They will hold one in November and they have invited the to attend. Indeed, he should be there.
The government has been far too arbitrary, far too unilateral in dealing with other orders of government within the federation on energy, the environment, employment insurance, immigration, health care, pensions, the criminal law and so forth. The provinces have asked for collaboration and the government has repeatedly turned its back. That is no way to run the federation. It breeds ill will and distrust and that should stop.
Therefore, on the all-consuming topic of the economy, yes, the should show up in Halifax in November. We need a fully coordinated “Team Canada” approach to economic recovery and growth. To get that, it helps if people can sit down at the same table and share their perspectives in a constructive way. On that score, the leader of the NDP could take some lessons on getting along with provincial leaders.
His first foray into federal-provincial relations was widely perceived as an attack on western Canada. He did not express himself in terms of conciliation or co-operation. It was all about confrontation and conflict. He set the resources sector against manufacturing. He set western jobs against eastern jobs. He described a zero-sum game in which, if the west won, then the east must lose, and vice-versa. That is a mug's game. One does not earn friends and build co-operation in western Canada by depicting our economy in that region as a disease.
When the western premiers expressed their dismay, the leader of the NDP went further on the offensive. He dismissed them as mere messengers for the . That truly is insulting. Worse still, he said, “I'm not responding to any of them”. In other words, the premiers are just not worth his time. That is what the leader of the NDP said. It is all on the public record. Now he is promoting meetings with the premiers as a great step forward. This is either a huge example of hypocrisy or a conversion on the road to Damascus of historic proportions. The object here is not the leader of the NDP. The object is the and he should be in Halifax in November.
Apart from our Canadian banking system, which the right-wing Reform-Alliance crowd wanted to compromise and give away to the Americans back in the 1990s, and thank goodness for Paul Martin and Jean Chrétien who said no to that bad advice and preserved for Canada the best banking system in the world, Canada has one other major global advantage in coping with international economic uncertainty. That advantage is our federal debt ratio. It stands at just under 35%, which is low by global standards.
Back in the 1990s, it was a crippling 70%. Let us think about that. Seventy per cent of the gross domestic product was offset by the federal debt. The federal books had not been balanced in more than 25 years. The Canadian economy was a basket case, a candidate for honorary membership in the third world is how it was described by the international financial media. This is the situation that was faced by a Liberal government that was elected in 1993.
We faced it and we fixed it. The books were balanced by 1997. We ushered in a whole decade of surplus budgets. The debt came down. We slashed that federal debt ratio in half. Taxes came down, interest rates remained low and stable and the economy grew. More than 3.5 million net new jobs were created, employment insurance premiums were cut 13 years in a row, transfer payments to the provinces were raised to an all-time record high and major investments were made in infrastructure, innovation, children, families, skills and trade.
In 2006, we left for our successors a strong economy and the best fiscal record in the western world. Sadly, the Conservatives played fast and loose with that situation from the get-go. Long before there was any recession to blame, they increased federal spending by three times the rate of inflation. They eliminated all the contingency reserves, all the prudence factors from the federal budget process and they put the country back into deficit again before, not because of but before, the recession arrived in the fall of 2008. Therefore, once again, Canada is confronting serious economic challenges.
Broadly speaking, these challenges are in two categories: one, is very tepid economic growth overall; and the other is increasing inequality among Canadians. These are the priorities that should command the government's attention. However, all Canadians hear from the government is that one note monotone Conservative mantra about austerity, austerity and yet more austerity, effectively kneecapping the federal government to make it as irrelevant as possible.
What else could the federal government do? As a start, it could help the most vulnerable low-income families. It could do that in part by making its tax credits refundable, to use the technical language of the tax department. In other words, the tax credits for children's sports, children's arts, home caregivers, volunteer firefighters and so forth would become equally available to all Canadians. Right now they are structured in such a way that low-income people are effectively excluded. That should be fixed as a matter of fairness to ease inequality.
Another thing it could do is ease off its payroll tax increases. It seems unreasonable and counterproductive that it keeps hiking EI premiums by about $600 million per year, when job creation needs to be the priority. However, EI payroll taxes keep going up under the government by $600 million per year, and that is a job-killing tax on jobs.
It also needs to back off on its new secret EI benefits clawback, just introduced this past summer. It is a clear disincentive to employment, it unfairly punishes seasonal workers and others and it contributes to inequality among Canadians.
Those are just a few practical, affordable, doable things that the government could and should do right now.
Let me conclude on a matter that could well benefit from some strong federal-provincial discussions. That is the painful set of circumstances facing young Canadians. Unemployment among young people under the age of 25 remains at recession like levels, close to 15%. Two hundred and fifty four thousand fewer young Canadians are employed today than before the recession in 2008. Another 165,000 have just stopped participating in the job market. They have given up.
Among other things, Canada needs a big push in support of learning and skills across the country. From preschool to graduate studies, continuous high calibre learning is vital to the strength of our economy and the well-being of our society. While respecting provincial jurisdiction over education, the Government of Canada needs to be more than an idle spectator when it comes to this key determinant of Canada's ability to succeed economically and Canadians' ability to live fulfilling lives.
So much more should be done by an engaged and energetic federal government to partner with provinces and educational institutions to help make Canadians the best educated people in the world. We will thrive in a difficult global economy by the quality of our brain power. That is the key to productivity.
It is good public policy for the federal government to support early learning and child care, to support the removal of financial barriers to post-secondary studies and skills, the amelioration of student debt and curiosity-based research and innovation.
One final point is the government's obligation for aboriginal education. It should take the cap off first nations' access to post-secondary education and fill in the gap between what the provinces pay on non-aboriginal children and the much lower amount the government pays on aboriginal children.
Mr. Speaker, I want to commend my colleague, the member for , on what I thought was an absolutely excellent outline of Canada's fiscal history. He was, in many measures, front and centre in some very critical decisions on Canada's fiscal history in the last number of years. We in the Liberal Party recognize his contributions. I do not know if some colleagues across the way quite appreciate him in the way that we do.
An hon. member: That's a fair comment.
Hon. John McKay My hon. colleague says that's a fair comment.
Mr. Speaker, I want to start by talking about an article I read in The Globe and Mail this week by Brian Lee Crowley and Robert Murphy. Mr. Crowley is a well-known Atlantic Canadian. I would describe him, and I hope he would see the description the same way, as very much a fiscal conservative. In fact, he has been working with the Department of Finance. He wrote a book which talks about what the U.S. could learn from Canada's recent fiscal history, particularly the period of time in which the Liberal government was in power.
The article states:
Canada faced an even larger fiscal crisis in the mid-1990s than America does today, and our achievement dwarfs anything being proposed in Washington. By acting decisively, Canada resolved its crisis quickly and with surprisingly little pain. Since the memory of this momentous achievement is fading, or is unknown to the younger generation--
--and may I say colleagues opposite--
--it is worth recalling how it unfolded.
In the mid-1990s, the Canadian federal government had been in budget deficit for two decades. A third of all federal revenue was being frittered away on interest on the debt. A Wall Street Journal editorial from Jan. 12, 1995, declared that the country “has now become an honorary member of the Third World in the unmanageability of its debt problem … it has lost its triple-A credit rating and can’t assume that lenders will be willing to refinance its growing debt.”
May I add as a parenthetical comment that my predecessor in Scarborough East had a lot to do with trying to keep Canada's AAA credit rating in some of the worst part of the 1995-96 crisis.
Deliverance came the following month when the centre-left Liberal government tabled its historic budget. This document was a defining moment in Canada’s fiscal history.
More astonishing than the bold plans for a massive rollback was the fact that Ottawa actually did what the document said. Total spending fell by more than 7 per cent over two years, while program spending (excluding interest) fell by almost 10 per cent. As a share of the economy, federal spending fell from almost 22 per cent to 19 per cent during the same period. By January, 1998, federal employment was down 51,000 – about 14 per cent. Ottawa ran 11 consecutive budget surpluses beginning in 1997/98. With the federal government paying down its debt and the economy expanding, total public debt plummeted over the following decade.
The article went on in effect to prescribe medicine for the U.S. economy.
I do not pretend to, nor want to, engage in that debate, but it is worth remembering that Canada was there and we are no longer there. I want to point out again that there was an enormous political price to be paid by prime ministers Chrétien and Martin, the Liberal caucus and the Liberal Party. I came here in 1997. We came within four or five seats of actually losing a majority. Part of it had to do with the difficulties of the fiscal medicine we had to impose.
