House of Commons Hansard #23 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was jobs.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Canadian Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Joyce Bateman Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like ask my hon. colleague opposite a question.

She talked about hard-working Canadian families, yet the NDP wants taxes to go up. As I said to my other colleague, the NDP wants transaction fees to go up. Financial transaction fees are things that impact hard-working families that can ill afford to pay them.

The NDP is on the record supporting these tax increases. This does not make sense to me if those members are truly worried about hard-working families. Would the hon. member please explain?

Opposition Motion—Canadian Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Mylène Freeman Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will repeat something and I hope my colleague can deduce how the economy works from it. According to the National Council of Welfare, investing would save Canada billions of dollars.

Opposition Motion—Canadian Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her very passionate intervention about the growing inequality and those who really need the benefits of government spending.

The members opposite are erroneously saying that we want to increase taxes. That is absolutely not the case.

Given that the majority of Canadians did not support the government or its direction, would she comment on the growing inequality in Canadian society? Would she comment on how what we are calling for, strategic investments in physical and social infrastructure, can help decrease that growing economic inequality gap?

Opposition Motion—Canadian Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Mylène Freeman Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Parkdale—High Park is doing great work.

Investing in Canada and strengthening our economy are important especially in these hard times. She is right that investing in social and physical infrastructure will help support all families.

The government is leaving behind the poorest of the poor. It is increasing the inequality in our country. It has forgotten too many families. The government needs to remember that this House represents all Canadians.

Opposition Motion—Canadian Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Ted Hsu Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the NDP on a fine motion today. I would like to go beyond that a bit and address an answer to a question that was posed to the member for Parkdale—High Park. I was not quite happy with that answer.

The member for Parkdale—High Park was correct in making the connection between the behaviour of the Conservative government and the behaviour of Herbert Hoover leading into the Great Depression.

Another thing that happened in the Great Depression was that there was trade friction between Canada and the United States. Countries put up trade tariffs.

I am wondering if my hon. colleague would care to comment about the buy American policies that the U.S. job stimulus proposal has and the position of the Ontario provincial NDP which now has a buy Ontario policy. Perhaps she could comment on the danger of a tit-for-tat trade war, just as there was in the Great Depression.

Opposition Motion—Canadian Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Mylène Freeman Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, there are a few parts to that question.

In answer to the first part, the member is exactly right that the government has not learned from the mistakes of the past. The second part referred to the Ontario election, on which I will not comment. However, we absolutely need to learn from the mistakes of the past and invest while we still can before the recession takes hold in order to save the most vulnerable people in our society and save our economy.

Opposition Motion—Canadian Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to the opposition motion. It is always a pleasure to speak in the House of Commons. It is one of the honours of being elected as a member of Parliament. Something we all hold dear to our hearts is the opportunity to express how we feel about issues.

Today is an opposition day. For those who do not know how it works, a certain number of days are allocated to the opposition parties and they are able to bring forward motions on topics which they think are important regarding what the government is or is not doing. We are debating an opposition motion today.

I am interested that the NDP brought forward a motion regarding the economy. I have been in the House for five years now and it is hard to remember when the NDP wanted to talk about economics in the House of Commons. The mover of the motion, the member for Parkdale—High Park, has been in the House for some time and I do not recall her mentioning economics, but she is now which, from our perspective, is the right thing to be doing.

We have been talking about jobs, economic development and making sure that this country is able to withstand the economic turbulence that has affected not just Canada and the United States but countries all over the world. We see the very drastic changes that are happening in Europe. People have come to the conclusion that this is the priority. It has been the priority of this government for many years.

We have dealt with the economic shocks that have affected Canada over the last number of years. We brought forward a plan to maintain and increase jobs in Canada. That economic development and support has been helping Canadian families survive the very difficult recession over the last number of years.

I need to point out that before the recession, it was this government that took action on the debt. I should remind everybody what debt is. Debt is an obligation to future generations. It is money we have borrowed as a country which needs to be paid back. We cannot just not pay it back. We see the situation in Greece where debt issues are so extreme Greece is at risk of not being able to pay its debt. We cannot ignore debt. We cannot say it is someone else's problem or that we will deal with it on another day, in another Parliament, in another decade. We need to deal with it now.

