Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege for me to contribute to the debate on Bill C-4. It is a very comprehensive piece of legislation and goes a long way toward keeping Canada at the level it has already achieved, not by Canada's standards but by international standards, which is the number one place to do business in the world.
That is remarkable. Canadians are not used to being number one. We are kind of modest people and have kept quiet about that, but the reality is that being number one in the world is no small task and did not happen by accident. It happened because of very deliberate actions. The actions we have taken over the last number of years since the great recession in 2008 have put us in this position, and our position is unique.
I go to Washington to deal with my counterparts in the U.S. legislative arm on a continuous basis, and they ask me all the time what it is that Canada has done. In fact, we have been dubbed by some people in America as “the miracle to the north”. They want to know what it is that Canada has done that has brought us to the position of being named by the IMF and the OECD as the number one place to do business in the world, the place with the greatest opportunity over the next number of years to do business.
Creating a million jobs since the recession is no small task. That is a very large number, and very significant. How did that happen? How is it that we rate number one?
The reality is that we have made, let us say, four broad strokes of fundamental change in direction from the direction that our opponents would have taken in Canada.
First, we lowered taxes. We did not increase them. In fact, we lowered them some 160 times, which I will talk about in a minute. Second, we shrank the size of government; third, we freed up the private sector; and, fourth, we have gone after international markets.
I will break those down, because they are rather significant if they are lumped together as a direction and formula for success. All of the G7 countries are looking at similar things to do, but they are having a difficult time doing them.
Let me begin by talking about shrinking the size of government.
Shrinking the size of government is not an easy thing to do. In fact, it is very difficult to do. We went through every department, making certain that if we could do something better as a government we would try to be more efficient in doing that, and we lowered the cost of doing business in Canada so it would put us on a track to make certain that we can compete in the world. It is worthy of note that before the recession, when this government got into power in 2006, we paid down some $37 billion going into the recession so that the debt to GDP ratio was considerably lower at that time. Since that time, we have grown so fast that our debt to GDP ratio has not been compromised. In fact, it is interesting to note that we were at 34.6% in GDP in 2012. Some people would say that is just a number, but let us look at Europe.
We just signed a free trade agreement with Europe. The number one driver of the economy in Europe, let us say, is Germany. Germany's debt to GDP ratio is 57.2%, but the average of the G7 is over 90%. We are almost three times less than the average in terms of debt to GDP ratio.
Are we in good stead? There is a reason for the OECD and the IMF to say that Canada is doing very well, and it is because we have been disciplined as government.
On top of that, when I speak with my counterparts in the United States and tell them that we are forecasting balanced books by 2015, they say they just fought a debt ceiling crisis in October and they are going to have to do it again early in the new year. They say the big debate is about how much more money they can borrow and have printed.
Canada is not printing money. We are creating jobs and opportunity for the private sector to create the prosperity that Canadians deserve and should have as a country, and we are actually achieving that.
This is considerably different from what our counterparts across the way would have done. In fact, the NDP has said that it would have brought in a carbon tax and increased taxes on everything from—
Hon. Greg Rickford: Soup to nuts.
Hon. Rob Merrifield: Yes, soup to nuts. I suppose we could say it that way. They would raise the taxes on absolutely everything.
As for the Liberals, if we want to know what a party is going to do, we should look at what it has done. When the Liberals were in power, they said they balanced the books. Yes, they did, on the backs of the provinces, health care, and social services. It is one thing to say we are going to balance the books; it is another thing to say we are going to balance the books by lowering taxes, not raising them, and by making certain that the transfers to the provinces are not impeded. In fact, we are increasing those transfers.
Let me talk about taxes for a second, because that aspect is rather significant. We have cut taxes over 160 different ways during that time period, providing an extra $3,200 per average family of four. People who had a job in 2008 and still have the same job now are paying that much less tax. That is very significant.
In the business sector, small- and medium-sized businesses are the ones that are really creating the jobs. We have lowered the taxes for them as well, from 12% down to 11%, but on the corporate taxes, we went from 28% over the years down to 15%. We even kept lowering those taxes during the recession. That takes a lot of leadership and a lot of understanding of what drives the economy.
Do members realize that with the taxes now at 15%, we are bringing in more corporate revenue to the federal government to deal with all the social services and all the issues that we have in lower-income brackets than we brought in at 28%? That is an amazing statistic, but it is very worthy of note in looking at what has actually happened with regard to lowering taxes.
We lowered the GST from 7% to 6% to 5%. It is very significant. Everyone who buys anything in this country is realizing the benefit from that. This is no small feat.
What does the corporate tax being at 15% do to us? We are creating lots of growth because of the competitive advantage we have with our largest trading partner. The corporate tax rate in America is 35%. That is compared to 15%; no wonder businesses are coming back into Canada. We saw that the headquarters of Tim Hortons, as an example, went to the United States because of the tax advantage. Then they came back. Why? It is the same reason: the tax advantage.
Those are the kinds of things we are seeing right across the entire spectrum in the private sector.
I said that we shrank government. We lowered taxes, which is very significant. What else did we do? We freed up the private sector, and that sector is what is really creating the jobs. We brought in a piece of legislation saying that for major projects, it would be one project, one review, at two years maximum. Those are phenomenal opportunities for the private sector.
We have lowered the red tape some 20% to 30% right across the board. Can we do more? Yes, and we absolutely have to do more when it comes to freeing up the private sector. I have had American counterparts tell me that they can go in and do one-stop shopping for projects and get approval. It is not that they are compromising on the approval but that they are doing it in a more streamlined way. We have to do more than that because we are not there yet, but we have certainly come a long way.
Freeing up the private sector to capitalize on the opportunities that we have in some of our trade agreements becomes very significant. That is the fourth thing that we did. We not only freed up the private sector to compete, but then we went after international agreements so they could compete and capitalize on free trade agreements, such as the one we just signed with the European Union. It is the largest, most comprehensive free trade agreement ever signed between any two countries anywhere in the world.
Members may ask where that came from. Is NAFTA not the largest free trade agreement ever signed in the world? Well, it was at the time. Our opponents disagreed with that, and even today they disagree with NAFTA. It is amazing. That is so, even though it created 40 million jobs, and even though the GDP of the three countries of Mexico, the United States, and Canada, which were at $7.6 trillion at the time of signing, have gone to over $17 trillion today. That could not have been realized when they signed the agreement. No one would have forecast that kind of growth. Everyone just said that it was a good opportunity for more trade, but nobody would have put all the pieces together to say that collectively we would raise our GDP and raise opportunity and prosperity in our three countries to that degree.
I would suggest that the same thing will happen with the European free trade agreement. Europe actually imports some $2.3 trillion a year. It is amazing how much more we can capitalize on that.
This does not happen by accident. Pieces of legislation like this take real leadership. Real opportunity for Canadians is what we are looking for. We are saying that these will get us to success, and that is true.
Before closing my remarks, I want to say that our greatest threat in Canada and in this room should be looking at what happens when these principles are not followed. The United States has gone down from a AAA rating to a AA. Heaven forbid that it ever goes to an A rating, which would compromise it all because of a lack of leadership. We need to stay the course.
I appreciate the opportunity to contribute to this piece of legislation.