No budget is ever presented in a political vacuum and in 1997 it was a very difficult environment for us. The rewriting and reinventing of political history by the and the is all part of a misinformation campaign by the Conservatives. The Conservatives inherited a $13 billion surplus and in a few short years turned it into Canada's largest deficit in history, having run deficits ever since. They even brag that this year they will have less of a deficit than they had last year, or they brag about how we compare to other countries. Certainly we are doing terrifically compared to Greece, Portugal, Spain or Italy. The Conservatives do not mention that maybe we are not quite so hot when we compare ourselves to Germany, Sweden or Norway, which is of course a better economy.
There is a good reason why this is studied as a political economy, because political decisions can be good and they can also be bad. The political courage shown by former prime ministers Chrétien and Martin and the Liberal caucus has brought Canada into a relative state of fiscal health and the has been dining out on it ever since. Gutless political decisions such as cutting the GST have, for the foreseeable future, killed any chance of ever going into a fiscal balance.
Politically gutless decisions such as ignoring Confederation partners and refusing to meet with them creates Confederation chaos, with premiers fighting with each other and with policy incoherence. Gutless political decisions that cater to the Conservatives' 35% base and ignore the rest are simply that, just creating anger and apathy.
How can a government say it knows how to manage the economy when the number of unemployed Canadians has risen 34% during its mandate? These 1.4 million unemployed Canadians are not impressed by the so-called management of the economy by the Conservatives. How can the Conservatives say that during the last four years there are more unemployed people in agriculture, construction and manufacturing trade and still say they know how to manage the economy?
Of course the answer is tax cuts. If people are unemployed, it is tax cuts. If they have just had their pension lopped off, the answer to that is tax cuts. If they are bankrupt, tax cuts are really going to work for them. If their industry has been devastated, tax cuts are going to be the answer. If they have cancer, that is tax cuts. For unrest in the Middle East, tax cuts. It is simply the Mitt Romney robo-answer to all our ills. Tax cuts will save us from everything. Do they never ask themselves the fundamental question of how we got ourselves into this mess in the first place?
So Crowley and Murphy are right in the sense that the U.S. could look to Chrétien and Martin for inspiration, but I am perfectly prepared to admit that the political and economic contexts are quite different.
This motion should be supported. However, it would be more supportable if its author did not go around creating his own chaos. Calling the premiers the 's messengers and remaining mute on various issues that are of great national interest erodes his credibility when presenting a motion such as this. In his own trips, refusing to actually meet premiers again erodes his credibility with respect to the presentation of his motion. As the Conservatives rightly say, the NDP has opposed every free trade agreement. One cannot be a credible economic leader unless one deals with various opportunities to create trade in this country.
The does need to consult with the premiers, and he does need to do it much more quickly. He does need to do it, and therefore we in the Liberal caucus will be supporting this motion.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
I rise today in the House to voice my strong support for the motion at hand. I also want to thank our leader for introducing this motion, which speaks to the top concern of so many Canadians, the future of our economy.
The Canadian economy is indeed facing unprecedented risk and uncertainty. A country as small and economically open as Canada, of course, is not immune to the problems of those around us. The weakness of the American economy and the ongoing crisis in Europe are serious concerns.
Already Canada's export of value-added products is steadily shrinking and our overall trade deficit is growing dramatically. In July, Canada ran the worst merchandise trade deficit in history. In fact, since the Conservatives came to power, Canada's trade balance has gone from a $26 billion surplus to a $50 billion deficit.
We are aware of how weak the American economy is and of the ongoing crisis in Europe. Canada's exports of value-added products are steadily declining, and our trade deficit is skyrocketing. In July, Canada experienced the worst trade deficit in its history. Actually, since the Conservatives came to power, Canada's trade balance has gone from a $26 billion surplus to a $50 billion deficit.
The high value of the Canadian dollar is further hampering demand, rendering many of our exports uncompetitive and making imports more attractive to consumers. New Democrats believe in trade that works for Canadians and Canadian business, and the Conservative trade agenda clearly is not fitting the bill. At the same time, the record high level of household debt is suppressing demand and hurting our economic growth.
Over the summer I took the opportunity to travel the country and met with Canadian businesses, finance ministers and chambers of commerce. I heard from them about the difficulties they face and saw clearly that while the Conservatives use a lot of rhetoric on the economy, the facts tell a very different story.
The Conservative plan to stimulate the economy through corporate tax cuts has failed to stimulate economic growth. Corporations have not reinvested their excess cash into their businesses and instead they are now sitting on more than $500 billion.
Unfortunately, it is Canadians who have to deal with the negative effects of weak Conservative leadership, including the job losses that have already plagued many regions and industries across Canada. Some 1.4 million Canadians are unemployed, and this number has remained virtually unchanged over the last year.
Unemployment and economic growth has been highly divergent across the country. For example, over 43% of Canada's unemployed live in Ontario alone. In Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, there are 10 unemployed people for every vacant job compared to 2 unemployed people for every vacant job in Saskatchewan.
As Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of Canada, recently noted:
These broad shifts in demand for and supply of labour are contributing to rising inequality. Over the past 20-plus years, incomes in Canada have increased nearly twice as fast for earners in the top 10 per cent as for those in the lowest 10 per cent. The share of the top 1 per cent is now the third highest among member-countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development after the United States and the United Kingdom.
That level of inequality is growing. Just to put it in comparison, the last time inequality in the U.S. was as severe was during the 1920s. Moreover, labour's share of the national income is now at its lowest level in half a century across most advanced economies, including Canada.
Peter Jarrett, Head of Division for Canada in the OECD economics department, argues that:
Canada is blessed with abundant natural resources. But it needs to do more to develop other sectors of the economy if it is to maintain a high level of employment and an equitable distribution of the fruits of growth.
The major drivers of GDP are not spending in Canada. Canadian households are facing record high debt levels, significantly hampering consumer spending.
Businesses are not reinvesting their profits in the economy, and government is pursuing austerity, which economists have told us will have contractionary effects on the size of our economy.
What all this means is that more and more Canadians are struggling from paycheque to paycheque while the Conservatives cut services they rely on and corporations sit on half a trillion dollars in cash. Yet rather than taking action to correct these imbalances, the Conservatives are stubbornly pursuing an austerity agenda that has only exacerbated them.
Avery Shenfeld, chief economist at CIBC, recently argued for infrastructure investment, noting that:
...if growth falters, Canada's Plan B can't depend on monetary policy, given how low rates [in Canada] already are. Trying to squeeze more growth out of housing and debt-financed consumer spending might not be the best option given longer term risks associated with excesses on both those fronts. Instead, the push to growth should come on the fiscal side...
Canada's premiers have agreed that maintaining a strong and growing economy is their top priority. They are concerned about weak economic growth among our traditional trading partners and recognize the need to adapt to the growing economic strength of several emerging economies.
However, the premiers understand that intergovernmental cooperation between provincial, territorial, and federal governments is essential to these concerns. They themselves have argued that to fully engage all the economic forces in the country, the two orders of government must be working together. Unfortunately, the 's approach to federal-provincial relations is marked by disengagement, division, and lack of negotiation.
Jennifer Wallner of the University of Ottawa's school of political studies has noted, “Despite the call for open federalism...the government has developed a policy agenda with considerable implications for the provinces and territories without bringing them to the table”.
In fact, it has now been three years since the last meeting between the and Canada's premiers, and despite his rhetoric about focusing on the economy, the has refused to join our premiers at the Council of the Federation's National Economic Summit in Halifax this November. Especially at a time of economic fragility and unbalance, the should be meeting with our premiers on a regular basis, not refusing to meet with them even once in three years.
Canadians should be wary of a government that prefers unilateral action over intergovernmental cooperation, that prefers ramming legislation through Parliament over proper due diligence, and that prefers stubbornly pushing forward with failed corporate tax giveaways over making strategic investments in programs that will help Canadians and promote growth.
A strong, balanced economy will not be created by a small group of hardline Conservatives in Ottawa. Canada's most prolonged period of sustained growth was marked by investment in innovation and an influx of value-added jobs.
New Democrats believe that the federal government has a commonsense role to play in making strategic investments in education, innovation, and infrastructure to provide an economic climate where business and households can thrive. We believe that the government should ensure that Canada remains a country with a well-balanced economy that does not leave any part of our country behind. That is why we are asking our colleagues here in the House of Commons to support this motion and to get this country moving on the right track.
Mr. Speaker, congratulations. It is good to see you in the chair.
