House of Commons Hansard #91 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was income.

Topics

Opposition Motion--The Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hard-working member of Parliament for Windsor West.

I am very proud to be speaking today in the House on this motion sponsored by the NDP, which expresses no confidence in the Conservative government for its completely unbalanced economic policy.

It is no surprise that the Conservatives are continuing the same unbalanced economic approach that we saw from the former Liberal government and that we saw from the former Conservative government before the Liberals came to power.

What we have seen essentially over the past 20 years is a steady economic degradation in the lives of working families from coast to coast to coast. The figures are pretty compelling. Most working families sitting around their kitchen tables tonight, after their shifts, are going to be talking about the fact that they are earning less now than they were even 20 years ago.

Two-thirds of Canadian families are earning less than they were in 1989 when the Conservative government pushed through the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement. Subsequent to that we had the Liberals pushing through, with the Conservatives, the NAFTA. We have essentially seen, through trade policy, that those agreements have benefited the wealthiest citizens in Canada. Most working families are earning less.

The trade policies that the Conservatives put forward, like the Liberals before them, are policies that are structured around the boardroom table and not structured with the interests of those who are sitting around kitchen tables.

Let us talk about what the results of the last 20 years have been because the NDP has been very clear. We want to renegotiate NAFTA. It has not been in the interests of most Canadian working families and we have been very clear about that.

We are the only party in the House that says to Canadians that things have not worked. The bottom line is that these trade agreements have failed and we are going to go back and renegotiate. Happily, as members well know, we now have the two leading contenders for the Democratic nomination in the United States, who are running for president in November, agreeing with the NDP and saying it has to be renegotiated.

As members also well know, the PRD, the major opposition party in Mexico, is also saying the same thing, so what we have is increasingly, progressive forces in all three countries saying it has not worked.

What has happened over the last 20 years is that middle class Canadians essentially have lost about $1,000 in real terms out of their pockets. They are actually earning less now, about a week's wages, than they were back in 1989. For lower middle class Canadians, they have actually lost even more, probably about $1,200 because they have lost on average two weeks of income for each and every year since 1989, and for the poorest Canadians, as my colleague from Sault Ste. Marie said earlier, the income decline has been catastrophic. They have lost a month and a half of income, on average, which is close to $2,000 for each and every working family across the country.

For the Conservatives to pretend that everything is fine is simply ridiculous, but they talk to the wealthy, and the wealthiest of Canadians now take half of all the real income in Canada. Their income has gone up 20% in that same period, so if the Liberals and Conservatives are only talking to corporate lawyers and the wealthiest people in society, I guess they get kind of out of whack. They simply do not understand the economic fundamentals and the failures that we have seen from the current Conservative government and the former Liberal government.

The statistics are compelling. Two-thirds of Canadian families are earning less and we now have levels of income inequality that we have not seen since the Great Depression. It has been a catastrophic failure of economic policy and economic fundamentals. The most catastrophic impact has been on younger Canadians, a generation that has been completely lost by both the Liberals and the Conservatives over the past 20 years.

We know full well now that we are talking about record levels of student debt, levels that are incomprehensible to people in this House who represent the NDP, who see how willingly the Conservatives and Liberals shovel money at the corporate sector in corporate tax cuts. They just never seem to be able to shovel enough money off that truck, yet for poor students in this country, the average debt level is now $26,000. Statistics Canada tells us some other things about that younger generation. Those same individuals now come into a job market with far lower wages than existed 10, 15 or 20 years ago.

Most of the jobs that the Conservatives love to say they are creating are part time and temporary. If someone has three part time jobs for a couple of hours each a week, according to the Conservatives the workforce has been tripled. It simply is not true. We have seen a hemorrhaging of manufacturing jobs and family sustaining jobs. There have been one-quarter million jobs lost on their watch.

At the same time what they have managed to create is part time, temporary jobs, nothing that will allow students to pay off their record levels of student debt. Another thing the NDP opposes is that those jobs, because they are part time and temporary, do not come with pensions and benefits. The generation that we are sacrificing with record levels of student debt, created by the Liberals and continued by the Conservatives, are the same individuals who are earning less to pay off the debt. When they finally manage to get through the process of paying off their student debt, when they reach retirement age, most of them will not have access to company pensions. What are we doing to the nation's youth when we mortgage them to that appalling extent?

