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View Mark Gerretsen Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to speak to the opposition motion.
Before I do that, I want to take this opportunity to thank all of the people who have been reaching out to me to express their concern over the fact that my parents are two of the approximately 230 people who are stuck on a cruise ship off the coast of California. They are doing well and they are healthy but they are suffering a bit from cabin fever. They are looking forward to getting back into Canadian hands and back home soon and then being quarantined in Trenton for a while.
I do appreciate the opportunity to speak to this motion. The premise of the motion wants to hit on the economic performance of the government in the last session of Parliament and the beginning of this one, and I am happy to talk about that.
We have seen record amounts of success. Unemployment has dropped to the lowest it has been in over 40 years, since we started recording unemployment. Our debt-to-GDP ratio is the best amongst the G7 countries and continues to remain low. Canada has been the leader in economic growth of the G7 countries in the western world. This is a result of hard work by Canadians and a government that supports them.
Through this we have seen a dramatic drop in our poverty rates. One million fewer people are now in poverty compared to when the Liberals came into power in 2015. I would argue that this has a little bit to do with policy and a lot to do with Canadians, how Canadians are investing and making the decision to be part of an economy that they believe in and that they trust.
In my opinion, that is where government comes in. Government comes in with respect to putting the right policies in place to give Canadians the confidence to succeed and help to create an economy that we can be proud of and an economy that produces results like dropping the unemployment rate and fewer people living in poverty.
When we look at some of the things that were done over the last mandate, we can talk about making investments in Canadians that matter. We strengthened the middle class. We brought in a tax cut that actually targeted the middle class based on how much people were making.
We wanted to make sure that the middle class had a tax cut, because we know that when the middle class is strong, the economy is better for everybody. The economy is better for people who are struggling. We have seen that people have been lifted out of poverty. The economy is better for people who invest in the markets. We have seen the markets over the last five years continue to rise and people's investments are doing well. We have seen job numbers go up. We have seen people, particularly women, whom I will talk about later, getting involved in the workforce that they previously did not participate in. This is because we are investing in the future.
We decided consciously that the 1% have to pay a bit more so that we can give a break to the middle class. By doing that, those 1% will probably end up better off because we have a healthier economy and a healthier middle class.
Our government also brought in the Canada child benefit. This is a benefit geared at parents. Rather than giving the same amount to every child regardless of how much money the parents make, which is what unfortunately the universal child care plan did under the previous Conservative government, our approach said that depending on how much money the parents make will result in how much money they will get in this benefit.
When a cheque of a few hundred bucks or a couple of thousand bucks is given to a millionaire over a year, what is that person going to do with it? That person is going to put it into a tax-free savings account. That person is going to invest it. That person is not going to put it into something that would necessarily help to stimulate and work the economy. However, when we give that same money to middle-class people, when we give that same money to people who are struggling, when we give that same money to a single mother, those people are going to spend that money and that helps to stimulate the economy. That helps to drive our economy forward, which is better for everybody.
I have talked about a couple of things that we did in the previous session of Parliament. What are we talking about doing now to continue to invest in Canadians?
One of the things is reducing the basic personal income allowance to $15,000 by 2023. This would result in cutting taxes for almost 20 million Canadians, putting $3 billion back into the pockets of people in 2020 and up to $6 billion by 2023. It would result in 1.1 million more Canadians who would pay zero federal income tax. This is important because we are investing not in the 1%, not in people who do not need to be invested in. We are investing in the people who actually need it.
I heard one of the Conservative members a few minutes ago asking about why money was being spent, and how we were spending more money that people would have to deal with later on. This discussion, the question and the answer, underscore the fundamental difference in fiscal policy between Conservatives and Liberals. A Conservative believes in waiting for a problem to arise and then throwing money at it to try to fix it. The Liberals believe that the solution is to actually invest in people at the forefront.
I will accept that as a nervous laugh coming from a couple of the members across the way, but it is a reality. Conservatives refuse to actually invest in people. What they want to do is wait for a problem to arise and then try to throw money at it. The Liberal approach is much different. We would rather invest in Canadians at the forefront, giving them the tools and the resources they need to help grow our economy so that everybody is better off. It is very simple.
The “every person for himself or herself” mentality is what Conservatives historically like. I come from a riding where we had an extremely progressive Conservative, Flora MacDonald.
Members could give her a round of applause if they want to. They are willing to make so much noise when I say other things.
Again, there is a key difference here. I know that Conservatives in the House like to invoke previous Conservative times, but that was genuinely a progressive Conservative party. Flora MacDonald even said, during the Stephen Harper years, that she no longer considered herself to be a Conservative because the Conservatives had lost the progressive way.
This is where I come back to the point that it is about investing in people. Progressives believe in investing in people. They do not believe in necessarily waiting until a problem presents itself and then trying to jump all over the problem as a reaction to that.
One of the things I said I would touch on is where a lot of the impact and a lot of the growth have come from in our economy over the last five years. The increase in participation of women in the workforce accounts for one third of our per-capita economic growth. That suggests that there is a massive untapped resource there, to see people's abilities come forward, and in particular for women to become more vibrant and more pronounced in the workforce and to become part of the labour force in a way that we have never seen before.
Whether we are talking about child care or about investing in businesses and entrepreneurships that are led by women, these are the kinds of investments that are going to lead us to an untapped resource that exists right here within our country now, and that is by investing in women.
However, women still face barriers that we are going to have to overcome as a society, and the House will be charged with doing that. One of those barriers is that women often earn less than men and more likely are finding part-time work. We want to see a world where women match men in participation and in income.
These are amazing opportunities as we look forward to ways to continue to build our economy, continue to strengthen our middle class and make sure that we have the proper tools in place so we have economic resiliency to last well into the future, even when recessions come, as we know one will at some point. These are natural occurrences in the economic cycle and we need to be able to deal with them.
I am suggesting today that we have been putting those tools in place over the years so that we can properly deal with economic uncertainties when they arise. We have the fiscal firepower to deal with this, and that is exactly what we will do.
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