I am very pleased to be speaking to this motion by the because it is very important that we have the opportunity to highlight the impact of the job losses in Canada's manufacturing sector. The figures from Statistics Canada are staggering. Canada has lost nearly 400,000 manufacturing jobs since the Conservative government took office in 2006. We have lost over 40,000 manufacturing jobs this year alone.
We are currently at a historic low in terms of manufacturing jobs going back to when these statistics were first gathered in 1976. I would like to note that this low is quite significant because both our labour force and population have grown significantly over this same period. In other words, there are fewer manufacturing jobs in Canada now than there were in 1976.
Of particular note, the textiles and clothing sector, which, according to Statistics Canada, has long been one of the largest manufacturing employers in the country, was the hardest hit among manufacturing industries. From 2004 to 2008, manufacturers and textile product mills saw almost half of their jobs disappear. Another particularly hard hit sector is the automotive industry and members will know about this. Statistics Canada reports that automotive parts manufacturing lost more than one-quarter of its employees from 2004 to 2008, while motor vehicle manufacturing lost one-fifth. That is 15,900 jobs. Those who earned their living and supported families and our communities from the automotive sector saw their job numbers go from 139,300 to 98,700. This effectively cancelled all the strong economic growth that we experienced from 1998 to 2004.
In my community of London, there has been a steady, long-term erosion of jobs and it has been particularly hard hit by the most recent closing of manufacturing plants. Tragically, the city's manufacturing sector has been shrinking at a rapid rate and auto sector jobs have all but disappeared. These lost jobs were the good-paying jobs needed to support families and communities.
Just this year, more than 700 jobs were lost at Electro-Motive Diesel in London. Air Canada Jazz cut 200 maintenance jobs at London International Airport and Diamond Aircraft has been reduced to a fraction of the workforce compared to a year ago. People may recall the problems faced by Diamond in the development of a new jet. Unfortunately for London, the federal government declined to assist the company in its efforts and jobs have been lost. In the neighbouring community of Talbotville, after the Ford assembly plant was shut down in 2011, a total of 1200 jobs were eliminated. Now Timken will close, leaving 150 more people out of work.
It is not just manufacturing. We have seen 36 jobs cut at Service Canada in London. This loss of front-line workers creates tremendous hardships for the people in the London region who need help with their employment insurance, CPP concerns, GIS problems, and CPP disability benefits. These Service Canada workers were highly skilled and very professional in their effective delivery of services to my constituents, services they need and deserve.
There has also been the elimination of all support staff at Wolseley Barracks. The important work done by that staff with regard to the efficient functioning of the base leaves members of the Canadian Forces without the supports they need to do their jobs, and compels CF personnel to do jobs for which they are not trained and takes them away from the jobs for which they have been trained. We have seen the end of front-line service at Citizenship and Immigration Canada. There are no days of the week when the office is open to the public in London. For all those individuals who are required to contact CIC, this closure is an unforgivable hardship.
The jobs lost in London were good paying jobs. They were jobs that supported the infrastructure of our community. They were critical to the future economic health of London. These were good jobs with pensions.
Now the retirement savings of those hard-working people are at risk and so are their pensions. Their ability to pay into CPP no longer exists. Some workers in London are still looking for the pension benefits they spent years paying into. There are many hundreds of them. Nortel pensioners and Beta Brands pensioners are still waiting for benefits years after their employers left the city. These are not only lost jobs. These are lost pensions, lost hopes, lost security.
Sadly, where there has been job growth it has been concentrated in the service sector and part-time work, where pension benefits are limited or do not even exist. That is what too many Canadians face, and it is unconscionable.
This economic downturn is being used as an opportunity to attack retirement security in Canada. More and more companies are opting out of defined benefit pension plans. With a defined benefit pension plan, employees receive a set monthly amount once they reach retirement. It is an amount they can depend on because it is based on the participant's salary and length of employment. With this plan the employer is responsible to provide specified sufficient funds to secure the future retirement of an employee. An employee can therefore retire knowing, to the penny, the kind of resources available and the lifestyle he or she will be able to maintain.
More companies are attempting to make the switch to a defined contribution plan, where the employer defines the amount that will be contributed to the employee's pension plan on a regular basis. The amount contributed is then invested by the employer in a selection of investment options within the plan. The amount the employee will receive upon retirement will vary based on the amount contributed and the performance of the investment. In a defined contribution pension plan all of the investment risk is placed on the employee and there is no way at all to predict what the retirement income will be.
According to Stats Canada, the number of people who are members of defined benefit plans dropped by over 100,000 between 2007 and 2011. According to the Globe and Mail, a survey of Canadian plan sponsors earlier this year found that only 42% of publicly traded companies with defined benefit plans still had them open to all employees, while 39% had closed their plans to new hires and 17% had closed them to all employees. I would also like to note that Stats Canada states the number of members with a defined contribution plan has risen by just under 100,000 between 2007 and 2011.
In the private sector, employees in Canada are also in pension jeopardy. There has been an increase of more than 100,000 individuals who do not earn any pension at all. That is 100,000 fewer people with a pension plan than in 2006. That means 100,000 more people may need to rely on the GIS to make ends meet when they do retire.
Retirement security in Canada is changing, and this shift is not for the better. With losses and cuts to private sector pensions and threats to public sector pensions, Canadians will have less money upon retirement.
Young people today are facing high unemployment rates and a delayed entrance into the workforce. Young families today are earning less money than their parents did. Now, due to the government's recent changes to the OAS and GIS, workers will have to wait two more years before they are eligible to collect benefits.
The writing is on the wall. There will be a retirement crisis for the post-boomer generation unless we make some drastic changes, and to be clear, changes such as cuts to the OAS are not the type of changes that I am speaking about. We need to strengthen all three tiers of our pension system and in particular, we need to see a doubling of the CPP.
We live in a very rich and privileged country. We are experiencing an economic downturn. However, investing in job creation will have a far better outcome for our communities than corporate tax cuts and billion dollar jets that are made abroad.
The benefits are immense and will last well into the future. Only with job security can we have retirement security.
Canadians deserve nothing less.
Mr. Speaker, I am really delighted to rise in my place today to speak to the NDP motion.
On May 2 of last year, Canadian voters chose to elect a strong, stable, national Conservative majority government. It was a great day for Canada. That evening, on my election win, I was reminded of a movie that I saw, and some of us in the room will probably remember it, called The Candidate with Robert Redford. At the end of the movie, Redford, who was a democratic senatorial candidate who was not supposed to win the election, ended up winning. He looked across the room at his campaign consultant and he mouthed, “What do we do now?”
We on this side of the House knew exactly what to do. We had a plan called the economic action plan. The voters of Canada voted in favour of it and gave us a strong, stable, national majority government because we had a road map and we knew what we were doing. I know a lot of people on the other side were mouthing, “What do we do now?” and they still do not know what they are doing.
The NDP policies are rooted in failure. The NDP has a proven track record in Ontario. It and other provinces, and countries around the world, including Greece, are the jurisdictions the NDP is asking us to follow and take lessons from.
When my father came to this country in 1947 as the only survivor from his family, he came with three things. He came with a number on his arm, the shirt on his back, but most importantly, he came with hope in his heart. When I go to citizenship swearing in ceremonies, new immigrants to this country all come with hope in their hearts. They come with hope in their hearts because Canada is a land of opportunity where they can find a job. A job for new immigrants and for Canadians is not a disease. It is hope. It is hope because we have this great country called Canada and our government is on the right track.
The number one priority for Canadians and what really matters to them is the economy, job creation and long-term prosperity. At a time when the global economic recovery remains fragile, especially in the United States and Europe, our government is focused on creating jobs, economic growth and securing long-term prosperity for future generations of Canadians.
This is something our government has been focused on for some time. Faced with the deepest global economic recession since the 1930s, the government took the necessary action to protect the economy, Canadian jobs and Canadian families. It is because of the decisive action by this government that Canada finds itself in a position of relative strength among the industrialized world.
Contrary to what the NDP would have us believe with the non-stop bashing of our Canadian economy and our country, we are in a very envious position. Many of us will also remember the show, Dragnet. Sergeant Friday would say “Just the facts, ma'am”. Let us consider the facts. Since July 2009 nearly 770,000 net new jobs have been created, nearly 90% of them are full-time positions.