Liberals and Conservatives have been doing the same thing now for 20 years. That takes massive change and that is why I think more and more Canadians are looking to the NDP.

I come from British Columbia where we have seen the effects of Conservative economic policies. I guess that is almost an oxymoron because there is nothing about policy in their economic approach. It is simply one of shovelling money at the corporate sector. We have seen the impact of the softwood lumber agreement. There have been 10,000 jobs lost in British Columbia since the agreement was pushed through with the support of the Liberals and unfortunately the support of the Bloc.

We had a change in government in British Columbia which brought in a Liberal government. The median figures are very compelling of what the Liberals have done provincially, along with the federal Liberals and Conservatives, to British Columbia. For most British Columbians since 2001, since the B.C. Liberals came to power, their median income has gone down. This is for all age categories up to the age of 55. We are seeing that for individuals at the ages of 20, 30, 40 and 50 their real income has gone down. They are earning less now than they were when the NDP was in power. These are compelling economic facts. It is the compelling economic bottom line.

In this corner of the House we are not economic cheerleaders, unlike the Conservatives and Liberals who like to say that everything is going well because the wealthy in Canada are doing well. We are the ones who look at the hard facts. We are the ones who look at the figures. We are the ones who say this has been a fundamental failure of economic policy and that is why we cannot express confidence in the Conservative government.

The Liberals of course, as is their wont, will continue to support the Conservatives, continue to prop up the Prime Minister regardless of what that means for ordinary working families, regardless of what that means for the middle class, regardless of what that means for poor Canadians. The Liberals will simply prop up the Conservatives. But they have an opportunity now, given the hard economic facts that Statistics Canada gave to them last week, to actually stand up in the House and say that these economic failures mean that the government has failed and we need to go back to the Canadian people and have the Canadian people judge based on what is happening to their family income and what is happening when they discuss things around their kitchen tables.

And so solutions do not come about through magic. It is very simple: we need social policies, industrial policies, policies to support our industries, including the manufacturing industry, the auto industry and the softwood lumber industry.

We need the government and the public sector to get involved. Given the weak economic policies we have had for the last 20 years and the total failure of those policies, the NDP is the only party saying essentially that we have to go in a new direction, one that takes into consideration the importance of the public sector and that thinks it is important to raise family income across the country rather than lowering it. The NDP is the only party that is offering this economic alternative.

Opposition Motion--The Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, earlier I rose after the speech of an NDP member to comment that the motion does not seem to make any sense with the realities of Canada's economy today.

That said, I do respect that the NDP members legitimately stand for what they are speaking about today. We hear Liberal members speaking to issues in which they say they believe, but in 13 years they did nothing about them, and if they were given 13 more years, all indications would point to their continuing to neglect Canadians in the same fashion.

There are over 17 million Canadians, a record number of Canadians, working today. We have created over 800,000 jobs. There is no question there is some weakness within given sectors, but overall the Canadian economy is doing incredibly well.

We are outperforming every economy in the G-7. As I said, we have record low unemployment. Unemployment is at a 33-year low. We are the only country in the G-7 running an ongoing fiscal surplus and paying down debt. We are reducing taxes in every way that the government collects taxes. At the same time we had year over year average wage increases for Canadians of 4.5%. That is a record.

Why would the member support the motion? It is silly.

Opposition Motion--The Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, a wise person in my riding said, “Yes, I guess the Conservatives are creating some jobs. I've got three of them”. That is exactly the point. The Conservatives have created part time service jobs. A person can get a minimum wage job, or two or three of them for three or four hours each a week, but a person cannot sustain a family, rent an apartment or buy a house with those crappy jobs. That is what the Conservatives are experts at: creating crappy jobs. They have destroyed the good manufacturing jobs, the softwood industry jobs, the jobs that sustain communities, the jobs that actually provide additional positions, because when we create one full time manufacturing job or one full time softwood industry job, we are creating another 2.5 indirect jobs that are good, wage paying jobs. This is the reality.

The Prime Minister learned his economics from a text book. He never had to balance a budget. He never actually had to do any real work. He never had to meet a payroll. He learned his economics from a text book and it shows the lamentable inability of the Prime Minister and the Conservative caucus to actually manage.

The bottom line economic results have been very clear. That is why we are expressing non-confidence.

