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 ndp.

Topics

Opposition Motion--The Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Before the debate was interrupted, the hon. member for Charlottetown had the floor and there are 10 minutes remaining in the time allotted for his remarks. I therefore call upon the hon. member for Charlottetown.

Opposition Motion--The Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, when I commenced my comments before question period, I talked about what I consider to be the seriousness of this issue. I talked about the statistics that were released by Statistics Canada last week. I talked about the consequences to this country, our society, the economy and the people who live here if this trend is allowed to continue. I talked about the need to come forward with a national, comprehensive poverty strategy in conjunction with the 10 provinces and 3 territories.

I have listened to the debate here today. Some of the comments do disturb me somewhat when we talk about hard-working Canadians. I want to remind members in the House that many of the people who are in poverty or in the low income cut-off range are hard-working Canadians.

I talked about what I have seen from the government over the last two years and four months, with program cuts that have been right across the board. I talked about the gutting of the early childhood programs that did exist, the cutting of some of the supports that are so needed for low income Canadians, such as public transit, affordable housing, and the cutbacks to the literacy programs.

I also mentioned what I consider to be the destruction of the fiscal framework and the inability of the government to respond to situations that come up on a day to day basis. We have one before us today: the situation in Burma. It is a crisis. I believe there are 22,000 people deceased. It is expected that another 25,000 are missing, presumed to be deceased or badly injured. I believe the announcement by the government was a support package of $2 million.

Opposition Motion--The Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

John Williams Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I certainly do not want to belittle the tragedy going on in Burma, but the member may want to check his numbers. I think he said that there are 25 million deceased and another 22 million missing. I think the numbers are much smaller than that. As I said, I am not trying to belittle the issue but perhaps he would want to check that.

Opposition Motion--The Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, the member is quite correct. There are 22,000 deceased and 25,000 missing, I believe. I am talking about numbers in the vicinity of 50,000 people. I apologize for that. I thank the member across for pointing that out to me.

Again, I was making the point that it just shows the inadequacy of the government's response because it really does not have the capacity to deal with these issues when they come up. A lot of economists are saying these days that we are either in a deficit or heading for a deficit similar to what we had in 1993, which was corrected.

I want to reiterate my support for our leader's announcement of his initiative, what I refer to as the 30-50 plan, to attempt to reduce general poverty rates by 30% and child poverty by 50%. Basically it is a three-pronged approach. It would create the “making work pay” benefit to encourage working independence. It would alter or change the non-refundable child credit into a refundable credit and improve the Canada child tax benefit. It would also, of course, provide for an increase in guaranteed income supplement payments. These are all good initiatives. I certainly support them.

I also support some of the initiatives that are going on in other provinces. I believe the province that is a little ahead of the curve on this particular issue is Quebec. It started seven or eight years ago with, I believe, Bill 112. It has what I consider to be a reasonably well advanced poverty reduction strategy. The province of Newfoundland and Labrador adopted a strategy a little over two years ago. I understand that the province of Ontario is well advanced in its strategy. I do not know exactly what is going on in the other seven provinces. I understand that there is very little going on in some provinces.

Then the debate will be, and I can hear the questions now, what is the role of the federal government? Some will say there is no role for the federal government. Some will say this is of no concern to the Government of Canada. To that I say that there is a role for the federal government. If the government has no role, then that is not my vision. That is not my agenda.

I suggest and I submit to the House that there is a very real role for the federal government. It is a role that the federal government has played for many years. It started with the old age pension, continued with the baby bonus, as it was called then, and continued with the guaranteed income supplement, the child tax benefit, the Canada pension plan and medicare. These programs were started, maintained and enhanced by various governments of different political stripes. So to that I say that there is a role for the federal government.

However, that is not what I am seeing now. I am seeing a withdrawal. I am seeing an ideology that is withdrawing the role of the federal government in the support of Canadians from coast to coast.