This is the strongest growth among G7 countries over the course of the recovery. In addition, both the IMF and OECD project Canada to be among the fastest growing G7 economies over the near term. The three credit-rating agencies, Moody's, Fitch, and Standard & Poor's, have all reaffirmed our triple-A credit rating. In fact, it was Fitch that recently praised Canada's economic and fiscal leadership by saying:
Years of fiscal responsibility and a strong institutional setting created the conditions for an effective fiscal policy response to the global financial crisis. An early commitment to balance the budget over the medium term placed Canada's fiscal credibility ahead of many peers.
Simply put, Canada's fiscal fundamentals are solid and sustainable, but solid government finances are meaningless words to the NDP and its failed 1970s socialist mindset of big government, big bureaucracies and big deficits.
Nevertheless, we are focused on protecting and growing Canada's economy and building on our relative advantage compared to our G7 partners. However, to truly understand the strength behind this performance, we have to consider the hard work that took place long before.
I am talking about the actions our government has been taking to pay down debt, lower taxes, reduce red tape, and promote free trade and innovation. To start, our government paid down significant amounts of debt when times were good, and kept our debt-to-GDP ratio well below that of our G7 counterparts. As a result, when the economic downturn hit Canada, we had the fiscal capacity necessary to respond and to hold onto our G7 leading record as other nations began to pile vast amounts of unaffordable new debt onto old.
The NDP leader clearly does not value the initiatives our government has taken to keep Canada's economic record strong. For evidence of this we need to look no further than the NDP voting record. When Canada was facing the worst of the global economic recession, the NDP responded by voting against Canada's economic action plan. The NDP voted against tax relief for families and businesses. The NDP voted against investments in infrastructure, R and D, and skills training. The NDP voted against support for manufacturers, forestry, the unemployed and more.
Unfortunately, rather than support initiatives that would help Canada's economy, the NDP would rather support initiatives that would harm Canada's economy. What harmful economic schemes are the NDP pushing? Our Conservative government is focused on what matters to Canadians, such as creating jobs, promoting economic growth and ensuring long-term prosperity, while the NDP wants to attack growing sectors of our economy and impose $10 billion in higher taxes on businesses. The NDP advocates that we close off Canada from the rest of the world and do not trade.
Canadian taxpayers should hold onto their wallets because, unfortunately, there is more. The NDP leader supports a job-killing carbon tax. This would increase the price of everything including purchases such as gas--
Mr. Speaker, as I was saying, the NDP carbon tax would increase the price of everything, including purchases such as gasoline, groceries and electricity. That would mean less money in the pockets of Canadian families and less money to pay their bills. According to the NDP's election platform, it plans to take $21 billion out of the pockets of Canadian families to pay for its carbon tax scheme. To me, this sounds like a costly and unnecessary burden on Canadian families, Canadian businesses and the entire Canadian economy. That is certainly not what my constituents want to see.
While our Conservative government is talking about job creation, the opposition is focused on job destruction. That is why in these uncertain economic times Canadians continue to trust our Conservative government to keep Canada's economy on the right track. Even as we speak global economic headwinds from outside the country threaten Canada. Many are rightly concerned about the impact of the situation in Europe, and Canada is no exception. However, while others fail to address their challenges, Canada has chosen to lead by example.
Given that Canada has fared better than most countries, it is worth highlighting some of the measures our government has taken to ensure that Canada's economy remains strong.
One key component of our government's strategy is the expanding of our trade opportunities and creating the conditions necessary for our homegrown businesses to compete in the global marketplace. The pursuit of free trade is key to our growth agenda. Through structural reforms like trade liberalization, Canadian businesses and their workers will be able to compete in the global marketplace.
Our government's trade agenda has already made Canada one of the most open and globally engaged economies in the world, something which the protectionists and isolationists in the NDP adamantly oppose with their anti-trade agenda.
In six years we have signed free trade agreements with nine countries and are in negotiations with many more. We have also concluded foreign investment promotion and protection agreements with 11 countries and are in active negotiations with 14 others.
By the end of this year, we hope to conclude negotiations for a free trade agreement with the European Union. On this front, a few weeks ago the met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Ottawa to strengthen dialogue on this key initiative. In fact, during her visit, Chancellor Merkel remarked on how initiatives taken by Canada during the global economic recession helped Canada sit in a position of strength. She said, “Canada is an example for how one can actually emerge from a crisis in a robust way.”
Adding to this trade agenda, Canada is also joining the trans-Pacific partnership negotiations. We are actively pursuing new trade and investment opportunities in large, dynamic and fast-growing economies such as China, India and Japan. This reflects our belief that freer and more open trade is a key stimulus for global economic recovery.
Combined with our free trade commitment is our continued tariff relief to enhance the competitiveness of Canadian manufacturers and importers. In all, our government has eliminated more than 1,800 tariff items and provided more than $435 million in annual tariff relief to Canadian businesses. As a result, Canada is now the first tariff-free manufacturing zone in the G20.
These measures build on our proven record of support for entrepreneurship, investment and growth.
Since 2006 our Conservative government has been making a concerted effort to promote investment and reduce regulatory burdens that only serve to impede business growth.
In 2011 Forbes magazine ranked Canada as the number one country in the world for doing business and cited our strong economic recovery and competitive tax system.
Yet, those who wish to invest in Canada's resources have been facing an increasingly complicated web of rules and bureaucratic reviews that have grown over time, adding costs and delays that can deter investors and undermine the economic viability of major projects. This approach is not economically sound, nor is it environmentally beneficial.
Our government responded by introducing system-wide improvements to streamline the environmental assessment review process for major economic projects that would put in place a one project, one review system in a clearly defined time period. These measures will make project reviews more predictable and timely, reduce duplication and regulatory burdens, and enhance consultations with aboriginal peoples, while protecting the environment.
Along with promoting investment and our support for free and open trade, the government continues to support a low tax environment required to create jobs and growth.
In 2007, prior to the global crisis, Canada passed a bold tax reduction plan designed to make Canada a low tax destination for business investment.
Canada's competitive tax system plays a crucial role in supporting economic growth. These tax reductions will leave more money for the private sector to reinvest in machinery, equipment, information technology and other physical capital that will further boost productivity in businesses across Canada. Furthermore, they will allow businesses to hire additional workers and offer higher wages as they expand production and take on the world.
Our government also continues to create the right conditions to enable Canadians and Canadian business to feel confident to invest, create jobs, participate in the global marketplace and grow our economy. One of these conditions includes a sound and stable financial system. Even as global economic conditions worsened during the crisis, Canada's finance system was stable and well capitalized with one of the most effective regulatory frameworks in the world. As a result, Canada did not suffer one single bank bailout nor failure.
Canada's enviable financial system did not lessen the government's resolve to act when it was under threat by outside forces. Make no mistake: the threats were real. As credit markets around the world began to freeze, the prospect of total financial economic breakdown became a realistic concern. Even in Canada, businesses were finding it difficult to get the basic financing they needed for everything from inventories to payrolls. The seriousness of this threat meant that traditional approaches just would not work.
In Canada we understood there was a critical need for our government to take steps to ensure the financial system could get secure access to the funding it required so that consumers and businesses would be able to access this much needed financing.
Today Canada has the world's soundest banking system for the fifth year in a row, as affirmed earlier this month by the World Economic Forum. In addition, the Financial Stability Board's peer review praised Canada for the government's response to the global financial crisis and highlighted the resilience of Canada's financial system, calling it a model for other countries.
The strength and resiliency of the Canadian financial system has served us well during the recent global economic and financial crisis and will continue to do so as we face a global economic situation that remains fragile and uncertain.
Unfortunately, NDP members would rather that we tinker with Canada's financial system. They feel that a time of economic uncertainty is the right time to test risky economic schemes like another tax, this time a financial transactions tax on everyday financial transactions. Fortunately, our Conservative government is adamantly opposed to the NDP's tax schemes.
With one of the most successful economies in the world today, Canada offers many advantages as an investment destination and partner for global business. Canada's competitiveness, excellence, depth of talent, innovation and creativity offer a great environment to potential investors from around the globe. That being said, there is still a lot of work to be done and our government recognizes that Canada cannot become complacent with its past successes.
It is pretty clear that when it comes to creating jobs for Canadians, the last place the government is looking for ideas is the NDP. As outlined during my speech, when it comes to creating the kind of economic growth that will mean a greater future for Canadians and their families, this side of the House knows the best route to getting there.
In fact, the NDP's grand plan to help the economy is to hold meetings months down the road. It is simply outrageous. The simple fact of the matter remains that when it comes to initiatives that will help Canadians, the only thing the NDP seems capable of doing is voting against them and finding ways to tax everything Canadians do.