Opposition Motion--The Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois will support the NDP motion. We believe that there are two aspects of the motion that particularly deserve our support.

There is the fact that the government's economic agenda is completely inefficient and does not get the desired results because the government has adopted a laissez-faire attitude. Then, there is the scandal of the $54 billion taken from employment insurance that will remain in the government's coffers. These two reasons alone would justify moving a non-confidence motion and giving the public an opportunity to decide on the outcome in an election.

This just confirms what was in the papers today, about the widespread tax cuts offered to big corporations. Not only will they take away the government's ability to intervene, but they will also have more impact in the oil-producing provinces, which are currently very economically viable.

For example, Alberta and Newfoundland have corporate profits worth almost $16,000 per resident, while the rest of Canada averages $4,500 per capita. When the taxes of multinational companies are reduced, they end up with more money. This will widen the gap between the provinces.

Is the role of the government not to ensure there is leeway to help the manufacturing industries, so that Quebec and Ontario, for example, can grow? The government's role should not be to widen the gap.

Opposition Motion--The Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member is absolutely right. The Conservatives have the same laissez-faire attitude as the Liberals. They both cut taxes for big business, which benefits only the wealthiest members of society, who now account for half of the income Canadians make. All other Canadian families are now poorer than they were a few years ago. They are certainly poorer than they were 20 years ago. These economic policies are a dismal failure.

Opposition Motion--The Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to join my colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster and to support the NDP motion on the economy and jobs in the middle class. It is worth fighting for across the country, not just in Windsor, Ontario which I represent, but in London, Kitchener, all the way along the 401 to Toronto, as well as St. Catharines, all those areas where we have seen economic devastation. It is important to fight for these jobs for the rest of the country as well. People in British Columbia all the way to Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador understand that when Canadians do well, we all do well together.

These policies of the Conservative government supported by the Liberals are shrinking the middle class and it will be very difficult to get it back. There is that element of Canada's history where we have had prosperity and a lot of different elements that created our great social fabric which has made us a leader in the world. That will disappear. We do not want that to happen.

I do not necessarily want to go to another election. I fought in elections in 1997, in 2000 when I was elected to city council, in 2002 in a byelection, in 2004 and in 2006. I do not need another election, but we have to go to one right now because it is necessary to save these jobs.

There are calls to my office every single day. We are witnessing people's dreams going up in smoke because there has not been the proper strategy and economic planning that should have been there during times of prosperity. The policies right now are stripping us of our capability to compete in the world. These are not nameless people. They are people in my constituency.

I have heard Conservative members say in this chamber that they believe in the mobility of work, that a person should just find a job somewhere else. That is no way to build a community. That is no way to raise a family. That is no way to develop a country that competes in the world, that people should have to move all over the place just because the proper policies are not in place.

Let us talk about specific people in my constituency. Jennifer is a 39-year-old single female who has two college degrees and skilled training in the tool and die and mould making industry. She has done everything right. She has invested in and paid for her education. She is a law-abiding citizen. She has been laid off from four different companies, two of which have actually gone bankrupt. Why would that happen when we are the best in the world at tool and die and mould making? Because our economic and trade policies subvert the efforts of workers. They allow other types of merchandise to get into this country, but we have no access to the other market. We have no supports in place.

An example is the rise in the dollar. Because the government wants to have a petrol industry as the sole provider for Canada, it escalates the Canadian dollar. No company or worker can benefit from that. The rise in the dollar cost them their jobs because it happened so quickly. That is not fair for someone like Jennifer. She has done everything right. What did she do? She went on employment insurance. She is one of the few women who can actually apply for employment insurance. That is a scandal in itself, something brought on by the previous administration and supported by the current one, where most women cannot even qualify for employment insurance.

Jennifer has tried. She has gone back to work for a number of different people. Her employment insurance is running out. What will happen now? She is on her last legs, and is selling her car and other assets. Her house is the last thing that she has. That is not fair. She is a skilled tradesperson. What has happened is not acceptable. We have led the world in that industry for many years and can continue to do so but the right policies need to be in place. This is happening at a time of indifference.

Look at the automotive industry. There have been 250,000 manufacturing jobs lost in the last number of years, and the automotive industry has taken a big hit in that: people in St. Catharines, Brampton, Oakville, London and Windsor, in southern Ontario we have seen some of the biggest losses. People are worried. They are sitting around the kitchen table looking for solutions, but they cannot do it alone. The government has to do its part.