I ask myself where this vision, this agenda, comes from. Because even members of the Conservative Party to whom I have talked do not talk like that. They support these programs. I submit that it comes from our Prime Minister. It was his vision before he became Prime Minister. He created this vision of walls in an open letter to the premier of the province of Alberta. The Prime Minister said that he should disengage that province from the Canada Health Act, that he should disengage the people who live in that province from paying federal income taxes, that the province should set up its own police force, and that the premier should establish a wall or a moat or whatever one wants to call it around that province.

I want to say clearly that this is not my vision of this country. This country has to be led by a government that has a pan-Canadian vision and speaks for all Canadians from all walks of life, of all income brackets, living in all areas of this country.

In closing, I am talking about the gap that exists and is growing every day, the gap between upper income Canadians and lower income Canadians. It is increasing. I think it is going to be very troubling to this country. It is an issue that this government should consider very seriously. It is an issue that is not being considered or, I suggest, is being neglected at this time. If this issue is allowed to continue, the consequences will be troubling for the country and the people who live here.

At the end of the day, after the debate and after everything is said on this particular motion today, I do hope that this is an issue that this government will move on. I hope we will see a pan-Canadian strategy that works closely in collaboration with the strategies developed by certain of the provinces, and with other provinces, which I hope will develop similar strategies, so that this issue will be moved on in the days, months and years to come.

Opposition Motion--The Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Denise Savoie Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened very carefully to the hon. member. We have all heard the census figures of recent days showing this widening gap between the rich and the poor. He forgot to mention that the centre is lagging behind. Middle incomes have stagnated.

With the wealth of resources that we have in Canada, how can it be that the middle class is only marginally better off today than it was a generation ago? Why is it that young people entering the labour force today are making less than their parents were a generation ago with more stable jobs? This has not just happened over the past two years.

The answer lies in the detrimental and regressive policies of successive past governments. I wonder if the member would respond to those comments.

Opposition Motion--The Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the comments. I believe the census that came out last week showed that those in the 20% stratum at the top were up 16%, the lower stratum was down in excess of 20%, and the middle stratum I think had moved by 0.1%. This is in constant dollars since 1980. There has been basically no movement for the middle stratum.

The member across makes another point: the generational war. Young people today are not making the same income in constant dollars that people of that age were back in 1980. It goes back to the policies of this government. There has been very little done for people who are trying to pursue a post-secondary education. Also, in regard to the supports, whether they be for housing for low income people or public transit, name it, they are not there. The system is just going to get worse. I believe that if these trends are allowed to continue, the situation will get worse. That is why this issue has to be dealt with sooner rather than later.

Opposition Motion--The Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

May 8th, 2008 / 3:35 p.m.

NDP

Penny Priddy Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am sharing my time with the member for Parkdale—High Park.

I rise today to talk about how an unbalanced economic agenda that is heading in the wrong direction is hurting the lives of people in Surrey North. I want to talk about perception and about reality.

As we stand here today, we are in the position of having seen the strongest economy in 40 years, low inflation, low interest rates, low unemployment in many places, and strong economic growth. The perception would surely be that Canadians are doing well and they should be doing well, but what is the reality? Let me tell the House about the people in the city of Surrey and my riding of Surrey North. The reality is that they see an ever-widening gap between themselves and others--not narrower, wider--in spite of what they are told about the great economic times we are in.

Let the good times roll. Let us look at what concurrent Liberal and Conservative policies have really meant to Surrey North. The times have certainly rolled, but they have rolled back.

What do people need to be safe and healthy and contributing citizens? A job, and an economic policy supporting jobs not just in Alberta but throughout the country.

Let us start with finding a place to live. How does someone who is single and earns minimum wage do that? For someone in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia in Surrey North who earns $8 an hour and works a full week, the after tax monthly earnings are $955.20. So that person takes that paycheque and goes out and tries to find a place to live. The average Surrey basement suite or small apartment is $791 a month. If the person were to rent that, the person would be left with $144 for food, bus fare, and probably second-hand clothes. Heaven forbid if that person were to have an emergency of any kind.