Unlike the NDP, our Conservative government has a plan to support job creation and economic growth through Canada's economic action plan 2012. Therefore, I urge all members to join with me in opposing the motion and the NDP's risky economic high tax schemes which would only jeopardize Canada's fragile economic recovery.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak to the motion presented today by the leader of my party:
That this House acknowledge that the Canadian economy is facing unprecedented risk and uncertainty; recognize that many regions and industries across Canada have already suffered significant job losses in recent years; urge all levels of government to work together to build a balanced, 21st century Canadian economy; and insist that Canada's Prime Minister meet with his counterparts in Halifax this November at the National Economic Summit being held by the Council of the Federation.
I suppose we could call it a bland motion, or what people like to call a no-brainer, something that we can all agree upon: co-operative federalism in working together to solve the economic problems of the country. This is not something new to Canada. What is new, of course, is that the last time the met with the premiers was in November 2008. The 256 meetings he is talking about—perhaps with individual premiers at photo ops, on election platforms, or who knows where—are not what we are talking about here. We are talking about the premiers of this country who met in July in Halifax and sent an invitation to the to meet them in November to talk about the economic future of the country. I do not know what is so wrong with that.
The premiers' concern about maintaining a strong and growing economy in Canada is a top priority. They are concerned about the weak economic growth with our trading partners and the need to adapt to the growing strength of several economies. They called upon the to meet with them in November, and what we seem to be getting over here is a resounding no, that Conservatives will not meet with the premiers at their request to talk about the future of the economy. That is very surprising. Maybe they want to shy away from some of the facts. The fact of the matter is that when they took power, we had a trade surplus of $25 billion. Now we have a trade deficit of over $50 billion, a slide of some $75 billion under their watch. They continue to brag about being focused on jobs and the economy, yet we have in excess of 300,000 fewer jobs now than before the recession, and that is over a period of four years.
The member for said a few moments ago that the Conservatives had a plan for economic growth. They had no plan in 2008 when they were elected at the beginning of this crisis. There was no crisis, according to them. There was no crisis, they had no plan and they almost lost office because of it. That is the kind of economic record the government has for economic leadership. It was forced into trying to respond to the economic crisis after it was in denial for several months and throughout an election period.
Why does the government need to meet with the premiers? The premiers have problems of their own. The premier of Newfoundland and Labrador is faced with an unemployment rate that is more than 5% higher than the national average, at 12.7% to be exact, from the latest figures in August from the Newfoundland & Labrador Statistics Agency. The youth unemployment rate in Newfoundland and Labrador is over 20%. That is a shocking statistic.
The motion refers to uncertainty in the economic future. Housing starts in Newfoundland and Labrador are down this year and projected to be down for a further two years, despite a rise in 2010.
We have uncertainty about the oil and gas future in Newfoundland and Labrador in terms of production. Production is going down and a new oil production field at Hebron is not coming into play until 2016-17. These oil production declines are causing economic uncertainty in Newfoundland and Labrador.
We have seen significant job losses in fish plants in Marystown. This fish plant has operated successfully for decades. Port Union has seen permanent job losses, with no replacements in sight.
These are economic uncertainties that seek solutions and co-operation from the Government of Canada and the premier of the province.
Our leader today spoke about the job losses in the manufacturing sector across the country, half a million job losses that have not been attended to by the government.
The member for talked about how the OECD praised Canada's economic performance. Let us look a little deeper into what the OECD had to say about Canada.
Peter Jarrett, the head of the Canada division at the OECD economic department, had this to say, “Canada is blessed with abundant natural resources”. We would agree. We have them in Newfoundland and Labrador in mining, the fishery and offshore oil and gas. Forestry and mining is throughout the country. Out west we have the oil and gas. He continued to say, “but it needs to do more to develop other sectors of the economy if it is to maintain a high level of employment and equitable distribution of the fruits of growth”. All members of Parliament should be paying attention and listening to that statement.
That is where we are coming from. Our leader has said this. We want prosperity in Canada, but we want prosperity for all. We want the positive benefits of economic activity, natural resources and employment to be spread around. Let there be an equitable distribution of the fruits of our resources and growth.
That is why it is important to meet with the premiers of our country who represent all the various regions in their provinces. We have to listen to what they have to say. We have to listen to their ideas, respond to their concerns about their regions and the employment and economic needs of their regions. What we need is a balanced economy and we will not get that if the wants to go it alone without consulting with other leaders.
Members opposite have thrown disdain on meeting with the premiers.
I heard someone over there say that it would be just a photo op. We have these economic summits with the G8 and the G20 and what do we see on TV? We see a big photo op, a very expensive photo op. Nevertheless the leaders have their picture taken together. What can we expect? However, that is not the purpose of the meetings and neither is that the purpose of meeting with the premiers. To show that kind of disdain for the premiers is to show a shocking level of arrogance on the part of the Government of Canada, not economic leadership.
We need real leadership from the government. We need a government that listens to other people, one that listens to the legitimate concerns that have been raised about an economy that may be performing in some respects reasonably well but showing serious uncertainties for the future and an unbalanced economy with respect to manufacturing versus resource extraction and a failure to recognize that we need to ensure that everyone in all regions of the country gets to participate in a more equitable way in the products of our economic activity and employment.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to the NDP's opposition motion, which states:
That this House acknowledge that the Canadian economy is facing unprecedented risk and uncertainty; recognize that many regions and industries across Canada have already suffered significant job losses in recent years; urge all levels of government to work together to build a balanced, 21st century Canadian economy; and insist that Canada's Prime Minister meet with his counterparts in Halifax this November at the National Economic Summit being held by the Council of the Federation.
It is unbelievable that we are forced to table a motion in the House of Commons calling on the of Canada to meet with the provincial premiers. In my memory, this is the first time that a Canadian prime minister has travelled so much to meet with foreign prime ministers and presidents. He spends his time everywhere except Canada. Sometimes we have to wonder whether he truly wants to be Prime Minister of Canada.
The is more interested in meeting at the G20, G8, G7 and all the other meetings except meeting with the premiers of our country who represent every Canadian across the country. My province has economic problems and it is not going that well.
When the Conservatives say that they have created 770,000 jobs, they are not talking about the fact that we lost 430,000 jobs. They are not talking about Canada Post laying off people in Fredericton, New Brunswick at the call centre and then opening a centre in Bathurst, paying workers $12 an hour with no benefits at all. The Conservatives are not talking about those jobs. The workers lost all their benefits and Conservatives are not talking about that. They are not talking about the closure in New Brunswick of VIA Rail service three days a week from Halifax to Montreal. They are not talking about CN wanting to remove the rails in 2014.
The Conservatives do not talk about that. They do not talk about the 430,000 jobs lost in Canada. They do not talk about the cheap-labour jobs created or the people who have lost their benefits and pension funds.
What did workers in this country do to be hated so much by the Conservatives?
The Conservatives do not meet with workers, but instead pass all kinds of laws that hurt all of the organizations that provide benefits to workers.
They are not talking about cutting VIA Rail service by three days a week in northeastern New Brunswick, between Halifax and Montreal, or about CN's plans to remove the railway tracks between Moncton and Bathurst.
What will happen to economic development in the regions if the best infrastructure needed for economic development is eliminated? What are we to make of cuts to employment insurance that will force workers to accept jobs that pay 70% of what they normally earn?
The government says that it is a pilot project to encourage people to work. They had the nerve to send a letter to workers informing them that if they earn $450 a week while receiving EI benefits, they will receive $225 in benefits.
However, what they do not mention is that if a person earns $80 a week for eight hours of work at $10 an hour—the minimum wage—$40 will be deducted. The person will receive $5 an hour less than the minimum wage. That is what they will receive. It was this government that introduced this bill that does not help the economy or workers.
Employers have told me that they would call people to work one day a week when they needed their services. Now these workers are telling them that they do not want to go to work because they do not want to be paid $5 an hour. That is what the Conservative government has put in the Employment Insurance Act.
Take the example of Canada Business - New Brunswick, an organization that supports regional economic development in New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nova Scotia with 60% funding from ACOA. The Conservatives cut all funding. They cut the 60% to Canada Business—New Brunswick. How can there be economic development when ACOA, which is supposed to support regional economic development, had budget cuts of $18 million?
Furthermore, our premiers have asked to meet with the of Canada and the answer is no. What an insult to the premiers of our provinces. They want to meet with the national leader to find solutions.
The Conservatives just said that the NDP is against free trade, against trade with foreign nations. We do not oppose all agreements with other countries.
