Mr. Speaker, when we talk about poverty in the abstract, we miss the very personal and the very real stories of everyday Canadians who are struggling to improve their well-being from day to day. I come from Alberta, and my province has lost over 100,000 jobs just in this past year. Hard-working middle-class families are now grappling with poverty as jobs have disappeared and government assistance has completely dried up. My social media feed is now filled with families selling a lifetime's worth of belongings just to afford their rent, their mortgage, and the bills that face their family each and every month. Furthermore, food banks are overwhelmed with new clients. One teacher I talked to mentioned how the quality and the quantity of food that he is noticing in children's lunch boxes is actually diminishing. For the charities in my riding, the drop in the Alberta economy has been joined by a drop in donations, and those who are housing-insecure or are part of the working poor are now having to cope with scaled-back assistance.
Ensuring that all Canadians have the opportunity to live a meaningful and dignified life is one of the great motivations for those of us who are here standing in this place. Our previous government did an excellent job of reducing poverty. The universal child care benefit, increases to other child care benefits, and targeted tax cuts lifted more than 250,000 children out of poverty. In fact, childhood poverty was reduced to the lowest levels in Canadian history under the previous Conservative government. In 1997, 18% of children were living in families with low income. In 2013, however, that number was decreased down to 8%. This was after we clawed our way out of the recession of 2008.
So why did the Conservative approach work? It worked because it put parents in control of their own destiny, it put parents in control of their household budgets, and it reduced the cost of living for everyday Canadian families. The Liberals like to make fun of us for our tax cuts, but the 140 tax cuts that we introduced over our mandate put $4,000 per family back into their chequebooks. In fact, our Conservative government was celebrated internationally for our ability to respond to the recession while at the same time reducing poverty. Let me provide the House with a very important quote:
Canada's governments at all levels need to be commended for protecting many of our children from the brunt of a recession that wreaked havoc on the world's strongest economies. This was the worst economic downturn since World War II, but Canada emerged from the crisis with 180,000 fewer children living in poverty. This is the good news.
The House may be wondering who gave this quote. It is no other than David Morley, the president and CEO of UNICEF Canada. The Conservative approach worked because we focused on creating jobs and generating economic growth as the greatest solution to poverty. When the economy is growing and jobs are on the rise, poverty decreases. It is a natural relationship.
Our Conservative government championed Canadian jobs. We cut payroll taxes and income taxes for small and medium-sized businesses. We signed free trade deals to give Canadian companies new markets to which to export. We cut red tape and reduced the cost of dealing with the federal government. All of these measures created intense demand for Canadian workers. In my province of Alberta, we had some of the lowest unemployment rates that Canada had seen for a decade. Even if people worked at Subway or Tim Hortons, they still made significantly more than minimum wage.
This did great things for reducing poverty of course.
Fast-forward to today and what do we see? Today we see a federal government that has raised income taxes and is talking about bringing in even more taxes. These taxes will be hugely detrimental to our working families. The Liberal government is also a government that is increasing business costs by raising CPP rates and keeping EI premiums artificially high.
The results are not hard to see. Canada's economic performance is teetering on the edge. We could go into a recession next quarter. Economic growth is abysmal and long-term investor confidence has almost entirely dried up.
The Liberal government is spending like a drunken sailor, piling up massive deficits with absolutely no plan to balance the budget. Investors know that this means higher taxes down the road and they are pulling their money out of Canada and choosing to invest elsewhere.
We see this reflected in the job numbers. The Liberals have been in government for an entire year and not a single, net, new, full-time job has been created since they took office. When we consider all of the new young Canadians entering the workforce, there are fewer full-time jobs available per capita today than there were before the Liberals formed government last October. This is one of the reasons we have seen the unemployment rate increase over the last year.
Why do taxes matter in a discussion about national poverty? They matter because they go to the heart of how different parties tackle the issue of poverty. Our Conservative Party put money in the hands of parents and trusted that they knew what was best for their families. We trusted parents to invest in their children's future by involving them in sports and the arts. We knew that with a bit of extra cash, middle-class families could afford to put their daughter in hockey or their son in piano lessons.
The sad reality is that when parents are forced to choose between keeping the power on and putting food on the table or their child's hockey league fees, they have to prioritize the necessities of life. This is why a marginal income increase matters. This is why a reduction in taxation matters. It is the difference between our children being able to play sports or sitting at home and simply watching TV. It is the difference between nutritious food and not-so-nutritious food being put on the plates of our children.
The Liberal child benefit on the other hand delivers less money each month to Canadian families. It does not increase with inflation, meaning that the Liberals are giving Canadian families less money as time goes on. As a result of all of the cancelled tax credits, Canadian families will get less money back at tax time. This is to say nothing of the thousands of dollars that Canadian families will have to pay each and every year under the carbon tax regime being implemented very soon.
As I said at the beginning of my speech, while we all believe in the importance of reducing poverty, the approach that we take in the House is quite different. The bill that has been introduced and is on the floor today is a clear example of how the NDP approaches this problem, which is heavy on bureaucracy and light on action and help towards families. This legislation would establish a national poverty commissioner and a national poverty reduction council in addition to tasking federal civil servants with developing a national plan.
I will make it short and sweet. It does not work. At the end of the day we know that the plan that was put in place by the Conservatives did work. Reducing taxes works. Benefits for families with children work. Let us leave the decision with parents. They know best.