Currently, Surrey needs 2,000 transitional housing units and 5,000 permanent units of affordable housing. What kind of economic policy would ignore a national housing strategy? People in housing can contribute. People who are living on the streets are not able to be part of anyone's economic housing policy. We are told that having a job is a cure for poverty. In no way is that the case in Surrey North.

Our food bank sees 14,000 people, a large number of whom are from Surrey North and 42% of those people are babies and children. The Prime Minister has said that the number of children living in poverty is probably only a quarter of the number that is quoted. I would like him to go to the food bank with me and tell that to the mother whose little girl said to her “Mommy, I'll try not to eat so much”. He should try telling her that those numbers are over-estimated. That is what his economic policies are doing to people. Little children are having to say, “Mommy, don't worry, I won't eat so much”.

There are people who work but they have to live in homeless shelters. They are earning minimum wage. They are trying. They are living in homeless shelters because they cannot afford a place to live. They get up in the morning and they go to work. They are using the food banks because they have no place else to eat. What kind of let the good times roll does that look like for the people in Surrey?

There are middle class residents in Surrey North who sit around the kitchen table and talk about their futures. They may be people in apartments or people in their own homes. They worry about not being able to pay next month's mortgage. Why? Because people are facing job losses and they are being ignored by the government. I am talking about manufacturing jobs.

Everyone forgets that manufacturing jobs are also about the wood industry. In the wood industry, when every single sawmill on the Fraser River closes, people are out of work. In the riding of Surrey North there are many, many, many people who are out of work. There is no retraining. There was nothing in the budget for the pine beetle epidemic. Those manufacturing jobs in the wood industry are completely gone. Untargeted tax cuts certainly are not helping those people at all. They may be helping people in the tar sands, but they are not helping the people in Surrey North who worked in the wood industry.

Those people are also worrying about whether they can send their sons and daughters to post-secondary education. When the NDP amended the 2005 budget to remove $4.6 billion in tax cuts and put that money toward housing and post-secondary education, the Prime Minister found it to be completely irresponsible. For those middle class people in Surrey North sitting around their kitchen tables, it is absolutely not irresponsible. It was a bit of help, but they still have a very long way to go because of the tuition costs. They know that many of them are not going to be able to send their sons and daughters to post-secondary education.

The government's economic policy also ignores children. Surrey North has a reading standard that is lower than the average in British Columbia. That should not be a surprise. We have a poverty level that is higher than the rest of British Columbia. A child who is not nourished cannot learn. That is not a secret to anyone. There are children who are going to school hungry. It is no wonder our reading standards are below the provincial average.

In conclusion, there may be economic policies that are being celebrated by Conservatives across the country wherever they may live, but in Surrey North there are more people living in poverty than in most other places. We always have had more children living in poverty than the B.C. average. They are children who learn less well than other children because they are poor, because they are not sleeping, because they do not have safe places to live. There are people living on the streets who are very interested in contributing to their community, but it is very hard to be part of an economic policy when people who are working have to live on the street because they cannot afford a place to live.

This is where an unbalanced wrong-headed economic approach takes us. Those people in Surrey North are not seeing the good times roll.

Opposition Motion--The Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to contribute to the debate and speak in favour of the NDP motion.

I want to begin by thanking my colleague from Surrey North for splitting her time with me.

The motion points to an ongoing tragedy and crisis that is occurring in our country. It is something that, quite frankly, is being masked by booms in some parts of the country and terrible poverty, unemployment and devastation in other parts of the country.

I want to draw the attention of members in the House and people who are watching the debate to three very telling reports that came out last week. These reports are compiled. They are not biased. They are put together by our statistics gathering body, Statistics Canada.

Of the three reports last week, the first one tallied the loss of manufacturing jobs. This year so far, Canada has lost 55,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector. This is on top of the hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs that have been lost in our country.