What we are saying is that we do not believe in free trade; we believe in fair trade. That is what has to be negotiated. It has to be fair, not just open to sending our jobs to other countries and getting nothing back.
In New Brunswick three pulp mills have closed in Miramichi, Bathurst and Dalhousie. The whole fishery has gone down the tubes. Why can we not have a secondary industry, such as processing, and keep the jobs at home? Instead of having free trade and sending our fish to Japan, why can we not process the fish here at home? Instead of sending our logs to Finland, why can we not do secondary processing of our wood and keep the jobs at home? Why can we not do that? Why can we not work together?
The has said that he is not going to meet with the premiers of the provinces. That is a shame. The Conservative members of Parliament should talk to their leader and tell him that the premiers want to meet with him.
There are eight Conservative members of Parliament from New Brunswick. They know that the premier of New Brunswick wants to meet with the premiers of all the provinces. What are they telling the ? Are they telling him that the premier would like to meet with him and the other premiers, or are they just following suit and not saying anything, because their captain, the Prime Minister, has said no? Are they scared of being disciplined? What is the problem? Are they worried?
This is the first I have seen who hates workers. When Canada Post was going to give its workers an increase of 2%, the introduced a bill in the House to bring the increase down to 1.5%, and all the Conservatives voted with him. Those workers already had a promise from their employer that they would receive 2%.
I really hope the will change his mind. Instead of having meetings just with world leaders, I hope he will also have meetings with the premiers of our country. Is he ashamed? Is he shy? Is he ashamed of the leaders in our country? Is he worried about his image? Is he worried that they will say something bad about him? Is he worried that people will tell him that they do not agree with him? Is that what he is worried about?
I hope that members will vote in favour of our motion and tell the to be polite and to meet with the premiers of the provinces. He should meet with them. It is the right thing to do as the leader of our country. He is the leader of Canada, not the leader of the world. He should have that meeting out of respect.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the enthusiasm of my colleagues, including my colleagues across the way.
I appreciate the opportunity to talk about this issue. Right off the bat it seems interesting that we are here today, especially after what we have heard from provincial leaders and the Chamber of Commerce in relation to some of the remarks that the made before the session closed for the summer.
I take issue with the NDP leader's non-stop bashing and talking down of the Canadian economy. As I and many Canadians know, the stock market and the confidence of consumers are based on the confidence of the leaders. That gentleman wants to lead the country. He is applying for the job of prime minister. I think that a person who is mature enough to recognize what he needs to do for the country would also be mature enough not to downgrade our economy and not pit one part of the country against another, or province against province. It is not helpful at all.
I would suggest that as a result of his negative comments our stock markets have been affected. I cannot see how they could not be affected. People invest as a result of confidence in their leaders and confidence in the economy. Our country is a world leader when it comes to economic confidence, but that did not appear in the NDP leader's comments.
The global challenges that we face are real. The world is in an economic crisis, which we hope we will see the end of very soon. It has an impact on Canada. On this side of the House for the last five years we have been saying that Canada is certainly not immune to the financial burden it places on the other economies, especially with regard to the United States and the amount of trade that we do with it, as well as Europe and the amount of trade that we want to do with it. However, the opposition parties, the NDP in particular, are opposing free trade agreements even though there is an obvious net benefit to Canada and Canadians. We are trying to grow our economy through trade because that is simply the best way to do it, especially given our natural resources, our competitive advantages in farming and agriculture, and manufacturing and resource materials. We have a tremendous opportunity to be a world leader for many years when it comes to economic drivers and Canada's economy.
The leader of the NDP should step back and first apologize for degrading our economy and trying to pit one part of the country against another, province against province, the west against the east and the east against the west. It has been tried before. He should be ashamed of himself for doing that.
The facts are very substantive in relation to our performance over the last five or six years. Canada is the economic leader in the G7. In fact, we have heard many comments from world leaders about how well Canada's economy is doing and how others want to emulate our economy. Even the largest economies in the world have suggested that they want to emulate some of the steps that we have taken in Canada.
I want to mention three or four important facts before I get into the substantive part of my speech.
Since July 2009 we have had 770,000 net new jobs created, 90% of which are full-time jobs and 75% of which are in the private sector. Any economist will tell us that those are good fundamentals coming into a world economic crisis. This speaks to the steps we have taken in cutting our debt and stimulating our economy. This speaks volumes in relation to our government's control of the economy and our understanding of the economy and what we have done in relation to that.
On that note, I have been here for over eight years and I do not understand the position taken by the NDP in the past. I hope that it changes in the future.
Mr. Speaker, you may not remember but the New Democratic Party actually voted against Canada's economic action plan. Mr. Speaker, I see the look of surprise on your face. There was $45 billion of economic stimulus injected into the economy by this government over a period of some years and the NDP voted against that. It included things such as waste water treatment centres across the country to clean our water, the clean energy fund and the green infrastructure fund. Billions of dollars went into the economy to create jobs, for such things as green energy, roads and bridges, a better quality of life for Canadians. The NDP voted against those initiatives.
If the NDP had its way right now, Canadians need to recognize that we would not be in the great economic position we are in. We would be in a much different position. There would be unemployment lines and lineups for food. Quite frankly, we are the leader in the world right now as far as having the best economy, the best economic record, and the best employment rates overall.
Third, both the IMF and OECD project that Canada will be among the strongest in growth of the G7 in the future. It is not just the past or present, but it is projected into the future by two independent world economic forums and organizations that Canada is going to be number one in the future as well.
The list goes on, but those are three obvious fundamentals to our economy. Any economist can point to those things and judge an economy based on that performance.
I want to talk about some of the references that have been made by world leaders. The largest economy in the world, Germany, has lauded Canada, and I quote Chancellor Merkel:
Canada’s path of great budgetary discipline and a very heavy emphasis on growth and overcoming the crisis, not living on borrowed money, can be an example for the way in which problems on the other side of the Atlantic can be addressed. This is also the right solution for Europe.
I appreciate that from the Chancellor, from an independent person who has nothing to gain by applauding Canada's position, our economic fundamentals and the steps we have taken. She has said clearly to the world that we are doing the right job and that other countries in Europe in particular should follow suit. I think that is a great thing to say about our and cabinet and what they have been doing.
As I mentioned earlier, I think we do have a problem in this place. That problem is the Leader of the Opposition and his trying to pit one part of this country against another.
I lived through the national energy program in northern Alberta and saw the devastation that caused, not just to the economy of Alberta or the west but to the economy of the entire nation. I think he clearly needs to step back and reassess what he is doing and what his position is on these particular matters. Not only does it hurt our economic fundamentals but it also speaks to the separatist agenda. I am not prepared to step forward in any way and position in a positive light what the Leader of the Opposition is doing for this country. It is just not healthy nor beneficial.
I want to refer to a report put out in June by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. As most people in this place know, the Chamber of Commerce represents the business community of the country. The business community, through the chamber, wanted to talk about Canada and see whether it was suffering from Dutch disease. This is an article I read. However, this particular article says that the Leader of the Opposition, the NDP leader, is wrong about his assumptions of Canada's suffering from Dutch disease.
I also want to talk briefly about some of the benefits that the Canadian oil sands generate in economic benefits across the country. I will quote directly from page 7 of this report, which states:
TD Economics estimates increased exports of Canadian oil and investment in machinery and equipment and in infrastructure in the Canadian oil sands accounted for one-third of the economic growth in Canada in 2010 and 2011.
That is right, 33% of the economic growth.
I represent that area. Right now, I think that 99% of the oil sands are in my riding, the parts that are being extracted, which is one-third of the economic growth in 2010-11, which is no small effect to the Canadian economy.
The report goes on to say:
High levels of investment in the resource sector have led to strong demand for parts, machinery and equipment, fabricated metal and other durable goods, as well as for services—professional, technical and in finance and transportation, for example. Businesses across the country have benefitted from this increased demand, not just those in Western Canada. For example, one out of 12 oil sands manufacturers and suppliers are from the Kitchener-Waterloo region...
That is one out of twelve; one out of twelve are from Kitchener-Waterloo. The report goes on:
According to the Canadian Energy Research Institute (CERI), between 2010 and 2035, new oil sands projects are expected to contribute $63 billion to Ontario’s GDP.
That is speaking of the future and our economic performance in the future, and that is not Canada's GDP; that is Ontario's GDP. Clearly, it is a great future to look forward to.
Not only do we make sure we have economic performance and job growth in this country but we also make sure we take care of the environment, have environmental integrity and put that obligation on the resource sector in particular and on the businesses that are creating these issues.