The government wants to enter into another unfair trade agreement with South Korea and further sell out the automotive sector. Why? Because it is easy for the government to do. It is a feather in its cap. It is interesting because the government will let state owned companies that produce vehicles and subsidize them flood into our markets and cost our workers their jobs. The Conservatives are the people who brought in an eco-auto rebate program that actually sent money to Japan and Seoul, Korea and to those automotive manufacturers that got subsidies. That is wrong. We should be producing those vehicles here. We have the people with the skills and ability in the trades. They are willing to do it.

We have recently seen a number of unions put out good business plans on how to work together. They have led the charge. The CAW has always led the charge to try to bring more automotive jobs. It had to bring the previous administration and the current administration kicking and screaming to the table.

Why do we not have a national auto policy? Why do we not have proper trade policies? The United States does. It protected its shipbuilding and bus industries. It has tariffs on certain vehicles that go in to the United States. It does it because it recognizes those jobs are important, and it is hemorrhaging some of those jobs now too.

There is an opportunity right now for us to work collectively to improve human rights, labour and environmental standards that will protect Canadian citizens, provide jobs and be a better economic trading bloc, but the government wants to shut that down. It does not want to talk about that.

What are people to do in their communities? Are they supposed to all work at Wal-Mart? Is that the way it is supposed to be? It is wrong. Service jobs are fine. They are good for the economy, there is no doubt about it, but manufacturing counts. If people are interested in the real facts, they should go to www.caw.ca, the CAW website, and look at the economic studies that Jim Stanford has done. He is renowned and recognized.

Look at the TD Bank. It is no socialist think tank, but even it has recognized the fact that we are losing good jobs and lower wage jobs are now falling into their place. That is bad for everyone. It is bad when the coffers of Ontario, for example, go down.

I take pride in the fact that Ontario has been able to provide for this nation, not only for my community and province, but for the rest of the country, and build it from coast to coast to coast. We are gutting the manufacturing sector by rapidly accelerating the Canadian dollar and not having manufacturing or auto strategies when other countries have these elements. It is wrong and we lose capacity.

There is one very interesting element that has not been talked about enough in this debate and it should be. When we gut our manufacturing base, we gut our ability as a nation to have full independence. We have to rely on others to do the hard work, when our own people can do that. They can build the tools and moulds and assemble. We have the natural resources. We know that the secondary work, after natural resources, is where the real money is. Why does everything have to be about shipping it out somewhere else for the secondary work to be done? Why can we not do that here like we have in the past?

We have unfair trading practices, for example, in the textile industry, where there has been dumping. The WTO has provided a remedy for that. It had a tariff element that we could have put in place to save some of the jobs here, especially in Quebec. The United States took the WTO up on that, but we did not. We sat around and let it go by, and that is unacceptable.

Other policies are important. I just came from the transport committee. We know the government has tabled Bill C-43. In my riding, as everyone knows, is the busiest international border crossing, with 40,000 vehicles and 10,000 international trucks going through it every day. The public safety minister has tabled a bill that changes the Customs Act.

The transport department has not work with him. What happens if they do not work together? The two separate chambers create laws that add to more backlog and other issues. That is unacceptable. The lack of infrastructure spending is incredible, whether it be the railway, the airline industry or our roads.

I would not get up and say nothing has been done by any of the previous administrations or the current one. Stuff has been done, but we are choosing the wrong priorities right now. Instead of investing in Canada, we have general corporate tax cuts. To stay competitive and prosper, we have to invest. The decision for large corporate tax cuts as opposed to investing in our railway system, our roads and in air is costing us competitive advantage.

It is important to note that. As we make that choice, we lose opportunities. Other nations are making the choice to invest in those things. That is why the NDP supports motion. At the end of the day, the middle class income earners need sustainable jobs in order to raise their families with dignity and send their children for university and college educations so we can compete with the world. If we do not, we will be left behind.

Opposition Motion--The Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think the member for Windsor West is definitely on to something. The Conservative government has been in power for two years plus and keeps talking about how it is getting the job done. It is not getting the job done when it comes to the incomes of working and middle class Canadians.

The Conservatives inherited a very strong economy when they formed government in 2006. The Liberals had record surpluses, low unemployment, a strong fiscal capacity, and good growth prospects. What did the Conservative government do? It spent money and left the cupboard bare.