These are the value added jobs. These are the jobs that take our raw materials, that take the labour power that we have and it puts them together to add value to create products that we use in our country and export abroad. These are often the better paid jobs. These are the jobs that often have union representation. They have more security. They have benefits for the people who are employed and their families. Often they are jobs with a pension so that when the person retires, there is some security.

These are jobs that in my parents' generation, people joined for life. My father worked for one employer for 44 years. That was the norm in his generation. Today we have a disposable workforce where people are called in temporarily and then they are disposed of, and corporations try to pay as absolutely little as possible and have as little responsibility as possible.

The loss of manufacturing jobs is contributing massively to the poverty that we are facing in our country.

The second study last week confirmed that our economy is slowing. For the first time it confirmed what we have all suspected, that there is a decline. Certainly, when one looks south of the border, there is real concern and, in some quarters, fear that we might be in for a recession.

We are seeing what is happening to the real estate market south of the border. For many families the only savings, the only equity that they have is in their homes. There is a lot of concern across Canada.

There is concern also that our economy is so linked with that of the U.S. Most of the goods that we produce here are exported to the U.S. When we look at the tourism and hospitality industry, much of the influx of tourists is from the U.S. There is real concern about that will mean for our economy.

The real impact of the bad economic news last week was in the third study, which detailed a growing income gap that in a country as wealthy as Canada is nothing short of shameful.

The studies show quite clearly that this is not just over the last couple of years, as some members of the opposition would have us believe. This is over the last 25 years. This is over a period of record growth, surplus budgets, an opportunity when we ought to be expanding and increasing opportunities and benefits for all Canadians.

The studies show that between 1980 and 2005 median earnings for the top 20% of income earners increased by 16.4%. Median earnings for the bottom one-fifth fell by 20.6%. Those in the middle are working longer and harder, are treading water as fast as they can, but are not getting any further ahead.

When I talk to people in my riding in Parkdale—High Park in Toronto, that is what I hear. When people sit around the kitchen table with pencils and paper to figure out how they are going to pay their bill, they cannot make ends meet. It does not matter whether one is a minimum wage worker who can work full time year round and never get enough money to support oneself and one's family, or whether one is a two income homeowner who is house poor and struggling to make ends meet, and cannot afford the thousands and thousands of dollars that child care is costing because of neglect by the present and previous governments over the last 25 years.

It is especially hitting young people. It is especially hitting children. It is especially hitting newcomers to Canada. It is shocking to see that in 1980, 25 years ago before the study was completed, newcomers were earning about 85¢ on the $1 compared to other Canadians and that was for men and women, but by 2005 men were only earning 63¢ on the $1 and women's income had dropped to 56¢ on the $1. These statistics were for newcomers to Canada.

Really, it is a betrayal of the Canadian dream where newcomers come here to get a middle class life, to get a good job, and they end up driving taxi or delivering pizza in spite of having tremendous credentials. We have the best educated taxi drivers and pizza delivery people in the world.

The government emphasizes its temporary worker program, where people are good enough to come here and temporarily work without knowing they would be paid lower wages, without knowing their full rights, and without getting any representation. They are good enough to work but then they are gone. They cannot bring their families here. They have no commitment to our country. I think that is a real betrayal to the contribution that newcomers have historically made to our country.

This growing gap is best illustrated by the fact that the highest paid CEO today earns in only 13 hours what a full time minimum wage worker would earn in the entire year. That is a spiralling gap, spiralling inequality, and it betrays the kind of country that Canada aspires to be.

While seniors have done relatively well compared to some other groups, mainly because of their pension and savings income, the poorest families are falling farther and farther behind and the number of children living in poverty has remained unchanged throughout the last 25 years. This is in spite of, as I said before, years of growth, surplus budgets, and the opportunity to really advance our country and make a difference.

It is shocking to see families bringing their kids to breakfast clubs and community kitchens in Parkdale—High Park. It breaks one's heart to have kids coming for a free breakfast because they do not have any food at home. It is a real betrayal to our communities that this is happening.