However, the report from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce goes on to say:
Employment...as a result of new oil sands investments is projected to grow from 75,000 jobs in 2010 to 905,000 jobs in 2035.
I know that most scientists in northern Alberta and most companies are pessimistic. I can tell members that because I see what they do. They also under-project their figures, for the most part.
It is amazing that there will be 905,000 jobs in 2035. We are going to have a tremendous growth in the oil sands sector.
Indeed, I want to reiterate a couple of other things the report says.
The report quotes Pierre Duguay, the Deputy Governor of the Bank of Canada:
“From a macroeconomic point of view, the reallocation of resources is a sign of health...”
This is talking about Dutch disease, in particular, and is found on page 8 of the report:
“...is a sign of health, not disease — it is a sign of a vibrant, dynamic economy adjusting to significant shifts in demand by putting resources to their most profitable use.”
Mr. Duguay made that statement to the Canadian Association for Business Economics on August 28, 2006.
The report goes on to state:
As for the Netherlands, where the term “Dutch disease” was originally applied, “very little systematic and long-term net adverse consequences of natural gas development on the manufacturing sector were found.”
So, even his suggestion that the Dutch disease is working against the economy and the manufacturing sector in the Netherlands is a bogus claim. Clearly, our economy is doing extremely well.
I think what I would like to do, as well, is talk about some of the comments made by the and about what our premiers have said in relation to them, because as I said, there have been attacks on western Canada by the Leader of the Opposition. He is trying to pit one part of the country against another. It has worked before for some previous leaders, but I think Canadians are sick and tired of that kind of situation and that kind of proposition, because we understand that it is one Canada and that we all speak with the same voice for the benefit of Canada.
Let us listen to what British Columbia Premier Christy Clark said of the Dutch disease and the campaign by the Leader of the Opposition, the leader of the New Democratic Party, against the natural resource sector. She said:
I really thought that this type of thinking was discredited and it had been discredited for a long time. It's so backwards...
She went on to say, “I think that's just goofy”.
What I hear him saying is, “you know Western Canada, we don't want you to make that big contribution anymore...”.
I'm sorry, that is not what this country was built on.
The Premier of Saskatchewan, Brad Wall, declared that the NDP leader's “facts are wrong and what he's doing is very divisive for the country”.
Even my own premier, Alison Redford, who of course has to protect the interests of the province, is a premier who is new and understands the fundamentals of economics and certainly what this country is built on and how we are much better together, stronger than when we are separated. She declared, referring to the comments by the leader of the New Democratic Party:
To have this idea that you want to be a national leader, and then target a particular province or a particular resource that is fundamental to the economic development not only of Alberta, but Canada, is ridiculous, and I'm terribly disappointed.... It's not appropriate, and it's not based on a real understanding of either Alberta's role in Canada, or Canada's role in the world.
I myself can clearly see that this is an opportunity to try to divide to be better for himself. I think it is very negative for the country and it certainly does not befit a person who wants to lead the country and be the prime minister of all peoples of Canada. I think it is, quite frankly, an embarrassment and not a position that a national leader should take.
As members know, I do represent the oil sands. I have about 5,000 Quebeckers, for instance, in my riding and probably about 35,000 people from Newfoundland and Labrador in my riding. I have many people from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. I talk to these people on the street, because I have lived in Fort McMurray for 45 to 46 years now. Originally when he got elected a year ago, people laughed because they thought some of the positions he took were a bit of a joke, saying that it was Dutch disease and trying to pit one part of the country against the other.
I explained to them that he is actually a leader who is sworn into the Privy Council. He is a leader who is actually brought in on the secrets of the country, able to make decisions on them and advise the Queen and the . He is an individual who leads a large caucus in this area. A big part of Quebec is obviously represented by that leader, and yet he wants to pit one part of the country against the other. Not only is it immature, quite frankly, but he and his party should seriously look at it as their strategy for the future, whether they want to go down that road, because the road has certainly been destroyed and I do not think any Canadians want to do that.
With the natural gas situation in British Columbia, oil and mining on the Prairies, the Ring of Fire in Ontario, Plan Nord in Quebec, the hydro power in Atlantic Canada and mining in Canada's north, Canada's resource sector presents greater potential to create even more jobs and more economic growth from today and into tomorrow, not just in Alberta and British Columbia but all across this great country of ours, whether it be northern Quebec, Ontario or, indeed, the Northwest Territories. We have a great opportunity to identify and make the world a better place.
Mr. Speaker, you were at the dinner in northern Alberta, in my riding of Fort McMurray—Athabasca, where almost $1 million was raised to send to Africa. It was very touching to see the oil sands companies and local businesses of all stripes come to the table and donate significant money for one dinner on one night and be able to send $1 million to Africa. I say that only because in the finance committee last year, I think it was October, I heard evidence from three or four different groups that the oil sands area I represent is the most generous area in Canada per capita. It donates more money per capita than anywhere else in Canada through the United Way and many other great groups. It was clear from listening to the witnesses that they appreciate what the people in Fort McMurray are doing. They do have great jobs and opportunities.
When I moved to Fort McMurray, there were 1,700 people. Today, there are more than 100,000 people. Those people are not from Alberta. The majority of them are from areas in Canada that are disadvantaged as far as jobs go. They are bringing their families to Fort McMurray and are staying. They have grandchildren there. They are building a much better part of the province. I very much enjoy them. They are bringing cultures from all over Canada, whether they be from the north or Newfoundland. I would suggest that my community has more people from Newfoundland and Labrador than anywhere else in the world. I spoke to a former premier from Newfoundland and Labrador yesterday, who said when he met me that Fort McMurray is the second largest town in Newfoundland. It is not actually in Newfoundland, but driving down the streets of Fort McMurray, people would think it is.
I am saying this because those people are looking for a new future. They see the gold rush. They see what can be brought in. The people going to Fort McMurray are going there for a better quality of life, and they send money home. I was told by one individual at one of the plant sites that the oil sands industry is the number one economic generator in Cape Breton, for instance, suggesting that somewhere around $6 million a week goes to Cape Breton from Fort McMurray oil sands workers who travel back and forth between the communities.
When I say back and forth, I want to emphasize that what is happening in northern Alberta is going to be happening across northern Quebec, northern Ontario, British Columbia and, of course, Newfoundland and Labrador. Canadians are going from one part of this country to the other to find jobs, to find a better quality of life and to find what their ancestors came to Canada for, which was to have a better quality of life. They want to make sure our government is concentrating on the economy and what is best for them, and that is exactly what we are doing.
I would ask the NDP leader to step up, stand up and apologize to the people of the west, Canada and Quebec for trying to pit one part of this country against the other. It is shameful.
Mr. Speaker, I hope that the member will pay closer attention to the speech I am about to give than he did to the question I just asked him. I will be sharing my time with the member for .
The motion has already been read in the House. We are asking the to show some leadership for once and meet with the premiers who are members of the Council of the Federation during a conference to be held this November in Halifax about how to address the economic uncertainty that Canada is still experiencing. Such proof of leadership is critical given that, contrary to what the government would have us believe, there has been very little communication between the federal government and the provinces and territories concerning economic issues.
The government can talk about individual meetings all it wants, but some issues need to be discussed and explored in depth by all of the regions together. Unfortunately, despite the promises it made in the past, the Conservative government has done nothing to make this happen. We think that this is critical to raising awareness of the flaws in the Conservatives' economic policy regardless of all of the claims they have made so far today and will likely continue to make for the rest of the day.
At the end of the day, the Conservatives did nothing and brag about being responsible for getting Canada through the last recession—even though things are still uncertain now—and for getting Canada through this period relatively unscathed in comparison to the global economy.
But according to most economists and analysts, this is not because of the policies they are implementing, but simply because of Canada's existing financial, economic and banking structures.
Before I continue, I will give some examples of bad Conservative economic policies, policies that represent opportunities the Canadian economy could have had if the right decisions had been made. I will start with their arrival to power in 2006. Members will recall that we had a budget surplus. During their first mandate, the Conservatives decided to reduce the GST by 2%. This was a political and economic move that they bragged about, even though economists said that it was probably the worst way to stimulate the economy. They did it. Since 2006, this has represented a dead loss for the Canadian treasury of between $8 billion and $10 billion a year, so nearly $60 billion overall.
But the Conservatives chose the worst way to invest this $13 billion surplus to best stimulate the Canadian economy. That is what economists told them. That is what we told them. And that is what everyone who knows a thing or two about economics told them.