We like to deal with facts. Our government paid down $38 billion of debt before the recession hit. This put our country in a much better position to deal with the issues facing our economy during the recession. It was a prudent way of positioning ourselves. We are a leader in the G7 in terms of being ready to put in place the difficult processes that are needed for us to handle any downturn in the economy. When there was a downturn in the economy and the recession hit, we had to put a plan together to make sure that we created jobs and continued economic growth here in Canada.

That is why we created Canada's economic action plan. It was not an overnight plan. It was not something we did one day and then forgot about it. It is taking a number of years to implement that plan to ensure growth, jobs and family security. It is not something we had for just a day, a month or a very short period of time. It is something we can build on as a country. We are doing better than our G7 partners coming out of the recession. All of the significant economic players around the world are congratulating Canada on its role. The economic action plan has played a significant role in the survival of our economy and the progress of our economy in Canada.

That plan is still in action. We will be seeing part two of our economic action plan, another year of it. We passed a budget in this new Parliament. As we do every year, budget implementation requires two segments. We did one in June which implemented some parts of the budget. Next week there will be another budget implementation bill to implement the rest of the budget. There were so many good things in the budget passed in the spring we had to break it into two parts to make sure the proper legislation was in place to make. That will happen next week.

If the NDP and our Liberal friends are really serious about economic development, job creation and moving the economy forward, they will support the budget implementation bill next week to implement the second part of the budget. On May 2 voters certainly supported it by sending us back to the House of Commons with a majority government. They want us to implement it. Canadians asked us to make sure that we implemented our commitments on the economic action plan. We intend to do that. Based on today's motion I cannot see why the opposition parties would be opposed to implementing the second phase of our economic action plan.

In the past the NDP members have voted against many of our measures, maybe all of our measures. I cannot think of one measure they supported. I do not have a perfect memory, but I cannot remember any of the economic policies or legislation that we put forward to improve our economy being supported by the NDP. I am glad to see that today the NDP members are making the economy a priority in the first opposition day motion of this session. I am hopeful they will move away from their past non-support of these policies so we can continue to create jobs and come out of the recession in the best position of any industrialized country in the world. That is what the economic action plan will do. That is what it delivered in the past, and it is what it will do, if we are able to continue with the second phase, which we plan to do.

Fortunately in the election on May 2 the Conservative government was returned with a majority, so we will be able to continue with that plan. Some people may say that it is not good enough. Opposition members have voted against everything we have been attempting to do. I do not know why it would not be good enough. There is always more to be done. However, we have created 600,000 new jobs and 80% of them are full-time jobs. The economic action plan is working and is moving this country forward. I am hoping there will be support for that next week when our budget implementation bill comes forward.

I want to talk about what the economic action plan has meant for Burlington, the riding I represent. It is an urban riding just outside of Toronto on the west side. It has a fairly diverse economy. There is not one big employer. The largest employer in Burlington has about 1,000 employees. The rest are small- and medium-size businesses and enterprises, entrepreneurs who are making a difference, creating jobs, investing in our economy, investing in our youth, making sure that the quality of life in Burlington is progressing.

Our role through the economic action plan is to make sure that economic development continues and that we support it, not through higher taxes as the opposition members are advocating today, and not from a bunch of bureaucratic processes that would slow things down. We made a commitment in the economic action plan to deliver on infrastructure for communities that were willing to move projects forward, to be able to spend some money and leverage that to create jobs in our communities. I will provide some examples of the success we have experienced this past week.

I was at an opening for the donors of a new performing arts centre in the city of Burlington. It did not have one before. Prior to being elected to the House of Commons, I was a city councillor and had been working on establishing a performing arts centre in Burlington since 1999. That new performing arts centre is about to open because the members of the community came together. We looked at what was required in terms of this infrastructure project and through the use of the economic action plan we developed and will soon open the $36 million facility. We are proud of that accomplishment.

I am not a member of the transportation committee but filled in for one of its members at a meeting yesterday. Being from the GTA, I have an interest in public transit, which was the subject the committee was studying. There was an indication that $4 billion had been invested into new transit through the provisions contained within the economic action plan. Some of that money had been designated for Burlington. We have a new transit centre there.

We have participated with our partners, the Ontario government as well as municipalities like the City of Toronto, in the GO train investments that were made. Those are ones I am familiar with.