The Bank of Canada estimates that growth this year could be 1.4%. At that rate, we are heading into a deficit.

The Conservatives keep saying that they are getting the job done. What kind of flexibility do they have to deal with the challenges facing low income and middle class Canadians? They have taken away the flexibility our Liberal government gave them in 2006 when they formed government.

Opposition Motion--The Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know the member works hard in the House, but with all due respect, it is difficult to hear him and his party continually support these policies. The current tax cuts have basically been led by the Leader of the Opposition from day one. In fact, he called for deeper tax cuts.

Let me explain the difficulty the NDP has with regard to the current system and how the economy is hurt by this. Let me use as an example the auto sector versus the oil and gas sector, which already makes record profits. These tax cuts are going to give the oil and gas sector record windfalls.

A tax cut will not do any good to a tool and dye mould-maker in the manufacturing sector that is losing money. Companies cannot invest in new technology and new resources so they can compete. They wither on the vine, and that has been happening.

This is why the economics sector is saying this is nuts. The sector is saying this does not make any sense. Why should the banks and the oil and gas companies continue to get record windfalls at the expense of working Canadians?

Opposition Motion--The Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I guess we are learning as we go here. The Liberal Party now refers to excess taxation as flexibility. I suppose there were $52 billion in flexibility in EI when the Liberals were government, since they ran enormous surpluses. They did not create a specialized fund for EI. All the money went to general revenue. The $52 billion the Liberals ran in surplus were really a tax. I guess that was flexibility.

When the Liberals talk about flexibility, what they really mean is they like to tax Canadians to death. They like to have enormous surpluses, which they cut up and give to their friends. They only talk about that when they are caught.

The member knows the numbers he has quoted are not accurate. He knows that year over year salary increases are up by 4.5%, so we are creating good paying jobs. Canadians are going into better paying jobs. However, there is no question there is sectoral weakness.

The member talked about the dollar. He knows the Canadian government has no influence over it.

Is the member aware of the economic benefit of the strength of Canada's energy industry to Ontario and to southwestern Ontario? Over $88 billion in procurement for Ontario alone are from Alberta's energy sector. Is he aware of that?

Opposition Motion--The Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member can continue to disregard economists, the banks and all those who have come forward with these facts if that is what he wants to do. He can put his head in the sand if he is comfortable with that.

Yes, some industries are prosperous right now, and that is good. We do not have a problem with that. However, that does not mean others should get left behind. That does not mean there is no collateral damage. We need to ensure the men and women who work hard in those industries should not be victims in the crossfire. They should not be the ones to pay the price.

Other countries have policies in place that cost Canada jobs. We need to have policies in place to deal with this. We cannot surrender and throw up the white flag and celebrate because some industries get ahead while some go down. Our country is not made of that. We do not leave people behind in our country. We have to ensure our policies protect Canadian jobs.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Government Orders

May 8th, 2008 / 12:50 p.m.

Durham
Ontario

Conservative

Bev Oda Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, yesterday in question period the member for Timmins—James Bay noted some discrepancies in the proactive disclosure of my expenses while I was minister at Canadian heritage.

I thank the member for pointing out these discrepancies. My expenses have been reviewed and the proactive disclosure is in the process of being updated. These were administrative errors, and we are correcting them.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

I think the House appreciates that clarification.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Opposition Motion — The Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière
Québec

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Blackstrap.

I am pleased to rise today to speak to the opposition motion.

There is no doubt that Canada is now facing a number of economic difficulties. The economy of the United States, our primary export market, has slowed, particularly in the housing sector. Global economic growth has also slowed in the wake of turbulence in international credit markets.

Despite these difficulties, we remain strong, and the fact is that the Canadian economy has weathered these times well compared to the United States and other countries. That is clear from the spectacular number of jobs that have been created.

So far this year, the Canadian economy has created over 104,000 new jobs, 14,000 of those last month alone. In the past 12 months, 325,000 new jobs were created, and over 813,000 jobs have been created since we came to power in 2006. I would also like to take this opportunity to remind the members that as a result of this growth in jobs, the unemployment rate has been at its lowest in 33 years.