We are struggling in Parkdale—High Park. A food bank recently closed. We are struggling to try to get another one up and running. We do not want to have food banks that people rely on. People need a decent income. They want to go to work. They want to support themselves and their families, and the government is betraying them by not giving them the opportunity to do so.

We have a waiting list for affordable housing of 75,000 people in Toronto. We have seen people who simply cannot afford the rents that they are being charged. When people are thrown out of work, they cannot rely on EI. Only about 20% of unemployed people in Toronto receive EI benefits, as opposed to 80% 20 years ago.

The present government and I dare say previous governments have focused on corporate tax cuts. They have squandered our fiscal capacity instead of investing in people.

I want to conclude by saying it is about time, after 25 years of squandered opportunity, that the government started listening to the hard lessons that people are learning around their kitchen tables and stop listening only to the boardroom tables. We have seen enough inequality. We want to make social progress for all Canadians.

Opposition Motion--The Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Parkdale—High Park for her tireless defence of manufacturing jobs in this country and the need for them.

My own riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan and the riding of Vancouver Island North, over the last several months, have been rocked by the number of forestry layoffs. Last fall, in the economic update, the Conservative government talked about the crisis in manufacturing and forestry and then promptly proceeded to ignore it. In the recent budget we know that any real help for manufacturing and forestry was largely absent.

In my riding workers are running out of employment insurance because of an administrative anomaly, which means their unemployment rate is tied to the Lower Mainland where the economy is much healthier than it is on parts of Vancouver Island. After a very short period of time workers are running out of employment insurance benefits and with the economy in the forestry sector being in the state it is, there simply is no work available in their area.

Could the member tell the House what kind of efforts she thinks need to be made in order to ensure we continue to have healthy, vibrant forestry and manufacturing sectors in this country?

Opposition Motion--The Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, first, let me say we know what does not work. We know that across the board tax cuts to corporations with no strings attached, no commitment to jobs, no commitment to investment, and no commitment to this country does not work.

It lets companies off the hook with no obligations for the money they get from our tax dollars and rewards those who are already extremely popular. The banks seem to be doing very well. It rewards the oil and gas sector. My goodness, it is doing extremely well. We have seen it gouging us at the pumps every day.

That fuels what our currency has become, which is a petrodollar. It fuels the rising Canadian dollar. It is not only caused by the oil and gas sector but that is part of it. It turns its back on the crisis in the manufacturing and forestry sectors.

We do not need to shovel money back to the companies that are already very profitable. We need targeted support and investment for those industries that are in crisis. If a company is saying it is bidding for a new product and wants to get products sourced in Canada, the government can help the company with that. When the forestry industry is in crisis, as it is now, and where we are seeing plants shut down in single plant communities across the country, they need help.

Opposition Motion--The Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member's party often talks about its commitment to working families. I would like to point out some of the things that the government has actually done for working families, important steps like cutting the GST, introducing the working income tax benefit, introducing the universal child care benefit, increasing the basic exemption, and lowering the lowest tax bracket. We have taken all of these important steps.

The NDP voted against these important steps but has introduced several private members' bills, one of which was Bill C-265 that was dealt with in the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. Bill C-265 would have basically cost the average worker in Canada a little more than $100 per year.

My question to the hon. member is this. How can she justify to working families her opposition to the important steps that we have taken to put more money in their pockets and, as well, how can she justify to those same working families the NDP's proposal to add a little more than $100 to the EI bill that they pay through their hard work that comes off of their cheques?

Opposition Motion--The Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I question how saving a couple of cents on a cup of coffee helps someone who cannot afford to pay $1,000 a month in rent for a substandard apartment in downtown Toronto. That fails to persuade me.

I would ask the member, how can he support his government taking $55 billion from the moneys that have been paid by working people and employers across this country to the EI fund? How can he justify that when the benefits have been denied for the vast majority of unemployed people across Canada?