We are making long-term investments through the economic action plan. That has created jobs. It has also left a legacy of infrastructure that will service the cities and communities I am familiar with for many years to come. That infrastructure will allow people to transport themselves to and from work. It will make businesses more productive by allowing them to transport their goods and services more efficiently. By providing people with alternative forms of transportation, it will reduce the amount of vehicles on the road, which in turn will be better for the environment.

I am proud of the economic action plan that was put together by our Minister of Finance and our Prime Minister, which members have supported in the House. It will enable job creation not just in theory or in study but through the provisions it has put in place. In conjunction with our municipal and provincial partners, we have used those provisions to make investments to react quickly to issues.

Of course making those investments will affect the deficit. However, there was an agreement made with our G7 economic partners that a certain percentage of our GDP would be used as investments to help stimulate the economy. Based on what I have heard and have read regarding other countries, Canada has been the most successful in terms of leveraging that investment into jobs, economic growth and the stability we have needed throughout this recession. We managed to do that without increasing taxes.

I will now speak to the measures we have put in place to ensure people have money in their pockets rather than having to rely completely on our government for economic growth.

Part (d) of the motion would have members believe that government is the only engine capable of driving economic growth. However, we on this side of the House do not agree with that position.

We believe the private sector, whether businesses or individuals, is a real partner in our economic growth. Tax savings for a typical family are now just over $3,000. Those savings include taxes such as the GST, which in some provinces is the HST. We have lowered the GST from 7% to 5%.

We have introduced the employment tax credit to help employers and ensure people have jobs. We have introduced others such as the working income tax benefit and the child care tax credit. We have been actively ensuring that Canadians have opportunity.

One program devised by the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister that I am thankful for is the tax free savings account, TFSA. It has made a significant difference in my riding. People remind me daily of the importance of this new savings tool which did not exist before we took office. For many years not much had changed to give Canadians an opportunity to save money. As is the case with taxed money, this money would not be further taxed in future. Canadians can invest it and use it for their own growth. The expenditures coming from these tax free savings accounts will bode well for our economy in the future. It also bodes well for those who are trying to save now.

We are encouraging people to save money. There has been much discussion in the media as well as in the House regarding personal debt levels. The Conservative government has devised a piece of legislation that will change the financial system in this country. As well, it is helpful with respect to promoting personal savings.

Since we have taken office, tax freedom day comes two weeks earlier than it did when the Liberal government was in office.

Our economic action plan is taking this country in the right direction. It is the right mix of legislation in terms of its ability to stimulate the economy as well as to help people invest in their own enterprises or their communities. We have been taking the appropriate approach. Canada has been recognized for that by many nations and many economic organizations around the world. However, there is no doubt that we still have more to do.

What led us here in the first place is that we are proper stewards of the public coffers. We understood that debt was an issue and we needed to get our minds around that first. We must continue with the process we have in place. We have not completed the economic action plan process. It needs to continue. We are coming forth with legislation to do that.

We must return to our principles and values of ensuring that our debt is manageable. To ensure we have balanced books, we must reduce our debt as soon as possible.

There is no doubt we must keep an eye on the issues happening in Europe. The Minister of Finance, the governor of the Bank of Canada, and the Prime Minister have spoken to Canadians about that. We must ensure that stabilizes because what happens in Europe will affect us in the end. It is hard to believe that what happens in Greece will affect people in Burlington, Ontario. If the European countries are unable to resolve their debt issues or pay their bills, Canadian companies will lose customers. We are a trading country. We need those customers to ensure a stable, progressive economy that will produce sales for our people, whether they be in Burlington or elsewhere across the country. I wish those European countries well.

I hope all members of the House will support the continuation of the economic action plan through to its fruition.

Opposition Motion—Canadian Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Denis Blanchette Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his speech.

I am pleased that he recognizes the importance of investing in infrastructure but I would like him to stay with me a bit longer if he would.

One of the areas in which Canada is very weak is in investing in research and development and, finally, in innovation, the biggest driver of economic growth. We are currently investing little or nothing in these areas, despite the huge amount of cash that is currently flowing in these markets.

What does the hon. member think about our weakness in the area of innovation?

Opposition Motion—Canadian Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member sits on the government operations committee with me and I have enjoyed our short time there.

I like to deal with facts in the House. If we look at the facts, this government has actually invested more in science and technology and innovation than any other Canadian government in history. I cannot hold my colleague across the way responsible for voting against it because he was not here. However, he is here now. Therefore, I expect the member and the NDP, the opposition party, to support the money we are investing in science and technology and innovation.