This increased employment extends to every province of Canada. In Newfoundland and Labrador, for example, 2,500 people have found jobs since January, and in Ontario, the number of new jobs is more than 57,000. In British Columbia, 25,000 jobs have been created and in Alberta, more than 10,000 new jobs have been created since January. In Quebec, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, at least 3,000 new jobs have been created.

In the majority of cases these are full time jobs. Since January, more than 94,000 full time jobs have been created, which amounts to 90% of all new jobs.

These impressive figures on job creation reveal only one aspect of the situation. Automobile sales and consumer spending are increasing. The Canadian economy continues to grow and the finances of Canadian businesses and households are strong. Inflation remains low, stable and predictable and we have reduced the public debt to a level not seen in this country since the 1950s.

This government has worked to create the conditions that will allow the private sector to do what it does best: to create jobs and contribute to the prosperity of Canadians.

Just 18 months ago, the government unveiled Advantage Canada, its long term economic plan to make Canada a world economic leader.

The plan focuses on the creation of five advantages for Canadian companies. The first is a tax advantage that establishes the lowest tax rate on new business investment in the G-7. Another fiscal advantage will eliminate Canada’s total government net debt in less than a generation. The third is an entrepreneurial advantage that will reduce unnecessary regulation and red tape. The fourth is a knowledge advantage that will create the best-educated, most-skilled and most flexible workforce in the world. Finally, the infrastructure advantage will consist in investing in modern, world-class infrastructure.

I would like to conclude by commenting on the government’s recent measures to develop Canada’s infrastructure advantage, an advantage that will improve our ability to compete in the automobile sector.

The Canadian automobile sector represents the largest manufacturing activity in the country and accounts for almost one-quarter of our merchandise exports. The sector provides direct employment to more than 150,000 workers. The Canadian automobile industry is part of a closely integrated supply chain network that crosses the border between Canada and the United States. Some parts may cross the border several times before reaching an assembly plant.

The Ambassador Bridge is an essential link in this network, and it is mind-boggling to realize that 40% of all trade between Canada and the United States travels across this infrastructure.

The Ambassador Bridge carries more than 8,000 semi-trailers on a typical day. It is a privately owned structure that was built in 1928, before the Great Depression. It carries more trade annually than the entire trading relationship between the United States and Japan.

As we all know, that bridge is well past capacity. It therefore represents a potentially devastating weak link in the supply chain of our auto trade.

In budget 2008, our government committed $400 million as part of our promise to fund 50% of the eligible costs of improving the Windsor–Detroit crossing.

This will help fund the construction of a new route that will link Highway 401 to the new bridge. The goal is to have a new crossing by 2013, and we are determined to build this bridge as part of building a stronger auto sector, with a view to facilitating the transport of vehicles and parts.

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce called the construction of this new route a critical step towards opening this new international crossing. I would like to quote the president of the Chamber of Commerce, Len Crispino, who said improving the flow of traffic at the border is a “matter of national and international urgency”.

I would also like to share with my colleagues what Mark Nantais, president of the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers' Association, said in response:

It is absolutely crucial for the automotive industry to be assured that the border crossings are reliable and predictable in order to accommodate just-in-time delivery on both sides of the border.

This investment will help support the existing automotive manufacturing in Windsor and across Ontario, and will help make the province more attractive for future jobs and economic growth.

I would like to point out to the members that this investment comes in addition to the $75 million from this government over two years to fund the Canada Border Services Agency in order to further facilitate the movement of goods and services.

It is also in addition to the $250 million we announced in budget 2008 to support innovation in the auto sector.

The Canadian economy has never been so strong. We have taken concrete measures to ensure the competitiveness of Canada's auto industry and we have laid the foundation for Canada's long term economic growth through the delivery of the Advantage Canada plan.

Opposition Motion — The Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, with the Liberal leader cheering on the finance minister when the budget was passed, he allowed $14 billion to be taken, each and every year, out of the fiscal capacity of our country, which is a huge loss in the capacity of the current government, or any government, to help those Canadians who are not part of the new jobs the member is talking about.

In Hamilton, in particular, over 93,000 people are living in poverty, mostly women and seniors who are falling further and further behind. We know the private sector will not stand up to protect seniors and women. That is the government's job. When will it take up that challenge and start defending the people who are at the bottom and not those who are at the top all the time, not the corporations it always supports, but the average working family and those who have the misfortune of being unemployed or retired on a fixed income?