I mentioned in one of my questions that for every dollar lost in GST revenue, the Department of Finance and most people who study the multiplier effect of such decisions are clear: only 30¢ is put back into the economy. This means that economic growth represents only 30¢ on the dollar of what we lose in revenue.
If the Conservatives truly wanted to effectively stimulate jobs, if they wanted to go in this direction by eliminating the surplus, they could have made other decisions. They could have invested in infrastructure. Canada has an infrastructure deficit of about $130 billion. If they had taken every surplus dollar and invested it in Canadian infrastructure, every dollar would have brought in $1.50 in economic growth. That would put us in the black.
If they had wanted to invest in housing, the return would have been $1.50 for each dollar invested in housing infrastructure. If they had wanted to take measures intended directly for the disadvantaged and the unemployed, the return would have been even better still: for each dollar invested in these measures for the least fortunate, the unemployed and the most disadvantaged people, $1.70 in economic growth would have been generated.
By lowering the GST, the government generated economic growth of 30¢ for each dollar lost. In addition, in terms of revenue from the tax on company profits, the economic growth is also 30¢ for each dollar eliminated or lost.
So the choices the Conservatives made are economic. They tried to justify them but, at the end of the day, instead of investing the $13 billion surplus in paying down the debt, they could have made better choices that would have done more for the Canadian economy.
The government's choices were not made in consultation with the provinces, even though this government and the members who have spoken so far are talking about great communication. It is a unilateral gesture.
I was talking about the $13 billion surplus that had been eliminated in a year and a half because the GST was lowered by two percentage points, among other things. We were in a deficit situation even before the recession, even before the economic stimulus packages. This government claims to be the appropriate manager of public finances. But it must realize that, aside from that period of a year and a half when this government had a budget surplus that it inherited when it was elected and that it changed into a deficit, we still have a deficit. We are celebrating a very important anniversary in 2012. It is the 100th anniversary of a balanced federal Conservative budget, because the last balanced budget under the Conservatives, before the one they inherited in 2006, was in 1912. Do you know who the prime minister was then? Robert Borden.
I know that the Conservatives really enjoy talking about the NDP's economic performance. If we look at the Department of Finance's own figures in the performance analysis of the federal and provincial governments in terms of balanced budgets and proper management of public funds, we can see that all the NDP provincial governments have the best performance economically, as well as in fiscal management and balanced budgets. They are far ahead of the Conservative and Liberal governments. It has been so since 1982 or 1987, depending on which year you choose as a reference.
Once again, in terms of sound management of public funds, the Conservative government has nothing to teach us and we have nothing to learn from it.
We also have to realize that what the Conservatives are doing—once again, generally without consulting the provinces and using a completely one-sided approach—is an impediment to the country's potential growth. I am talking about the restraint measures during this period, among other things. Let me refer you to the last budget and probably the upcoming budget, if we rely on the rumours going around. The Conservative government has started to promote its restraint measures and to talk about cutting 20,000 jobs in the public service, as well as cutting the budget of various departments by 5% to 10%.
Once again, we are talking about general cuts of 5% to 10% at all levels and no notice is being taken of whether we are cutting the fat, as the Conservatives are fond of saying, or whether we are cutting into the bone. I can tell you that, in plenty of departments, many of the austerity measures implemented—the budget cuts—were cuts into the bone. The Conservatives do not care. They are applying the 5% to 10% cuts to everyone, regardless of the impact it will have.
The Conservative government's austerity measures have been criticized by this side of the House, of course, but also by rating agencies. Fitch and Moody's condemned the austerity measures and warned the government not to go too far because austerity measures are dangerous in times of economic uncertainty, such as those we are still facing in Canada. However, the Conservatives turns a deaf ear to all the economic wisdom that is shared with them. We on this side of the House are not surprised. The government refuses to listen to anything we say. We saw this before with the budget consultations and in the different stages of Bill , the mammoth bill. The fact that the Conservatives are turning a deaf ear to wise advice such as that provided by Fitch and Moody's is completely irresponsible.
I would like to end by talking once again about the lack of leadership and communication with regard to employment insurance. The measures proposed in Bill are there to address a local labour shortage problem that is affecting western Canada and other areas. We agree on that. We are waiting for the minister to provide administrative regulations for employment insurance. The implementation of a Canada-wide employment insurance reform with all these measure that have a negative impact on regions such as eastern Quebec demonstrates a blatant lack of vision for the different economic realities of the specific regions. Although it is becoming more economically diverse, my riding of Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, like those of the Atlantic provinces and others, still depends on seasonal work, whether it is in the forestry, fishing, agricultural or tourism sectors. The Conservative are blind. I will tell you who opposed this reform: most of the provincial premiers, including those of the Atlantic provinces.
For us, it is essential that the government choose the path of co-operation, of working together with the provinces, and that is why we are moving this motion calling on the to attend the economic summit being held by the Council of the Federation in November.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to speak today to the motion put forward by the member for . The motion deals with a pivotal matter, a matter crucial to the future of our country: the economy.
The Canadian economy is facing unprecedented dangers and uncertainty. The world economic crisis and the choices made by this government have weakened the fabric of industry and the job market in several regions of the country. Today, Canadians are hoping that this government will show leadership and openness to dialogue, especially with the provinces. Currently, this government has been content to repeat that the Canadian economy is in good shape. But the imbalances that can be seen are threatening our potential to build a Canadian economy for the 21st century, an economy that is solid, diversified, balanced and beneficial for all.
I am going to ask the hon. members opposite a very simple question. Do they find it acceptable that income inequality is constantly on the rise, as is the case in our country? Do this country's workers, who are up early, working by the sweat of their brow and paying their taxes honestly, not have the right to a greater share of the fruits of our growth?
For 25 years, income inequality has steadily worsened. The income of the wealthiest 20% in our society keeps going up while the income of the remaining 80% keeps going down. Other statistics show that our economy is not working as it should. In 2010, for example, about one Canadian in 10 was living in poverty. This included 546,000 children, a regrettable number. Moreover, Canadian households are facing a record level of debt, now at 152% of income.
Other statistics tell us that the annual income of seniors dropped by about $1,000 between 2009 and 2010. There is reason to believe that the Conservatives' unjustified cuts to old age security and the guaranteed income supplement will hasten the decline in seniors' incomes.
When they hear the Conservatives tell them that they are creating wealth, the question that Canadians have to ask themselves is this: but who is the wealth creation benefiting at the moment? Under the Conservatives, the wealth being created is essentially benefiting the wealthiest. Growth is necessary, of course, even essential; but it has to benefit everyone. That is not the case at the moment. The Conservatives have made choices whose result has been to keep most of our fellow citizens outside the circle of those who are actually benefiting.
The government's response to the most recent global economic crisis clearly illustrates the ideology that is guiding its decisions, an ideology that is causing greater economic imbalance. First the Conservatives decided to cut taxes for large corporations, hoping that they would reinvest the money and create jobs, but that never happened. Now those corporations are sitting on over half a trillion dollars, which is lying idle in their coffers rather than driving the economy. This Conservative approach to stimulating the economy does not cut the mustard.
The Conservatives also decided to adopt a policy of fiscal restraint. They told Canadians to tighten their belts even further. Canadians are fed up with having to pay for the Conservative ideology and want to receive the services that their tax dollars pay for. In that regard, this government's cuts to the public service have hit my riding of Hull—Aylmer very hard. The repercussions are very real and quite apparent.
In addition to the serious human and social consequences of losing one's job, this also has major economic implications. The budget cuts are having numerous adverse effects. The most obvious is the reduction in household spending and falling sales for SMEs.
A number of people in my riding have told me that their sales are down. What happens when SMEs see their sales slump? They lay off their staff or shut down completely. It is a vicious circle.
The Canadian economy has been affected by the global economic crisis and by the Conservatives' response to it. Today, four years after the crisis began, uncertainty still abounds.
We still have major challenges before us. Since our economy is open to the world, the economic health of our trade partners has a particularly serious impact on us. Our largest trade partner, the United States, is having a difficult time. Our second largest trade partner, Europe, is in a serious position. Basically, the Canadian economy is confronted with extraordinary risks and uncertainty, and it is especially true that, within Canada, there are major imbalances among the provinces with regard to unemployment and growth.
In this context, Canadians are entitled to expect the country's to at least take the time to consult the provincial premiers in order to look at the various options available.
We are part of a federation, and the has so far been deaf to the provinces' desire to discuss the economy.
The is even refusing to attend the national economic summit in November organized by the Council of the Federation—