I have listened to the questions today as they relate to this question. They talk about the many billions of dollars that are in the pockets of corporate Canada that have not been invested and that they are sitting on large cash reserves. Adding taxes to the corporate sector will not get that sector to invest one single cent in the economy. It would take money away from those who create jobs, the entrepreneurs who understand supply and demand, and would give it to government, which I am not sure is the greatest steward of tax dollars. We want to ensure that taxes are reduced so that the entrepreneurs and families who control their own pocketbooks can make those decisions.

Opposition Motion—Canadian Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, the problem with the speakers on the government side is that they talk as though nothing has happened since the budget was first presented in February. Even if one assumes the budget in February was perfect for the conditions of the day, and I do not make that assumption, the fact is the world economy has worsened dramatically in the last six months. What may have been appropriate in February, some six to eight months ago, is no longer appropriate today given the weakening of the world economy. This is exactly what the IMF has said, what Sherry Cooper has said and what the economists have said.

Why do those members behave and speak as though the world is still tranquil and great when indeed it is not?

As well, I may have missed it, but is the government for or against this motion?

Opposition Motion—Canadian Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I sit on the government operations committee with the member for Markham—Unionville. I was on the finance committee with him in the last Parliament. However, I have trouble with his credibility in asking that question.

I distinctly recall when we previously brought forward the economic action plan and it was obvious that there would be some spending that would put us in a deficit position the Liberals were completely opposed. As we were entering the recession, we understood that we needed to act fast and we did. We brought forth the economic action plan. Then the member and his colleagues were completely opposed. However, six or seven months later they feel we are not spending enough. Then they complained that not enough was being spent in their ridings.

Those members are all over the map. They have no economic plan as a party. They do not have a leader or an economic plan. They have no credibility on the issue.

Opposition Motion—Canadian Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to clarify the NDP's position on taxes. First, the NDP is not in favour of raising taxes for large corporations. It simply wants the Conservatives to give big businesses fewer tax breaks since there is no reason for them. Taxes, which are a progressive system for the equitable redistribution of wealth to all classes of society, are very positive since they make it possible to provide public services to all classes of society in a very fair manner.

Second, as if government policies were not discriminatory enough, tax policies have created even more unequal societies in the G8 countries. Approximately one-third of Canada's economic growth in terms of revenue benefited the richest 1% of the population. In this regard, the Conference Board of Canada has said repeatedly that tax expenditures, including the ineffective tax breaks the government grants to large corporations, should—

Opposition Motion—Canadian Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Order, please. I would encourage all hon. members to pay some attention to the Chair. We give guidance, in terms of time, including the hon. member for Burlington.

Opposition Motion—Canadian Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Burlington, ON

Thank you for that lesson, Mr. Speaker. I will have to do a better job of paying attention to you, which I always do, of course.

When we put through our economic action plan, which contained corporate tax reductions, businesses made investment decisions and plans around those tax reductions being in place because they had been passed by the House of Commons.

The NDP wants to remove those tax reductions and change the plan. That would be a tax increase for which companies and the industries would need to readjust all their investment planning based on paying higher taxes to the Government of Canada.

Opposition Motion—Canadian Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Oshawa
Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Burlington for one of the best speeches I have heard here all day and for all his good work on the finance committee to help the government come forward, with the Minister of Finance, with a nice balanced approach out of this world economic recession.

However, I have been listening to the NDP speeches today and it seems that many of the members feel that the only way to create jobs is by increasing government spending and increasing taxes.

I know my colleague lived in Ontario during those horrible years when the NDP was in government and the current leader of the Liberal Party was actually the premier, where he thought that he could spend his way out of a recession. We saw the devastating effects of that for our kids in the future.

The member said that he was not quite sure, but I would remind him that the NDP actually voted against all our stimulus packages for infrastructure, lowering taxes for small business, lowering taxes for corporations, and actually voted against help for the automotive industry in Oshawa, where I come from, which is very important for those high-level manufacturing jobs.

What does the member think would happen to our recovery if the government actually adopted the high tax, high spend policies that we have seen in the socialist countries of Greece, Portugal and Spain? What does he think would happen to our recovery here if the government actually adopted those radical policies of the NDP?