Mr. Speaker, to begin, I would like to address today's motion and reassure the hon. member that we support the officials in the Department of Finance. They are consummate professionals who are working hard drafting our government's first budget. Like the members on this side of the House, they know that a snapshot in time is just that. It does not tell the whole story. It is like looking at one's bank account before paying the bills.
Let us make no mistake. The projections outlined in the economic and fiscal update show that there will be a deficit in budget year 2015-16 as a direct result of the previous government's failure to prepare for a downturn in global oil prices and volatility in the global market.
Happily, we have a plan. After 10 years of weak growth, this government has a plan to grow the economy and create jobs by focusing on the middle class, investing in infrastructure, and helping those who need it most.
As the Prime Minister recently said, we fully intend to take all means necessary to support an economic growth strategy that will benefit all Canadians.
Our government was elected on ambitious economic measures. We know that there has never been a better time to make targeted investments to support economic growth. If the members opposite are patient, we will certainly provide them with our vision for the future and the details of these targeted investments.
Let me describe our starting point. As we embark on an agenda of economic growth and long-term prosperity, there is no doubt that we are facing considerable headwinds. Globally, we continue to experience what the International Monetary Fund's managing director, Christine Lagarde, famously called the “new mediocre”. In its latest world economic outlook, in January, the IMF said that it expects global growth to pick up modestly to 3.4% in 2016 and 3.6% in 2017. This is down 0.2 percentage points for both 2016 and 2017 compared to the October 2015 world economic outlook.
Although the recent performance of the U.S. economy is encouraging, the emerging economies, especially China, are causes for concern. Global crude oil prices remain at levels less than a third of what they were mid-2014, reflecting a persistent global oversupply and softening demand. What is happening beyond our borders has real and tangible effects for all Canadians.
In Canada, our economic performance in the first half of 2015 was poor, mainly due to collapsing oil prices in 2014. It has become obvious that growth in Canada will be lower than was expected in the previous government's last budget projections, in April 2015. This, of course, has important implications for our current fiscal situation. Indeed, the Department of Finance's own numbers in the economic and fiscal update, tabled in this House, show this. I find it strange that the members opposite only seem to respect the numbers from department officials when they feel that they can score political points with them. I urge them all to review the economic and fiscal update, and in the spirit of respect for this country's public servants, admit that they are dead wrong in believing that we will not be in a deficit by the end of this fiscal year.
The previous Liberal government left behind a $13-billion surplus in 2006. The Conservative government squandered the surplus and accumulated an additional $150 billion in new debt while still managing to deliver the worst growth record since the Great Depression. The “Fiscal Monitor” referred to in the member's motion is a snapshot in time and does not tell the full story.
Tough economic times call for bold measures to support the middle class and those working hard to join it. We in the government are prepared to implement these measures.
We maintain an enviable position here in Canada, with a low debt-to-GDP ratio, abundant natural resources, and one of the most educated and talented workforces in the world. Keeping our debt-to-GDP ratio on a downward path throughout our mandate remains a central plank of our economic agenda, alongside balancing the budget by the end of our mandate. To achieve this, our policies will strike a balance between fiscal responsibility and our commitments to Canadians.
One of the most important pillars of our plan is strengthening our middle class, the backbone of our economy, whose members have gone too long without a raise. This is why one of the government's first orders of business was to table a notice of ways and means motion to cut taxes for the middle class. We would cut taxes for nine million Canadians by asking the wealthiest 1% of earners to kick in just a little more. This is the right thing to do and the smart thing to do for our economy.
The middle-class tax cut and the accompanying tax changes would help make taxes fairer so that all Canadians would have the opportunity to succeed and prosper. I am pleased to note that Bill C-2, the bill to implement these measures, is now being debated in Parliament. The middle-class tax cuts would mark an important first step in our plan for economic growth.
Going forward, the government will introduce proposals in the budget to create a new Canada child benefit. Changes under the new child benefit would begin in July 2016. In addition to replacing the universal childcare benefit, which is not tied to income, the proposed Canada child benefit would simplify and consolidate existing child benefits while ensuring that the help is targeted to those who need it most.
Taken together, these measures will help strengthen the middle class and those working hard to join it, putting more money in their pockets to save, invest, and grow the economy. More broadly, they will help grow our economy in the context of a difficult global economic climate so that all Canadians benefit.
The second challenge the government faces, and the most important one, is creating long-term conditions for strong and durable economic growth. The international community, as well as leaders right here at home, have more or less arrived at the same conclusion: targeted investments in infrastructure are key to driving economic growth. With interest rates at historic lows, now is the right time to invest. Canadian cities have been growing at a rapid rate, and all governments have a shared challenge in making investments in infrastructure that create economic advantages for Canada and more sustainable urban areas.
For the next decade, we will make investments in social infrastructure, like affordable and seniors' housing, in green infrastructure, like water-treatment systems, and in public transit. We have pledged to make historic investments in Canadian infrastructure, and we intend to follow through. These investments will aim to get Canadians moving and will open more cost-efficient trade options for our exporters. These are big, meaningful measures that can have a significant impact on our long-term growth.
Unlike the previous government, we do not intend to recklessly add to the national debt on the backs of our children and grandchildren by making reckless and politically motivated investments. Rather, we intend to make smart investments that will build an even more prosperous country for our children and grandchildren.
Given the government's clear objectives listed today, I would strongly encourage hon. members to support the government in our efforts to strengthen the middle class and grow the economy.