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View Rob Merrifield Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rob Merrifield Profile
2013-12-03 12:48 [p.1675]
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.
View Rob Merrifield Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rob Merrifield Profile
2008-02-07 12:15 [p.2718]
Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege for me to contribute to the debate on this prebudget consultation. As the chair of the finance committee, it is interesting to listen to the dialogues of the members.
Before I go on to what I would like to present, I would like to indicate that I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Northumberland—Quinte West.
I would like to describe to Canadians and to this House exactly the process that we went through to get to where we are today in tabling the report. It was a little bit late and we had to ask for an extension. It should have been done, according to the Standing Orders, in the early part of December. We had to ask for an extension because of the prorogation.
The prorogation also added more complications to our ability to travel as much as we wanted to across Canada to listen to people, but we did actually hear 400 different submissions and had 200 presenters before the committee, so it was not that we abbreviated it too much but it certainly was a little different than what was initially laid out.
Last June the committee decided it would study taxation, so we requested to have the submissions based on how the ideal tax system in Canada should work and what changes were to be made in that regard. That is what we listened to up until we got back into session and the committee was reconstituted in November.
At that time, the table had shifted somewhat and we had seen some different things happen in the Canadian economy that we wanted to address in our report. Therefore, there was a motion taken in the committee that we would expand our criteria from taxation to look at the higher dollar.
Before I get into what I want to talk about with regard to the higher dollar and some of the taxation recommendations that we made, it is important to understand the process of the committee and what we are actually trying to accomplish in the report.
Two days ago, on Tuesday, we had a delegation of Russian representatives come to our committee and their questions were actually very interesting. They asked us how we have accountability in our political process here in Canada, how we make sure we are getting value for money, and what the committee is trying to do with the prebudget report that would add to that accountability.
Those were the kinds of questions they were asking us. They are very good questions and questions that the Canadian public should understand because in the committees, particularly in a minority government where the opposition has the larger number of votes and outnumbers the governing party in the committees, we have to understand that we try to lower the political temperature in the committee meetings so that we can talk collectively about what is in the best interest of Canada because we do not report to a minister or a ministry. We report to this Parliament, to this House, and therefore the report contains recommendations to the government in power with regard to the things that it should do in the best interests of the people of Canada.
That is what we are trying to do in committee. That is what we tried to do in this report. I have heard a lot of the banter back and forth and it seems so political. I am sure people at home are wondering how in the world we came up with any consensus in this report. The reality is we came up with a considerable amount of consensus in the report.
We are now laying the report at the feet of the government and I want to just read a little bit of some of the backdrop of the Canadian fundamentals that we are living in at the present time.
Canada is in its 16th year of economic expansion, the second longest period in Canadian history. Canada is the fastest growing G-7 country over the past decade in employment and living standards. Canada's job market is the best in a generation. Our unemployment rates are at the lowest in 33 years. The share of adult Canadians working is at a record high. Inflation remains low and stable, the best in the past 15 years.
Canada is emerging as a superpower in energy. We are the largest producer of clean hydroelectric power in the world. We are the second largest in oil reserves next to Saudi Arabia, and arguably we are the largest but we will not get into that. We rank third in global natural resource production.
Canada is one of the few countries with a public pension system that is financially sustainable,and we are on the best fiscal footing of any of the G-7 nations. All levels of government are in surplus for the first time in 60 years, and we are the only member of the G-7 with a budget surplus and falling debt burden. Since coming into power, this government has created 700,000 new jobs in the past two years.
That gives members an idea of what we are now laying before this Parliament as far as recommendations in the upcoming budget, but a fiscal footing that is to be envied by any country in the world. It is important to look at some of the things that we did agree on when we look at the recommendations coming in this report.
We can talk about our supplementary reports and I like the words “supplementary reports” because they are not opposition reports. They are really supplement to what we are doing, but the things we do agree on are the basis of this report and are very important for us to consider.
We have said we wanted to increase the income threshold to cut personal income taxes. We all agreed on that to make sure the working class would be able to have the appropriate advantages. We all agreed that should take place. We wanted Canadians to withdraw money from their RRSPs to be able to purchase their first homes and to be able to fund their continued education. Those are things that we all agreed on that would be fundamental for enhancing the benefit of all Canadians.
The second thing we wanted to do is make sure we get people out of poverty and into the workplace as much as possible. We want to enhance the working tax credit benefit so that there would be no negative incentive for those who are not in the workplace, who are being subsidized, and who are trying get out of that situation and into the workplace.
We wanted to extend the five year capital cost allowance to manufacturers and processing for machinery and equipment. That one comes mainly because of the second priority when we came back in November. We realized that the climate we came into was not only the strong fiscal footing, but it also had something else that was looming that happened in the last five months prior to the committee actually launching into this study.
That was the massive, unprecedented increase in the value of the Canadian dollar with respect to American currency. It moved up 16% in five months. It went from 94¢ to $1.10 and that had major impacts with regard to manufacturing, the forestry sector, the agriculture sector, tourism and many others.
We wanted to do a quick study on that as well, so we incorporated that into our recommendations. We spent a week or more debating those issues and looking at what we should do with regard to the Canadian dollar in order to help. I believe we have seen the government react more quickly than I have ever seen before because we came up with $1 billion for the forestry and manufacturing sectors for those communities losing these different factories and plants, particularly in the softwood lumber industry.
I know all about that, by the way. My Bloc colleagues are saying it is all about Quebec which is being hurt more than anywhere else. In forestry, there is not a community in my riding that is not impacted negatively by the forest industry. The forest industry is going through a massive problem with regard to the slowdown in the United States. The demand is down. The high dollar has impacted it very negatively. In my area the pine beetle has impacted the industry even more significantly than both of those. So it is the ultimate storm. I know all about that.
I have lost a mill in a small community just recently. It has a major impact in the riding. We understand that full well. It is not just in one area of the country, it is the entire country. That is why the acceleration of the capital cost allowance would be very positive. It is one of the things we need to do. We need to do as much as we possibly can to get us through a short time. Before we get too far down on that thought, there is a quote that I would like to read from the president of the Forest Products Association of Canada. He came before the committee and said:
The best thing you can do for communities is to create a business climate where people want to invest in Canada...I want to be very clear, though, and this is something where I think there has been misunderstanding: we don't want subsidies. We don't want you to come in and save a mill that's uneconomic. What we want to do is make this a place where mills are economic.
That is the difference and that is what really we need to do, not pick winners and losers but set up a climate where whatever is being created is going to be a winning factor. I could go on in many other things. There are a couple more and I only have a minute.
I am going to lay out here other things we agreed on for consideration: one is the Olympics. We believed unitedly as a committee that the Olympics are important not only for the pride of our country but to make sure we deal with issues such as childhood obesity and others, and a $30 million investment to the Olympics for the road to excellence is something we all agreed on.
We wanted to make sure that we increased the capital cost allowance for the railways to make sure we are competitive on that footing as well.
There are many other things that are in the report that we agreed on. I encourage all members to read it carefully. I know the Minister of Finance has been following the dialogue. It is very important that all members read the report.
I will say in closing that we did not want to issue a report saying what we believed. We wanted to issue a report saying what we heard and what we recommended. That is why it reads the way it does.
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