Opposition Motion--The Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Oshawa
Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I would like to state at the beginning that I will be splitting my time with the member for Beauport—Limoilou. I am pleased to rise in my place today to respond to the motion from the member opposite.

There is no doubt that Canada is facing a number of economic challenges. The U.S. economy, our main market for exports, has experienced a slowdown, especially in the housing sector. Worldwide economic growth has slowed as a result of the turbulence in the international credit markets.

However, we face these challenges from a position of strength, and the facts show that the Canadian economy has more than held its own against the U.S. and other world economies. We need look no further than the spectacular numbers on job growth to see this.

So far this year, under this Conservative government, the Canadian economy has created more than 104,000 new jobs, with more than 14,000 new jobs in the last month alone. Over the past 12 months, 325,000 new jobs have been created. Since we came to government in 2006, more than 771,000 new jobs have been created.

I should also take this opportunity to remind hon. members that as a result of this job growth, we have not seen unemployment this low in Canada for 33 years. Furthermore, these are good-paying jobs for Canadian families from coast to coast.

Despite the radical socialist rhetoric of the NDP, Canadians are better off under this Conservative government than any other time in modern history. Full time jobs account for the vast majority of all new employment in the provinces. Since January, full time employment has risen by over 94,000 people. Just think of the number of families that are now working.

Coming from Oshawa, automotive manufacturing is very important to me, and this government is responding to help. Automotive sales and consumer spending is up, in large part due to the government's fulfilled promise by cutting the GST by two percentage points, something the NDP voted against.

The Canadian economy continues to expand and the finances of Canadian businesses and households are strong. Inflation remains low, stable and predictable, and public debt levels are being reduced to levels that have not been seen in this country's history since the 1950s.

This Conservative government has worked to create the conditions that will let the private sector do what it does best: create jobs and prosperity for Canadians.

Eighteen months ago, the government released “Advantage Canada”, our long term economic plan for making Canada a world economic leader.

There has not been a federal government in recent history that has done more to increase the competitiveness of Canada's automotive sector, address the most pertinent issues head on, and attempt to resource Canada's economic advantage in spite of the decline in the U.S. economy.

Canada's auto sector is the single largest manufacturing activity in the country and accounts for almost one-quarter of our merchandise exports. It directly employs over 150,000 workers, including approximately 10,000 workers in my riding of Oshawa.

The Conservative government's approach to the automotive sector is built on four pillars: a positive business climate; an integrated North American auto sector, investment in auto research and development, and the development and implementation of a new automotive innovation fund.

Our strategic economic plan, “Advantage Canada”, creates this first pillar, a positive business climate, by lowering taxes, cutting red tape, investing in critical infrastructure and fostering the best educated, most skilled and most flexible labour force in the world.

The simple truth that the NDP will never understand is that if Canada is not fiscally competitive, it will not attract new assembly mandates; and if Canada does not attract new mandates, more good-paying automotive jobs will be lost. That is why budget 2008 delivered over $1.6 billion in fiscal benefits for the automotive sector over the next five years, including over $1 billion in tax relief by 2013.

The second pillar of the Conservative government's approach aims to preserve and support the deep integration of the North American market for vehicles and parts.

Canada's auto industry is not an island. Since the days of Oshawa's Colonel Sam McLaughlin, we have succeeded because our automotive industry has been integrated with the United States and has enjoyed easy access to the American market. Vehicles that we produce as Canadians are not the vehicles that Canadians necessarily buy. Canada exports about 85% of its production to the U.S. because we are good at assembly.

For years, Liberal majorities refused to address the tyranny of regulatory difference. After years of indifference and inaction by the previous government, I am proud to say that this Conservative government is changing this reality.

We agree with the recommendation of the Canadian Automotive Partnership Council, CAPC, that Canada must move toward harmonizing regulations with our closest trading partners. That is why the government has committed to new national fuel efficiency standards benchmarked against a dominant U.S. standard and to working with the U.S. to ensure compatible safety and environmental regulations, including the just recently announced harmonization of bumper standards.

