Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the committee. lt's a pleasure to be here today.
For billions of people throughout the world, Canada stands as a symbol of hope and opportunity. However, we cannot afford to take our prosperity for granted. Every day, the businesses that drive our economy are making hard decisions about how to preserve jobs or create new ones, whether to invest here or abroad, and how to respond to competition that grows more intense by the day. The decisions that they make determine the future of our communities and our country.
Canadian businesses are making these decisions in an economy that recently hit a soft patch. While job growth has been strong, we can do much better in other areas. The Canadian economy has been at a standstill since October 2018, with no growth over this period. Business investment fell 2.9% in the last quarter of 2018. ln the first quarter of this year, Canada recorded its largest quarterly trade deficit in almost three years. Recently, the Bank of Canada marked down its growth forecast for 2019 to 1.2% real GDP, a far cry from the 3% growth we saw only two years ago.
While some of the causes of this anemic growth are out of the government's control, we do control tax policy, and Canadian businesses are pleased to see the implementation of targeted accelerated capital cost allowance measures in this budget bill. These measures will help promote Canadian business investment, particularly in a manufacturing sector that is still grappling with the impact of the illegal and illegitimate tariffs imposed by the U.S. on Canadian steel and aluminum.
While these measures are helpful in the short term, the Canadian business community does not think that they go far enough to resolve our competitiveness issues. These tax writeoffs can be more broad-based to provide targeted support to other sectors of our economy, such as our struggling natural resources industries.
These measures do not address the need for a comprehensive review of our cumbersome and uncompetitive tax system. Last fall, our 450 local chambers of commerce overwhelmingly supported a policy resolution asking for a tax review. ln December, this very committee recommended that an expert panel conduct such a review. Canadian businesses speak with one voice on this issue, and they are still waiting for government action.
Compounding the challenges created by our tax system are the federal debt and deficit. This budget implementation bill does not include a federal plan to put an end to Ottawa's deficit. Canadian businesses are calling on the government to present concrete plans with firm deadlines for returning the federal books to balance. lt is simply irresponsible for our generation to continue to spend and to send the bill to our kids.
While the Canadian Chamber of Commerce welcomed the announcements to improve our regulatory system in the fall economic update and this year's federal budget, we are concerned about the slow movement and progress in setting up these instruments. Unfortunately, our system is broken. lt is complex, unclear and unpredictable. The overlap of regulations across different levels of government is stifling investment and preventing us from getting our natural resources to global markets.
This is not just a sectoral or a regional issue. Every single Canadian has a stake in making sure that we don't continue to be a nation of builders that can't get anything built.
The measures to address competitiveness in this bill are a positive first step, but they fall short of what is needed. Without a thriving business sector, our economic growth suffers, our prosperity declines, and our governments lack the resources to build our roads, hospitals and schools, and to provide social services. ln short, for Canada to succeed, our businesses must also be successful. There is a lot more work to be done.
Thank you for the opportunity to meet with you this morning. l look forward to our discussion.