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View Philip Lawrence Profile
CPC (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the hon. member on his excellent comments and his bid at comedy.
I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Kootenay—Columbia.
In all seriousness, we are facing an economic crisis. The TSX dropped over 1,600 points today. It is serious. What is more, the TSX dropped 31% more than the Dow. Across the border to the south, their economy has been roaring. The Dow has been outperforming the TSX. They are a natural comparison in the United States. Our stock exchange, the TSX dropped 30% more. Why is that?
I ask every member, in all seriousness, to consider that. Why is our stock market bleeding a third more than the market to the south?
To carve through the demagoguery and clarify the economic reality that the other side is desperately trying to obscure and obfuscate against, including the finance minister, who will not comment on whether we are heading into a recession or on the finances of our country, is a problem.
In order to go there, I think we have to start at the beginning. Any capitalist economy is cyclical, it is true. It goes through a series of expansions and contractions. There are various economic theories. There is the Keynesian theory that says when times are good, we should save more money, we should raise taxes and decrease spending. In bad times, we should spend more and cut taxes to give stimulus to the economy. However, there is a more free market, laissez-faire theory that says to keep spending low, keep taxes low and the private sector will overcome and come to equilibrium.
The last five years have not borne a resemblance to any economic theory known. It has just been spend, spend, tax more and spend in the good times. The Liberal government's attack on businesses, the institution of the carbon tax, its weak leadership, failure to address Canada's productivity gap and reckless spending have left our country without many of the resources that are required to counteract the effects of a recession.
Small business is the very heart of our country. Nearly 70% of private sector employees come from small business. These individuals have had to deal with increasing regulations, increasing taxation, and, worst of all in my opinion, the finance minister had the chutzpah to call these individuals, who are some of the most honourable, hard-working people I have ever met, tax cheats. In my mind, that is utterly reprehensible.
In my local riding, we have seen the impact of the Liberal government's policy of taxation, which has meant the closure of the Weston bakery and of Saputo in the riding next door to me. It is costing us real jobs, and it is having a real impact on the people in my riding.
Another detrimental impact, a self-inflicted wound, is the carbon tax. The carbon tax has been an unmitigated economic disaster. It has increased the cost of inputs into our businesses, making our businesses less competitive. Many of our foreign competitors do not have to pay a carbon tax, so they have a competitive advantage, most notably those in the United States. I repeat, the TSX dropped 30% more than the Dow.
Could the carbon tax have something to do with it? I think so. The carbon tax has a negative, insidious multiplier effect. We have more and more carbon tax, which makes our products more and more expensive, and our economy less competitive.
In my riding of Northumberland—Peterborough South, which I think is the greatest riding in Canada, the agricultural sector is incredibly important. In the agricultural sector, we have seen farmers lose 12% of their net income because of the carbon tax. Once again, the TSX is down 30% more. Why is that?
It is self-evident that a more productive economy is a more stable economy, so we need to pursue an economy that is more competitive and more productive.
As we have seen over the last five years, businesses have invested 20% less. We have seen Warren Buffett pull out of Canada. Teck Frontier has decided not to go ahead with its tar sands expansion. Over and over again, we see less capital being invested in Canada. Could that have something to do with why the Dow Jones is ahead of the TSX by 30% today?
At the heart of many of our economic problems is a serious structural competitive issue. In Canada, we measure productivity globally by the amount each worker contributes to GDP per hour. In Canada it is a low $50; in the United States it is $60; in Switzerland it is $65; and in Ireland it is $84. Why does productivity matter? Is this just the Conservatives talking about numbers? No. This has a real impact on human beings. It is for the people of Canada that productivity matters. The average wage earner in Canada earns $19 an hour. The average wage earner in the United States earns $23. In Switzerland, the average wage earner earns $33. Are these related? I think so.
When we look at the impact of government on the economy, the productivity gap, the loss in our stock markets today and the broader picture, we see that Canada is falling behind. Could that also be related to the fact that the average Canadian now spends more on taxes than on food, clothing and shelter combined? The idea is to save for a rainy day, but the government has not done that itself and has also made it impossible for Canadians. The average Canadian is $200 away from insolvency every month, 50% of them.
The other major issue is the weak leadership we have seen from the Prime Minister. Our weak economy is a direct result of the Prime Minister's weak leadership. His dithering and dialogue failed to effectively lead our country through the blockades and trade disputes. The economic impact of the blockades has yet to be determined, but it will no doubt be in the millions of dollars.
In my riding, I have had a lot of conversations with business owners and individuals alike who have struggled with the impact of the blockades. They cannot get their goods to make other goods and they cannot ship their goods. This is impacting all Canadians, and the folks in my riding are hurting. Some of the businesses will not be able to make payroll this month because of the blockades. If the Prime Minister had stood up 19 days before with the vast majority of the Wet'suwet'en people and the vast majority of hard-working Canadians and shut the blockades down, all of this hardship would have been avoided.
When we look at the overall picture, there is no question that today is a bad day for the global economy. We are looking straight down the barrel of a downturn. The government did not act with the due diligence that it should have.
As a key device, according to Keynesian economics, a government can counteract an economic downturn with deficit spending. However, when we spend the cupboard bare, there is nothing else to grab from there.
The Prime Minister talked repeatedly, during his 2015 campaign, about the importance of maintaining a balanced budget. He was on record saying that we needed to have a balanced budget. Indeed, as he famously said, “the budget will balance itself.” Of course, budgets do not balance themselves and we are left with a $30-billion structural deficit, in addition to over $100 billion of deficit spending.
My friends across the aisle like to say that Stephen Harper had billions of dollars in deficit. We were going through the worst global recession in the last 50 years and he balanced the budget so we could outperform the rest of the G7. The Conservatives took the necessary steps. I stand by Prime Minister Harper's record. Now we see the opposite. When times are good globally and economically, what do we do? We sing, dance, spend and tax, over and over again, leaving our cupboard bare.
I feel as though we are watching the economy go over the edge and the Conservative Party is yelling for us to stop, hit the brakes and change direction, but you refuse. We will go over the cliff. For goodness' sake, we need to change direction. We need to go forward with a more productive and efficient economy, and not slide into a further—
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