By addressing these regulatory differences that continually put Canada at a competitive disadvantage, the Canadian government will save auto manufacturers literally millions of dollars each and every year.

Integrating Canada's automotive industry also means addressing major infrastructure projects. As members know, an automotive part can cross the Canada-U.S. border several times before it is actually installed in a vehicle. Delays in just-in-time delivery cost auto manufacturers hundreds of thousands of dollars per hour of delayed delivery.

Our government, led by Prime Minister Harper, understands that the smooth operation of the border is vital--

Opposition Motion--The Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

I would remind the hon. member not to use proper names but ridings or titles.

Opposition Motion--The Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister understands that the smooth operation of the border is vital to our integrated industry and to our competitiveness, and we are tackling these issues of growing delays.

Two weeks ago, the Prime Minister raised this very important issue at the North American leaders' summit in New Orleans where he specifically raised concerns about the so-called thickening of the Canada-U.S. border. The Prime Minister talked with his counterparts about taking steps to enhance services and reduce bottlenecks and congestion at major border crossings, such as Detroit-Windsor.

Unlike the previous Liberal government and the radical socialists' plan but no actions of the NDP, our government's rhetoric is actually backed up by action.

This Conservative government has stood up for Canada's auto industry and workers by providing a plan to complete a new bridge, a productive working relationship with the United States and Michigan administrations, and at least $400 million for the new border crossing.

Mark Nantais, president of the Canadian Motor Vehicle Manufacturers' Association, said:

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.

The third pillar of our government's approach speaks to the importance of investing in R and D. Canada carries out world-class research but to remain competitive we need to be a world-class, technology based nation that attracts and retains highly qualified graduate students and is a magnet for world-class automotive experts who will lead these efforts.

The federal government has committed, through its science and technology strategy, to strengthen industry driven R and D partnerships between the private sector and universities, polytechnics and colleges. As an automotive producing nation, we must continue to strengthen such world leading institutions as AUTO21.

Accelerating global competition, evolving consumer preferences and climate change are driving the need for huge investments in state of the art assembly plants, as well as leading edge and green automotive technologies. The future will depend on attracting these investments to build the vehicles of the future.

However, if Canada is to do this, we need to go one step further. This is where the fourth pillar comes in. The U.S. and Mexican governments provide extensive support to attract this kind of new automotive investment. Our government is committing to doing its part.

Canada's new automotive investment fund, announced in budget 2008, allocates $250 million over the next five years to lever large scale, private sector R and D innovation. By the way, the NDP voted against that. Specifically, this fund is designed to support large scale, strategic investments in vehicle assembly, powertrain and R and D operations that focus on innovation and environmental technologies. The fund will target areas in which the Canadian auto industry has already secured a world-wide reputation, a reputation that we will build on as we retool for a new, environmentally conscious, fuel efficient age.

We are looking for investments that will align with the new realities of the global auto industry. We will help design and build a 21st century automotive industry, one that will sustain Canadians jobs in an environmentally sound future. We will assess each project on its business case, working in partnership with other levels of government. Investments will comply with our international trade obligations.

Before concluding, I would like to contrast the concrete action taken by our government with that of previous governments.

In 2004, CAPC levelled a scathing critique of the previous Liberal government's inaction in five key areas: large scale investment incentives; infrastructure, like the Windsor-Detroit border crossing; innovation; regulatory harmonization; and human resources.

Furthermore, the previous Liberal government did not take a proactive approach to encourage business to invest in new machinery and equipment that would allow it to be more productive and innovative. Rather, the Liberal government relied on an underappreciated Canadian dollar to sell goods to the U.S. This approach likely led to the closure of three major auto assembly plants between 2003-05 and the loss of approximately 3,700 good paying auto jobs.

In just two years, this Conservative government has addressed most of the challenging automotive issues head on to ensure that Canada remains internationally competitive. In two years we have moved forward on the CAPC recommendations and I am very proud of that.